Sunday, June 07, 2009

My Family, My Ministry

One common piece of advice from the Writer's Conference I attended a couple weeks ago was to start small- if you don't know if you have a full book in you, start with articles and work your way up. If anything, those articles can be compiled into the book you're planning. It sounded like good advice, especially since the magnitude of a book intimidates the heck out of me. So I dropped by my local Family Christian a week or so ago and picked up some magazines that fit my interest to browse the by-lines of authors and see what I'm up against. Of course, nearly all the freelanced articles were by established authors, and the ones that weren't were by professors of theology or divinity at some well-known seminary or foundation or led some well-known megachurch. Ok, so now the book is less intimidating that writing an article.

But I'm keeping that option open. At the very least, these magazines fit the theme of what I want to write about and what I write about here, so they're an additional resource to myself and my ministry.

Oh yeah, my ministry. I've posted multiple times about this, and the resulting conviction each time has been the same: I have a ministry. Let's see, I lead a small group, teach Sunday School to 3rd graders on a rotation, mentor a teen, and I'm president of our board, not to mention maintain this blog which I whole-heartedly consider to be part of my ministry. What more could I possibly add? What each of these have in common, and what ties in with the beginning of this post, is how I approach my ministry. I'm a sponge of information and I take that information through a spiritual filter and pass it on to each of the ministries listed above. That's what I do and that's what I'm good at. So at the very least, that's what I'll continue to do.

But there's a ministry I left off from the above list, that Pastor Peter kindly reminded me of, and that's my family. Regrettably I don't often consider my family a ministry. Maybe it's been drilled in my head one too many times not to use my family as an excuse to not participate in another ministry. I'm sure you've heard it before, "I can't serve in ___ because my family has ___." I do however consider my family to be my primary responsibility, and I'll gladly sacrifice my participation in any other activity for the sake of my family. In fact, that's the only reason I have time right now to sit down and type this.

But "responsibility" isn't the right word. Responsibility comes with obligation, and obligation comes with pressure, and pressure comes with stress. Ministry however, while challenging, should always bring joy. (Of course, if we're not relying on God, that joy quickly turns to stress.) I've been reminded several times lately not to neglect my family as a ministry. First by the great preaching by Chip Ingram at Living on the Edge, who shared lessons on fatherhood last week. I've heard these lessons before, but I was reminded of the role of Abraham to his family- that he was both prophet and priest. There weren't yet any synagogues, the temple was still generations off, even the Levite priests were a couple generations away. So he had to both bring the word of God to his family and intercede to God on their behalf. How much have I shared the word of God with them as eagerly as I've written about it online? How often do I get on my knees before God for my family? Most recently I was reminded this morning (thanks Rodney!) when he read this from the 8th Psalm, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise" (Ps 8:2ff). How often have I given in to my own stress and frustration as my children are screaming and hollering in the background? How easy I forget that my children are "a reward from Him." (Ps 127:3b)

But I was also reminded by the magazines I pulled off the shelf and have been reading lately. (See, I was going somewhere with all of this) In both the issues of Discipleship Journal and Relevant, the opening editorials described how each editor was burned out by their personal ministry. Not only did this affect their own relationship with God, but in the case of Cameron Strang, editor of Relevant Magazine, it also affected his family.

So what have I learned from all of this? First, is that my ministry already exists. Second, I need to include my family in my ministry. Not only that, but my family needs to be my primary ministry. And finally, to stay rooted in God so that my ministry does not become a source of stress, but rather remains to be a source of joy.

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