For ten years of marriage and eight years of ministry involvement I’ve had something completely backwards. The “thorn in my side” was actually a speck in my eye. And the speck in my eye was actually a log. And that log was actually an overpriced cabin. Thankfully, God is a kind lumberjack.
Here’s what I had backwards (or maybe out-of-balance, but that sounds too weak): the priority of the church in the pastor’s home and the priority of the pastor’s home in the church.
While knowing 1 Tim 3.4-5 and its demand on pastors, I functioned quite oppositely. I assumed that church health would translate into marriage/family health. If things at church are going well then things at home would go well. The church was the primary influence at home. This ridiculous reversal robbed my wife of more than I care to mention.
My perspective was precisely opposite of Christ’s design. Our ministries are to be overflows of what we enjoy at home, not vice versa. I expected God to prosper the church, which would then spill over into our home. This led to some terrible frustration because the anemia I thought was the church’s “fault” was actually mine at home. I had it backwards.
So, I’ve thought through some specific ministry frustrations that I thought were church-related, but were actually husband/father related. Perhaps they will help some of you before another log is laid.
Intimacy. I long complained about lack of intimacy in the church. I would exclaim: “What’s wrong with these Christians? Don’t they know the gospel and how we are to be transparent? I’ll just have to preach louder and longer on it.”
But, do you know where the lack of intimacy came from in the church? My home! I’ve spent nearly a decade neglecting some of my wife’s most basic needs of intimacy. 1 Tim 3.4-5 is really true! If a man is not intimate at home then how will he promote intimacy in the church of God?
Now, we know that there is a level of marital intimacy that will not be directly seen in the church (i.e., the X-rated part). But, there is a “nakedness” of the soul that will reflect the nakedness of the bedroom. In other words, the pastor’s vibrant sex life will translate into the church’s vibrant soul life. If you don’t know how to be selflessly naked with your wife, then how can you possibly be selflessly intimate with the church of God?
It’s amazing that this simple realization has transformed how I interact with and feel toward church folk.
Prayer. “Why won’t our church pray together, for Pete’s sake?” Well, do you pray at home? I don’t mean talking to God with your wife around and calling it prayer. I mean communion with God in Scripture-saturated praise and intercession. Do you practice at home what you are expecting at church? If not, then lower your expectations. I’ve lowered mine.
Worship. Is worship dull at church? If so, then it might be because it’s dull at home. Is it even present at home? Do you sing God’s praises robustly together? Do you read Scripture with verve and expectation?
Encouragement. The ministry of encouragement is all but absent in the church these days. Christians simply don’t know how to encourage one another from the Scriptures. We have an extensive vocabulary of gossip and complaint. But, we have a weak vocabulary of encouragement. Be encouraged! If you create a home of biblical encouragement it will overflow into the church. It will be contagious. An encouraged wife encourages other wives, and you won’t be able to stop the glory train!
Evangelism. Oh, how I’ve bemoaned, “Where is the church’s evangelistic zeal?” Well, it’s exactly where I left mine: in my home. Am I a faithful evangelist to my wife and daughter? Do I bring the gospel to bear on what God brings our family’s way? Do I lead my family in evangelizing our neighbors?
This connection is not always true. There are men with intimate, praying, worshiping, encouraging, evangelistic homes whose churches still struggle. However, this connection is probably more true than not. Brothers, you’re not waiting on the church to get its act together. The church is waiting on you.
Or all this may be just me.