The Primary Ministry for Pastors

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed” Proverbs 15:22.  A few of my friends and I took a recent trip northward to the greater Boston area, praying to God for wisdom, discernment, pristine clarity, and the faith necessary to plant a church.  During our stay there, we met with several brothers who helped us in immense ways.  Their counsel was rich, touching upon every possible thing that we might have asked and more.  In hindsight, they varied from one another on certain things ranging from general topics to specific advice over when, where and how.  However, the longer we stayed, the more meetings we had, the more counsel we received from this multitude of advisors, one main gem of wisdom broke through the cloud of words like a beam of sunlight on an overcast day. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

Every advisor, no matter his area of expertise, no matter his knowledge base, told us that the most important consideration in church planting and Gospel ministry is the joy of our wives.  I was exceedingly glad and challenged by this counsel.  I’d like to offer it to you also, Christian.  I say “Christian”, for while the joy of our wives in Jesus is paramount for the pastor, so it is no less for any married male disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nevertheless, allow me to take my sniper scope and hone in on my brothers who intend to shepherd the flock of God.

If you are anything like me, you have high hopes and grand plans and majestic visions for Gospel ministry.  Hopefully, you, as well as I, are concurrently wrestling over the fact that faithfulness in ministry in fundamental, and that you, being weak, can accomplish nothing of what you have set your heart upon apart from Christ and the church producing, equipping, building, and mobilizing power of the Holy Spirit.  I am sure that God has given you talents and spiritual gifts to work out the Great Commission and to lead His people to a grander vision of Him.  Perhaps He has given to you the brains of John Owen, the impact of Augustine, the ability to touch men’s hearts like John Bunyan, the meditations of Jonathan Edwards, the faith of George Muller, the voice of George Whitefield, and the piety of John Calvin or John Wesley.  Let me say, if you are not ministering to your wife, if you are not serving her, washing her with the pure water of the Word of God, if you are not fighting for the fullness of her joy in Jesus, if you are not laboring to see her love for God increased, if you are not partnering with her in the Gospel so that she comes to treasure Christ and prize Gospel ministry to others, then it does not matter one lick how much time or what hopes, visions, plans, talents, or spiritual gifts you may have, you are failing in ministry, you are failing in the most fundamental pastorate of your life – the call to love your wife and manage your household well.  Apart from these, how can you love and manage the household of God?  Wife and home are the most natural microcosms of the church.

A few days ago, I sat down with a good man, a man with great intentions for Christ.  In speaking of the difficulties of church planting, he commented that he labored some 85 hours every week.  The most immediate question that popped into my mind was, “How then can you be loving your wife and children?”  You see, he had embraced the illusion that more time spent ministering to the church equaled a greater ecclesial profitability.  I would encourage him to ask his wife!  His plant is dying and he doesn’t recognize it.  Why should I say that?  Because family is not primary.  The primary ministry for pastors is their own family.  If their wife and children are being neglected, so God has established that the church will have a dysfunctional shepherd, and a dysfunctional shepherd can only lead the flock astray.

Brothers, let us be warned.  Humbly, I submit to you even as it was to us, “Husbands love your wives . . . and manage your households well.”

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