According to careerbuilders.com, I have worked three of the top fifteen dangerous jobs in America. Two of those jobs never made me feel like I was in immediate danger, though I always knew the possibility was there. With one job, however, I lived with a daily fear of injury. Maybe it is because I was afraid of heights, or maybe because there was a time or two that I almost fell, but roofing was a job that definitely made me aware of the danger.
Of all the jobs I have had, the most dangerous thing I have embarked on in life is the ministry. No, I haven’t been in physical danger or had my life threatened (yet), but there is a danger of a different kind. You may be considering going into the ministry today, or you may be just starting out in the ministry, so allow me outline a few dangers for you. This is not meant to discourage you, but just to warn you, and, I hope, to encourage you.
The ministry can pose a danger to your family. Numerous families have washed up on the rocky shores of the ministry. The pressures of the ministry added with the pressures of the family have cracked many homes. I understand that a secular job can cause stress on a marriage, especially if it is a very demanding job that takes you away from your family. One thing that makes ministry different from a secular job is that usually the secular job is separated from the family. You go into work, do your thing, and go home. The ministry is never separated from your family. You, your wife, and your children are in this with you. You are under constant observation. The Scriptures make this clear in the qualifications of elders and deacons that the home is tied to ministry. If I lose my marriage I’ve lost my ministry. So here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Make your family your first ministry. This has to be the prevalent attitude. Many pastor’s wives have been jealous of sick people in the hospital that their husband seems to spend all his time with. My wife needs my attention too. My children need to be ministered to. It is not right for any man in the ministry to go around the country “helping” others with their spiritual needs when his own family is spiritually sick and dying. While they are leading their churches and leading their ministries, their wife and children are wandering around in a spiritual and emotional desert. If my children will be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord I will have to do it. It is no one else’s responsibility to love and lead my wife as Christ does the church. Sir, please don’t forget to tend to your own garden first before going out into the field of the world to labor.
2. Constantly work on the marriage. Every marriage needs this. It is amazing to me, though, that after counseling others about their marriages, a pastor or missionary will neglect his own. He might not intentionally neglect his wife; he may take it for granted that his own marriage is OK. Marriage is like a house. A house needs constant work and repair. If you neglect it, it will fall in disrepair. I recently heard Pastor John Wilkerson say “If you are working on your marriage, then your marriage is probably working.” That is good advice.
3. Be real. My children’s age range at this moment is 6.5 months in the womb to seven years old, so I have a lot to learn about raising good kids. However I did grow up in a pastor’s home, and I know the things that helped me. I think one of the most important parenting lessons that I learned while growing up is that parents must be transparent and genuine. The ministry tends to make men cynical and sarcastic. If this is your attitude, your children will pick it up. If you have a bitter attitude, it will be magnified in your children. If you are a hypocrite, then you will raise apostates. Be real. Love Jesus. When I left home at 18, there was no question in my mind that my mom and dad loved Christ (they still do). They were faithful, and believed every word in the Bible. I didn’t see two dads and moms, they were the same at church as they were at home. They were real, and it made me want to be real too.
4. Have fun. Life is a rat race for sure. If you are in the ministry there are constant demands on you. Someone is always sick, someone needs counseling, and Sunday comes every week and you have to prepare messages. Don’t become so busy that you forget to have fun with your family. Make time every week to do something, maybe a special trip every few months to just take a break from it all. My dad and I used to shoot archery together, and I loved it. More importantly, when dad would take the teenagers out to pass out tracts I got to go. When dad went to revival meetings with his friends, I got to go. I got to do ministry with dad and we always had fun doing it.
I don’t want my kids growing up hating the ministry, hating me, and hating God. When they leave my home I want them to leave with a passion to serve Christ. A passion that was kindled by their dad at home. I don’t want my wife growing bitter towards me and the ministry. I want her thankful that she is my wife, and thankful that she gets to serve the Savior with me. This is not the outcome of many families that are in the ministry. To be honest, it is probably not the outcome of most families in the ministry. The ministry can be a dangerous thing. Proceed with caution.