History tends to follow pendulum swings. The church is not immune. As finite and sinful human beings we have a tendency to bounce from one extreme to another—dancing around the truth along the way.
I’ve got a handful of pendulum swings that I’d like to address. Today I want to address one that I’ve termed Family First.
Why the Pendulum Swung
I remember in college, while training to become a youth pastor, hearing stories of men who neglected their families for the sake of ministry. The professor had no shortage of examples of men who had sacrificed their family for the sake of furthering their ministry.
One story in particular stuck with me. It is the sad story of the family of Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision. Pierce made a deal with God that if he took care of God’s children overseas that God would take care of his own children back home.
Pierce was so dedicated to his dream that when his severely depressed daughter called requesting that her daddy come home, he refused because he had speaking engagements in Vietnam. She attempted to take her own life—eventually accomplishing this aim in November of 1968. Bob Pierce remained estranged from his family until he died of leukemia.
The point my professor made hit my heart. Bob Pierce labored tirelessly to rescue children overseas while he let his own family die. Your ministry isn’t successful, no matter how many souls saved, if your own family is neglected.
A few decades ago the church realized that pastors and congregants alike needed to wise up and start to focus on the family. As our culture became increasingly godless many Christians turned inward in an attempt to redeem culture by first redeeming the family.
And this focus has now made one’s biological family of greater importance than one’s faith family. “I’m spending time with my family” has now become a free pass. When a man stays home with his family instead of dragging them to church he is now seen as a noble warrior.
Such a man very well might be a noble warrior. Certainly a man in Bob Pierce’s position should have cancelled those speaking engagements to be with his troubled daughter. If your family is falling apart you shouldn’t be off trying to save the world. But it’s also possible that he has putting a weight on his family that it cannot bear.
But I think somewhere along the way we’ve bought into the lie that the way to rescue our families is to protect them from church. The family then become “a self-serving entity primarily concerned with its own well being”. What has happened is that church has become one parcel of a families pursuit of well-being.
When I read through the New Testament I find it difficult to put the family in a place of primacy over the local church. In fact, I don’t see the two really competing. The only time the two compete is when family is places itself as an idolatrous self-serving entity. And every time this happens family always loses to the kingdom. Because the kingdom isn’t mean to serve your family—your family is meant to serve the kingdom, and this is for your families joy and benefit.
Don’t make your family fight the kingdom. Likewise don’t put your family in an idolatrous position to be lovingly decimated by the King. Instead help your family live in the joy and wonder of life with Jesus.