In a society that is deeply wounded with the rampant rise of divorce, broken families, fatherless children, and identity crisis, there has been a healthy resurgence in recognizing the importance of family. Husbands and parents are urged to guard their family time and balance their priorities to honor their Lord with their families. Without caution, however, we can overcorrect and veer off the road on the other side, embracing one extreme to avoid the other.
So the saying goes: “Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry.” This reminder encourages examination and perspective in which we can harm and destroy one good thing in pursuit of another. How susceptible we are to finding fulfillment in pouring ourselves into God’s work in the church… to the neglect of God’s work in our home! However, we must also take care that we don’t sacrifice our ministry on the altar of family. Could it be that this was the thrust of Jesus’ exhortation in Luke 14:26?
Examine yourself for a moment. Are you too busy for church? Too busy for ministry? What should balance look like? What are your motivations and your goals for your priorities? Is God honored by them?
Think about it this way: the life you live, you live in the midst of society, hung primarily on the infrastructure of family and church. We serve a relational God, who, in His infinite wisdom, created mankind to be relational, and instituted the family and the church. Our priorities and pursuits must be lived within the walls of these gifts; to remove any part of this infrastructure is to cripple our purpose and growth.
In seeking to “balance,” too often we view family and ministry as competition, in opposition of one another. In so doing, we miss the beauty of God’s blueprint: God has designed family and ministry to work in unison to mutually benefit and edify one another. Ministry and family don’t rob from one another but grow together.
What are our goals for our families? Should they not be to shepherd them and make disciples? Yes, our families ought to be our primary ministries, but not to the exclusion of local church ministry! We must reconsider an approach that seeks to guard our families against church ministry. When we establish a lifestyle and patterns that neglect God’s design that we are ALL ministers (Ephesians 4:12) and ALL have a role in the growth of the church (Ephesians 4:12-16), we are misprioritizing good things above God’s order.
To properly find balance, we must stop compartmentalizing, and see everything as part of one another. I need personal time with my wife, but I can also enjoy her and grow with her when we serve together in the church. My children need love and attention inside the home, but I do them a disservice to train them that church is secondary and optional (Hebrews 10:24-25). I must love, care for, and invest in my family, but I must not make them central!
The challenge isn’t only for those who are parents! Whether seeking time with your spouse, caring for elderly parents, visiting adult children, or simply defending other “good” ambitions, we must be careful to submit our good pursuits to the infrastructure of God’s design for relating to both family and the church! Chasing a busy schedule or good pursuits in such a way that leads me outside that infrastructure is essentially building my life on a different foundation, without the cornerstone… in the sand.
So how can we be faithful to BOTH our nuclear families and our spiritual family? I don’t have a cookie-cutter answer for what that looks like for everyone, but I encourage you to pray, wrestle with, and discern that answer for your life. But be committed to both your family and the church! A commitment to the church is a commitment to your family, and a commitment to your family is a commitment to the church. Work hard to develop a pattern that values both and practices them in unison rather than in competition.