After serving the church for more than 20 years, during which I rarely took vacations or days off, one of my mentors in ministry asked, "How is your mistress?"
"I don't have one," I replied with stinging self-righteousness and moral purity.
"Ah, but you do," he replied. "She is the church!"
After lengthy self-examination, I discovered truth in his statement. On the few evenings I was home each week, I found myself emotionally exhausted. Through counseling, visitation and pastoral nurturing, I had "given at the office" and had nothing left to give to my wife and children.
Vacations were interrupted by emergencies, crises and funerals. Weekends were filled with services, meetings and weddings. Early mornings were punctuated with hospital visitation and praying.
As much as we try to follow to-do lists, rarely does any day follow a set plan. And that which is most important--marriage and family--essentially slips lower and lower on our list of priorities.
Recently I listened to Chuck Colson blast a well-known pastor and author for being divorced and not stepping down from pastoring his church. In the last few months, high-profile ministers have announced their divorces. In truth, both the divorces and the finger-pointing are sad commentaries on church leadership.
Too often the pathway leading to marriage failure in the pastorate is simply this: Pastors, particularly men, become married to the church. Wife and children are robbed of the pastor's time, attention, emotions and intimacy.
In Genesis 2 we are reminded that the institution of marriage and the family came long before the institution of the church. We should also be aware of Satan's devices. His first attack came against marriage. He hasn't changed tactics or strategies. If a pastor's marriage can be destroyed, then the whole body is fractured and fragmented.
So, what are we to do? Let's return to this simple statement of priority in ministry: God first, marriage and family second, and church third.
What difference does it make if we save scores of marriages through pastoral counseling and lose our own? What difference does it make if we have successful ministries to children and youth but have broken relationships with our own children?
My observation is that women who pastor are much less likely to sacrifice their families for ministry. Men of God, it's time we begin to walk the talk. Let's cherish, protect, nurture and love our families.
Larry Keefauver serves as a teaching pastor at The Gathering Place Worship Center in Lake Mary, Florida. He is the author of numerous books, including, Experiencing the Holy Spirit (Nelson).
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.
The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.