Do you ever feel like ministry is having an adverse effect on your marriage? While it’s easy to blame, the truth is, ministry isn’t responsible for anyone having a bad marriage. God doesn’t call us to lead in His church to the detriment of our marriage. But I’ve watched many men sacrifice their marriage on the alter of ministry. And when we do it’s a clear indication that ministry is no longer a calling it’s an idol. Continue reading “Ministry Is Stinking Up My Marriage”
One of the most important questions a workaholic pastor can ask himself is: What am I sacrificing for the Gospel? As I’ve pointed out this past week God never asks us to sacrifice our health or our marriage. But when we confuse busyness for sacrifice we excuse our illegitimate behaviors as the pursuit of Kingdom impact. In reality these behaviors are evidence of pride and a deficient view of God. I’ll never forget driving down the road when my kids where younger and one of my sons said, “Dad I hate you being a pastor”. When I asked why he spoke of my ever constant distraction with serving “my church”. While I never would have said it out load, my behavior screamed that “God needs me in order to accomplish His work in my community.” That’s pride. That’s a low view of God. And that’s an attitude that leads pastors down a dangerous path. An over pre-occupation with ministry communicates to our children that our relationship with “our church” is a greater priority than our relationship with them.
#3 God doesn’t ask us to sacrifice our family. Many pastors, especially church planters, have children who are in the formative years of life. Right after Cindy and I announced that we were going to plant a church back in 1997 I heard a well-known pastor exclaim, “If you have young children DO NOT plant a church!” That terrified us, but it was too late, the journey had begun and the calling was too obvious. So right then and there we decided that our kids would be better because of ministry. To be honest it was difficult. The demands of planting were high. But we worked hard to have special time with our kids, show them the benefits of being in ministry and include them in the God-moments along our ministry journey. Ministry can be a great classroom where our children have a front row seat to witness the provision and power of God. But ministry can also be a pre-occupation that causes us to put parenting on autopilot.
Self-Evaluation: Am I sacrificing my family because of my pre-occupation with ministry?
I was talking with a friend the other day about pastors who have moral failures in their marriage when he said something incredibly insightful, “A man who has an affair with ministry makes himself more vulnerable to an affair with another woman.” The demands of ministry can be draining, but they can also be addicting. When we succumb to any addictive behavior we become enslaved by that behavior and begin to make illegitimate sacrifices to meet our perceived need. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post there are some things that God never asks us to sacrifice. Our health is one, but our marriage is another.
#2 God doesn’t ask us to sacrifice our marriage. Cindy shared a static with me the other day that claims 80% of pastors wives wish their husband had chosen a different occupation. God designed the husband wife relationship to complete one another (Genesis 2:18). Yet many couples find that the demands of ministry actually drive them further apart. God never asked us to sacrifice our marriage for the sake of the Gospel. in fact, in Ephesians 5 Paul tells us the demonstration of our love for our wives should reflect Christ love for the Church. We can easy begin to view our marriage partner solely as a ministry partner, and when we do we begin to use them instead of love and serve them. Our role as husband and leader of the home is to make sure our wives are walking in the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose for their lives. But there is a lurking temptation to continually plug them into roles outside their gifting for the sake of “our church”, strap them to certain expectations for the image of “our church” or neglect them for the calling of “our church”
Self-Evaluation: Am I sacrificing my marriage because of the demands of ministry?
Remember when you were just dating your spouse how hard you would work at coming up with creative, romantic, innovative dates? But once you get married all creativity comes to a halt. You recognize the importance of continued dating and may even have a specified date night but it just seems to be routine. So here are 5 ideas for great dates to enhance your marriage
- Explore your City– Cindy and I live in Charleston, SC and one of our favorite dates is to get in the car, drive downtown and find something we have never noticed before. Try a new restaurant, walk a new street, find a new store to explore. Searching for and finding something new never fails to stimulate great conversation and many times builds special memories. If you’re in Charleston here are a few of our favorite places to explore: Downtown Charleston, The Old Village, Patriots Point and Francis Marion National Forest.
- Take a Hike – Outdoor dates are great for your physical, emotional and relational health. We are fortunate to live in an area that has some great outdoor trails to explore. We have discovered 9 different areas in Charleston that we love to hike or bike. For those of you in Charleston they are…The West Ashley Greenway, Ravenel Bridge, Streets of Downtown Charleston, Patriots Point hiking trail, Swamp Fox trail, HOA Camp off of Hwy 17 hiking trail, Palmetto State Park, Ion Neighborhood trails, Hibben neighborhood trail, Park West trails, Rivertown trails, Francis Marion hiking trails)
- Bucket List Date.This one’s a blast. Find a comfortable coffee shop that creates a conversational environment, bring a notebook and pen and work together to build your Marriage Bucketlist. What are 10,20 or even 50 things you want to do during your lifetime as a couple? To make this date even better rent the movie The Bucketlist before going out. After making your bucket list you may end up with a bunch more exciting dates you can look forward too.
- Physical Challenge Date– Okay you may think this one sounds crazy but it really is a great date. On many Fridays (Our specified Date Day/Night) we come up with a physical challenge for the day. Unlike the hiking date this a date we push ourselves to get our heart rates high.
- Nachos Night– One of our favorite dates that doesn’t cost a lot of money is our Nacho Date. Yours doesn’t have to be nachos but here’s the concept. Find a restaurant that has a really, really good, big, delicious appetizer combined with a great atmosphere. Ours is Coconut Joe’s which is on the beach at Isle of Palm, they have a $7 plate of chicken nachos that could serve 4 people and we split it, sit outside where we can see and hear the ocean and just have a relaxing date.
- BONUS DATE for those who have been married longer: Mentoring Date– If you’re an older couple invite a younger couple to go out with you and just enjoy swapping marriage stories. This serves to mentor them and by sharing your story reinforces the strengths of your own marriage.
What are some “Great Date” ideas you can share?
A few weeks ago we asked Reggie Joiner, President of Rethink, to speak at our Seacoast Leaders Conference. The focus of the conference was on how to cast vision in your home, market place and ministry. Knowing about his strong passion for family we asked Reggie if he would talk to us about vision casting as a mom and dad. Watch this 10 minute video then scroll below for some action steps to further your learning.
1. Watch Reggies Video and write down the key concepts
Three Dials we’re constantly turning as a parent…
- Relationship with _____________ – The Wonder Dial
Nothings more important than someones relationship with God.
- Relationship with _____________ – The Discovery Dial
Help your child to understand their identity is not in a job, a relationship or anything else. Their identiy is in Christ.
- Relationship with ______________ – The Passion Dial
Jesus was a living example of giving our lives for others. If Jesus is in your and he came to give his life to others then doesn’t it makes sense that He wants you to give your life for others? We must teach our children to live with a sense of mission.
2. Set aside an hour this week and write down the vision you believe God has for your family. After writing it down share it with your children and get their input and perspective.
3. As a family discuss an activity that you can all do together to live out an aspect of your family vision. Make it an adventure that will create some special memories.
4. Write each of your children a personal letter expressing your belief in them and how you see God at work in their future.
5. Read one of the following articles from Focus on the Family and discuss it with your spouse.
Check back next Tuesday for Ray Snyders talk about How to Cast Vision in the Marketplace.
As we were driving home from vacation this summer I noticed that everyone was asleep except for my 14 year old daughter Brianna. So I took this as an opportunity to ask some fun exploratory questions and get a look into her heart a little bit. For nearly two hours I asked her questions like: If you could go to lunch with anyone in the world who would it be and why? If you could make a movie what would it be about? If you could be anything when you grew up what would you be? If you could have any super-power what would it be and why? (Really deep stuff huh? But it’s amazing what those questions can tell you about your teenager)
One of the questions I asked was: If you could go any where in the world where would you like to go? Her answer- “I’ve always dreamed about going to New York City.” So I tucked that tidbit of information in the back of my mind and once we got home I started shopping for low cost flights to New York. It took a few weeks but finally landed round trip tickets for $40 each.
Last weekend the two of us traveled to NYC and spent three days walking, shopping, eating NY cuisine and having a blast. Her favorite part was riding the subway and getting a make over in one of the department stores…my favorite part…watching her experience her dream. While it wasn’t a “spiritual” trip, I saw it expand her thinking about who God wants her to be and the God sized possiblities in her life.
As a child my parents taught me to dream, they encouraged me to think big, they challenged me to be fully surrendered to God’s desires for my life. They would ask me questions, they would make sure I had the right experiences and they kept me growing with a continual supply of books. They taught me that the ultimate dream for my life is found in discovering God’s will for my life. Their investment in my dreams has allowed me to discover God’s path and plan for my life.
Last weekends trip reminded me that I need to get into the heart of my children more often. I need to ask those types of exploratory questions, stir their thinking, fuel their dreams and then sit back and watch God do His work in their hearts and minds.
Here is a short clip from our trip.
Sometimes my ambitions outpace God’s assignments. I have dedicated my life to honoring and serving God, but as vision grows in my heart so grows the temptation to build what God is not asking me to build. A spiritual leader must guard his ambitions and daily keep his ear tuned to God’s directives.
There’s a little known character in the Bible named Hiel who made this mistake and he paid dearly for it. His story is recorded in one verse, 1 Kings 16:34, “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.”
Years earlier in Joshua 6:26 God had warned the people of Israel not to rebuild the city of Jericho. But evidently Hiel driven by his ambition ignored God’s instruction. He had a vision and completed the job, but notice his family paid the price. He lost his oldest son as he built the foundation. But that didn’t stop him; he continued building and eventually lost his youngest son as he set up the gates.
Don’t let your ambitions outpace God’s assignments. When we build what God doesn’t want us to build it’s usually our family that pays the price. It breaks my heart when I see a man (or woman) who truly loves God get caught up in selfish ambition, going way beyond what God is asking and watch the family pay the price.
Are you keeping your family a priority as you fulfill God’s assignment for your life? What can you do for or with them this week to show them they are a priority in your schedule?