Don't Sacrifice Your Ministry on the Altar of Family

Don't Sacrifice Your Ministry on the Altar of Family

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me not to “sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry,” I could go to Home Depot and buy everything I needed to build an altar and start offering sacrifices in my back yard.

I’m sure that those who give me this advice mean well, but the truth is this I don’t struggle with making too many sacrifices for Christ, I struggle with making too fewIt’s the things that we love most in this world are most likely to become idols and compete with our affection for Christ and his mission. This is precisely why I must sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry.

The idea that we should protect our families from ministry is simply not a biblical notion. In fact, a case could be made that submitting my family to the difficulty and distress of ministry is good for them.

Consider these Biblical examples:

  • Hannah carried Samuel to the temple with the rest of her offerings “as soon as he was weaned” (1 Samuel 1:24).
  • Abraham led his son up a mountain to slay him in obedience to God (Genesis 22).
  • When a disciple asked Jesus for some time off to go to his father’s funeral, Jesus told the man to, “let the dead bury the dead” and instructed him keep working despite his father’s death (Luke 9:60).

I find it strange that we celebrate Hannah and Abraham for their willingness to lay their kids down on the altar then advise our ministers not to. We applaud their sacrifices retrospectively, but I am certain if similar scenarios unfolded in our churches today, we would consider them “religious extremism” and “child abuse.”

The Real danger

The real danger is not that my family might be harmed by serving Christ but that they might never experience the joy of being “crucified with Christ” or the blessing of “sharing in His sufferings.” What effect will come upon them if Sunday after Sunday my family hears me preach a gospel that says, “I have been crucified with Christ,” and they observe me live in such a way that shelters them from anything that requires faith or sacrifice.

William Carry sacrificed his son Peter on the altar of ministry when he took him to India where he would die of dysentery. George Grenfell, credited with bringing Christianity to tropical Africa, sacrificed his wife Mary on the altar of ministry when she died in Cameroon just 11 months after their wedding, and the list of great men and women of God who’s families suffered because of their service could fill volumes.

How many missionary enterprises have been sacrificed on the altar of family? How many men have resisted the call of God out of fear that some discomfort may come upon their wife? How many places go unserved because there are no schools in them good enough for our kids? How many neighborhoods are without a gospel witness because those with the impulse to go to them fear the dealers and pimps who lurk in the streets at night?

Blend over balance

I have a family—a wife and four children—I understand the concern. I feel the press of my role as protector every day. I also feel the tension between the time allotted to ministry and the time allotted to my family.

Finding a balance between family and ministry is impossible, but no one is forcing you to choose between them. I began working in ministry soon after becoming a Christian. When I began a relationship with Jennifer (now my wife), she joined me in the work. When our first son was born, he joined the work as well. Every time God gave us another child, our team was expanded. As a family, we pray together for the needs of our congregation. I test illustrations and sermon ideas on them, and I talk with them about issues of direction for our church. When someone is hurting or in need, I take my family along to assist in the ministry.

Sure, it may not seem professional to some, but professionalism is not the goal of a pastor or a dad. There are times when my children do more to minister in hospital rooms and on front porches than I do. This doesn’t mean that everything we do as a family is centered on the work of ministry, but it does mean that most of what we do is aimed at serving our local congregation or reaching the lost around us. It also means that there are fewer hours in the day for the activities that do not benefit the church or expand the kingdom. Please don’t feel sorry for my children or my wife. They are not slaves begging for more time on the baseball field or at the local park. Trust me, my children are well-acquainted with the inside of a Chuck E. Cheese’s. But they also recognize that, even in Chuck E Cheese’s, we are ministers of the gospel. So yes, sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry, lay down everything in service to Christ, even your family.



Posted by Jeff Brown

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