Saturday, May 5, 2012

The importance of family

This week I have been in Pennsylvania helping our son after he had some surgery earlier in the week.  Today my grandson played a Jr. High baseball game which I got to see.  He had two hits, including a double, drove in four runs, stole a base, and scored once.  He caught the only fly ball hit to him in left field.  It was a great game for me to get to watch, and one of the things I kept thinking after the game was how much I wish I could call my Dad to tell him how his great-grandson had done.  Dad passed away a few years ago.

No one loved baseball more than my father.  He was a good player as a young man and loved and respected the game.  My son was a pitcher in high school and Dad loved to keep up with his games.  When he received a baseball scholarship to pitch in college Dad always enjoyed it when I would call to give him an update on how my son had pitched that day.  He would have been thrilled to hear how the latest generation is doing in the game he loved so much.

I share all this to emphasize how important family is.  We often think we have all the time in the world to do things with family, so the temptation is to put off doing some things we should be doing.  After all, we have so much to do.  If we serve as a bivocational pastor we have our church work, our other job, plus all the other demands on our time.  It is so easy to keep telling family members that we'll get to them as soon as we get some of the other things done.  Of course, when we do get them done other things appear demanding our time and attention.  Then, one day before we're ready, a family member is no longer with us.

We do have important things to do, and they should receive priority, but we need to remember something very important.  Unless your church is a new church start, it has had many pastors before you, and unless the Lord returns soon it will have many pastors after you're gone.  You are the only person your spouse is married to and you are the only mother or father your children have.  They also deserve a high priority in your life, and it's critical that you create special memories with them and share special times with them.

I have to admit that I've not always done that in my ministry.  Like so many pastors, there were times when I was not there for my family.  I tried to minimize those times, but there were still too many of them.  None of those times can be recaptured.  Those opportunities are lost forever.  The funny thing is that I can't remember any of the things I did that took me away from my family.  That tells me that they really weren't that important.

Years ago I read some advice a denominational leader supposedly made to a new pastor.  He told the pastor that if he took care of the church God would take care of his family.  I can't think of worse advice, and there are too many stories of minister's families that have been destroyed because the minister focused all his or her attention on the church and ignored the family.  Just as God has called you into the ministry, He has given you a family to serve.  You cannot ignore that family and be successful as a minister.  Make your family a priority in your life.  Spend time with them.  Create memories that will survive even when you're gone.  Believe me, those memories will remain long after you've forgotten the church council meetings you attended.

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