It may be interesting for you to know that a pastor’s church is not at the top of a pastor’s priority list, or at least it shouldn’t be from a Biblical perspective. Sometimes, we (meaning church members and pastors) need to be reminded of that. So, if his church is not a pastor’s top priority, what is?
Here is the way I try to line things out in my life, and I believe it is healthy and scriptural.
- Everything else
I think it is pretty clear that God intends for us to put Him first. Now, there are a lot of things that go into Him as the top priority. The things that come to mind are remembering Him in all actions and deeds throughout the day, spending time in conversation with Him (prayer), and Bible study. I know these are just a few, but they seem to be the most important to me at this time in my life, and they are the ones I actively work on. I’m sure God will reveal other things He wants me to work on as my relationship with Him grows and strengthens.
It may come as a surprise to some people that I believe family comes before the church. There are several reasons for that, but keep in mind that God instituted the family before He instituted the church, so it must be important to Him. Combine that with the passages of scripture that compares Jesus’ relationship to the church to the one between a husband and wife and you get a more definitive idea that this marriage relationship is important. And, this relationship is the core of the family. The Bible tells us that our children are a blessing to us; and as that blessing, we are to take seriously the assigned task of raising them with knowledge and respect for God.
Then comes the church. Yes, I am extremely thankful that God directed me to the Baptist Church at Park Glen, and I pray constantly that I make the right decisions and provide the right guidance. This church is God’s mission and ministry for me and I take this responsibility very seriously. The people who make up this church are constantly on my mind. The facilities we use (the church building) occupy time that I wish I could dedicate to other, more spiritual, things. But this is the life I have been called into, and I accept it with all joy and enthusiasm. Even if I was not pastor of this church, I would still want to attend, serve, and be part of a church.
Everything else in life comes after these three – work, play, and everything else you might think important – should give way when they conflict with the other three. Sometimes, we don’t want to do that, but it is the way God intended it to be.
So, you might ask why I write this blog at this time. Well, the situation I am in is not always easy. You might think pastors don’t have anything to worry about, but you would be wrong. I have a family situation that has me in a difficult position. I have to choose between my responsibilities as a pastor and the love of a father. Some think my responsibilities as a pastor should dictate my actions toward my family. As I have described above, I do not believe that is what God intends, and here’s why.
As I model my life with my family on the relationship that God has with us, His children, I believe that love is the overriding factor. God loves us in spite of how we act. If you are honest with yourself, you know there are things that you do of which God would not approve. Those things affect your relationship with Him and continue to affect that relationship until you go to Him, confess them, and repent of them. And the thing is, God will do this for you as often as you go to Him. He does not put a limit on the things He will forgive, or the number of times He will forgive them. I want you to note, however, that as He reveals those things to you, and as you repent of them, He does not want you to continue in that sin. The key is that you be willing to go to Him and admit your mistake. His love for you is so great that He never kicks you out of the family and is willing to restore the relationship. Aren’t we glad we have a God that is so loving, tolerant, and forgiving?
If He is my model, then how could I do any less for my own family? Yes, I have to take a stand on Biblical principles. If you have been a parent any length of time, you know that there are things that children do that would not please God, and therefore go against the standards that the Bible says we must stand on. When they do that, it affects their relationship with us. It is hard for us to show and express the love for them as long as they are outside God’s will, but that does not mean we love them any less.
As a father, my heart yearns for my children to make right decisions. I want them to reflect the Godly principles I have in my life and that I have tried to pass on to them. When they do not, I have to take a stand, and sometimes, that stand is difficult – it breaks my heart. I want the very best for my children, just like God wants the very best for me. When they are in a time of rebellion, I look for any sign that they recognize that rebellion and are willing to make changes. When I get a glimpse of remorse, I want to grab onto it and nurse it into true repentance. If nursing that hope conflicts with what other people think I should do as a pastor, then I am sorry. I will choose my family as long as I see that hope. Is that not what God does for us?
As a pastor, I attempt to model that same love and respect for my church. If a member is involved in something that goes against what is clearly outlined in scripture, I still love them even if I am unhappy and disappointed in their actions. Their actions affect the relationship I have with them, and it generally affects the relationship they have with the rest of the church. It is my responsibility to take a stand on what is right (and if I happen to preach on something that brings you conviction, I am glad for it, but I do not target messages to individuals). And the messages I preach are always couched in the love I experience from my Heavenly Father. Our relationship is affected as long as that rebellion and sin are in that member’s life. But just as God is ready, willing, and able to forgive those things we do against His will, I stand ready, willing, and (with God’s help) able to forgive those things that affect my relationship with them.
Remember that we are all part of the same body. When one part hurts, the rest hurt with them. When one part is healed and restored, the rest of the body rejoices and finds peace. It is important for us to pray for each other and to lift each other up. Criticism and grudges only destroy what God has put in place.
God bless you all.