Leadership and Family

In extreme cases, people who’ve been wounded by ministry want nothing to do with church, God or God’s people. They are bitter and angry by the way their parent or spouse valued and served ministry, often sacrificing the family or marriage to succeed in their ministry.

Tragically, some times the casualty is the minister him or herself. Some great men and women of God have left the faith. 

The battlefield of ministry is littered with casualties.  Those casualties are the wives, husbands and children of preachers, ministers and workers.  These ‘loved ones’ have often become disillusioned with the preacher, ministry, or church, or church people. Sadly, most of those casualties are absolutely unnecessary.

Make no mistake about it. Ministry is a battlefield. The devil “goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” We are not immune to his evil devices though we are in ministry.

Listen carefully, Don’t put yourself in a place where you will be susceptible to being overcome, deceived or manipulated by the devil or the people he uses. Yes, the devil comes to church! It’s one of his primary targets in the earth. He is determined to destroy the body of Christ.

This could someday become your story. Unless…. Unless you understand a few things. Let’s start at the beginning:  a “call” from God. 

I can’t think of anything more misunderstood that this simple phrase, “the call of God.” It has been misunderstood to mean some mystical thing that is difficult to find, to hear, or to figure out.

God does call people. He always has and He always will. He has called you! If you’ve not heard His call, you’re likely not listening. You would think with all the examples in the Bible and modern life this would be a simple matter and easily understood. Yet it is not!

Many a foolish, unwise act has been blamed on God, His voice and His “call.” Sometimes the call seems unusual- but it’s never foolish. People do foolish things because they misunderstand. But what God says or asks will always make sense at some point.

So let’s sort through this and see what the Bible really teaches about this. And then we’ll talk about how to involve our family, present and future.

The word “call” from the New Testament simply means “an invitation”. It actually means just what it suggests: “You are invited”… to something or somewhere. You can be invited to become a “fisher of men” even though you are not yet ready. When you say yes, God will start or speed up His preparations in your life.

So THE CALL must be responded to. Choice. It’s our choice.

The first way this is used is an invitation to a destination. We are called to repentance. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to live a certain life style. Keep in mind the meaning of “call”- an invitation. We are invited to repent. We are invited to follow. We are invited to live a certain life. It does have something to do with us. It is not arbitrary and it is not destiny! None of the benefits of the invitation are available without our responding to the invitation. Calling must be accepted and embraced. 

A second way “call” is used is as an invitation to a vocation. Paul said of himself, “Paul, called to be an apostle.” He was invited to accept the good and the bad of being an apostle. He joyfully embraced both. There is no call that does not have a cross. It’s not all roses; there are thorns.

God invites people to serve in different capacities. However, He may not thunder from heaven in a loud booming voice, or send bright lights as he did with the apostle Paul. Sometimes God uses other people to invite you to a vocation. The voice of a man or a woman could very well be the voice of God. Maybe one of your leaders or a coworker just makes a suggestion that you do something or you lead something. And then you discover, “WOW, I love this.”

Some calls we are told about in Scripture are very dramatic, such as Moses and Paul or Isaiah. Imagine a burning bush or a bright light from heaven or seeing a vision of heaven! Nothing vague about these experiences!

Abraham’s call was rather dramatic as well. God told him, “Leave your county and I’ll make a great nation out of you.” Again, it was an invitation. Moses, Paul, Abraham and Isaiah each had to make the choice to respond.

Sometimes a call to ministry or a definite vocation is somewhat vague and comes about by simple, obvious reasons. In the kingdom of God, getting things done is much more important than who does it and how it is done. Its not really about style. It’s about the advancement of the kingdom in whatever way God chooses.

You may have never thought about it much…but if you are bearing fruit in a certain area of Kingdom work, you need to consider that this may be God’s call on your life. Plain old common sense here. You may say, “It can’t be. I never heard a voice from heaven!” Why does it have to be mystical?

Let’s say for example you were asked to work in children’s ministry. You’ve maybe never thought of yourself as a children’s worker, but for some reason you are very good at it! The kids respond to you very well, you seem to be very fruitful, and good things are happening as a result of your involvement. Could this then be God’s call? Quite possibly!

Sometimes you just carry a burden for a people, a place, or a certain aspect of ministry. It never leaves you. It keeps coming back. It could be the call of God. 

Oftentimes what misleads us is that we try to replicate the mechanics of someone else’s life call. Just because you know someone who heard an audible voice from God calling him or her, does not mean you will hear it. Nor does it mean you should hear it.  God’s works differently for each of us.

You will always be the happiest doing what you are truly called to do. You may do many different things, as I do, and all of it for the Lord. It may all be good! But there is no question that doing what you are called to do brings the greatest joy. This does not mean you should stop all the rest; but be aware of the fruitfulness potential of your life and focus as much as possible in that area of life. 

Do not be so foolish and super-spiritual as to turn down God-given opportunities by saying, “I’m not called to do that.” If it needs to be done, and you can find a way do it, and there is nobody else who can do it, then you are called to do it! Bob Gordon says, “God usually gives us a desire for the work after he has called us to do it.”

I want to bring the call of God into this leadership discussion and how that relates to our family. If you are still single, you may decide to stay single as a part of the call of God. You may remain single as a choice for the cause of ministry. On the other hand, you may deeply long find that special one. 

Tragically, some people will give up the call of God for that special person. From my counselling experience, I can tell you that these couples are some of the unhappiest people on earth. If you are single, very early in the courting process you should discuss your call from God. The possible future marriage will be much happier and peaceful if you understand each other’s calls. 

If you become attracted to someone, ask yourself an honest question, “Can I see the call of God on their life and what is God calling them to do?” You may have incompatible calls. This can lead to all kinds of stress at home. For example, perhaps God has called you to be a missionary/evangelist. This person you are attracted to is called to be a local pastor. Are these calls compatible? Maybe, maybe not. That may be the most important topic you ever discuss.

Now let’s look at this another way  and talk about what happens when you already have a wife/husband and children and you sense God calling to ministry. You must have open discussions and prayer with your spouse and children (if they are old enough to understand.)

Bring your family together, spouse and children into the call of God. Make them a part of your team. Involve them in praying for God’s will, God’s direction and God’s time.

Why do I say this? Whatever God calls you to do will affect all the personal relationships of your life. Calling is never an 8 to 5 job!! God merges married persons and families together into the call.

To be successful in any ministry as a leader or worker, your personal life is scrutinized before your ministry peers and leaders. But in the family, how you behave at home determines what the family experiences and feels about your ministry call.

There are people in ministry who are loved, respected, and honoured when they are out with people. They are patient, kind, and understanding of others. But at home, they are a hotheaded, demanding and impatient tyrant! The fruit of the Spirit is absolutely missing in their everyday life.

Don’t demand your family to be what you want them to be. Don’t force them to do ministry they are unwilling to do. Don’t make examples out of them. Don’t guilt trip them. Never say, “You are an embarrassment to me and the ministry.” Those words are a death-blow to your family members. Do you want your family to enhance your reputation or do you want them to know God in their own lives? Will you love them even if they fail and cause embarrassment to you?

Your family is not your trophy. They are your family. They are your team. Treat them respectfully. I have on many occasions had my children contribute wisdom to my decisions in ministry. They too have the Spirit of God in them. Don’t treat them as just family. 

Remember what PAUL  wrote to Timothy;

1 Timothy 3:2-7 “So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinkeror be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall.Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.”

The picture given here is that the leader, whether an aspiring or functioning leader, must first begin ministry at home by being the husband/ wife/ father/ mother needed as a Christian. 

One of the reasons ministry people can become irritated with their own families is because their hypocrisy is exposed. Your family knows who you really are. They can read you like a book. You may have great success or be famous and admired; people might listen to your every word. But when you come home,  you’re just mom, dad, husband, or wife. After all the praise given to you outside, now you are being reminded of the commitments you have made to those who live under your roof.  You are reminded of  the responsibilities you have perhaps neglected. 

It can be easy to resent the pressure of home life. But to be clear, your home and family is your barometer of true spirituality. The way you are at home is the way you really are!!

Family must be protected by the leader. As a young pastor, I stood up in front of my congregation and told the people. “If you ever see one of my children misbehaving, please bring that to my attention. But do not correct my children. They are my responsibility, not yours.” I let the people know my family was my responsibility and not theirs. There is far too much pressure on ministry families to perform up to the congregation’s expectations.

Once there was a church leadership vacancy and no one would volunteer. Someone said to me, “Well, I guess Denie will have to do that.” I looked at them and said, “No. She is busy enough doing things she is already responsible for.”

It’s also important that you stay connected. Do you know the condition of your flocks? Your family is your first flock. Just because the father is present doesn’t mean he is really “present.” Physically present but emotionally absent is not healthy. 

Do you know what your spouse really thinks about things? If you have children, do you ever talk with them instead of just talking to them? Do their opinions matter to you? Can they ask you anything without getting a lecture? Where are they in life?

Shakespeare wrote, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” Take time to be with your family. Don’t become so absorbed with ministry that you forget to care for your own flock- your family. 

In our home,  we have some rules. We sit down to eat together. No cell phones at the table. No calls while eating or during planned family times. We read Scripture or a devotional after supper and pray together most evenings. We also set aside times that are purely for our family. I write these family evenings into my calendar, and I am unavailable for anything else. Why? I am their shepherd. I have made a commitment to my family.

Form meaningful family relationships. Form meaningful marriage relationships. Form meaningful  family traditions. These are more important than church work and church relationships.

If you are single, this teaching is important. Pay attention to it. It could save you much grief. If you are already married, with or without children, pay attention to your God-given little flock. They are your first ministry.

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