One of the disturbing trends I have witnessed in ministry comes from pastors who neglect their families for their churches. It would seem for some that busyness and pulling long hours is the mark of a successful pastor. However, when we learn of countless pastors who burn out from exhaustion or from those who lose their families due to neglect or infidelity, one must wonder whether this model is good after all.
The Scripture places a high emphasis on the family unit. It seems to indicate that the pastor’s first ministry must be to his family. Furthermore, Scripture seems to indicate that placing family as one’s first priority, after God alone, is a prerequisite for ministry.
Neglect of Family Compared to Unbelief (1 Tim. 5:8).
In 1 Timothy, the young pastor is given sage advice by the aged apostle Paul on how to serve in ministry. It is of no surprise that one finds the words, “But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8, CSB). How is it that this verse is missed? A child depends on his or her parents for their wellbeing. If a pastor is not caring for his family’s needs, he cannot serve the church because he is failing at his first calling.
Care for Family is a Prerequisite for Ministry (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
The apostle lays forth the prerequisites that Timothy must consider before placing a pastor or deacon in office. Almost all the prerequisites for the pastor (i.e., the “overseer,” Gk.Episkopos) are the same for the deacon (i.e., the “servant,” Gk. Diakonos) except for the need to teach. The CSB uses the phrase “manage his own household.” Interestingly, proistēmi is the term used. Proistēmi as used in the NT indicates leadership, but in a greater sense it means for a person to “to care for” someone or something. Thus, if this meaning is implied, then Paul is saying that a pastor must first care for his family before he can care for the church. The family must be the pastor’s first calling.
Caring for the Family is Part of the Greatest Commandment (Dt. 6:7). Jesus indicated that the greatest commandment is the Shema which is found in Deuteronomy 6:5. The Shema says, “Listen (Heb. Shema), Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt. 6:5, CSB). But two verses below, the text says that the parent is to “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Dt. 6:6-7). Religious and spiritual instruction begins at home. A pastor’s highest calling is not the sermons preached on Sunday mornings, but the instruction that is given to his children each day.
I have tragically seen many pastors ruin their families in order to obtain what they feel is pastoral and/or ministerial accomplishment. The family is sacrificed at the altar of success. However, I have witnessed something quite profound at the Lord’s leading. My grandfather was a wonderful pastor. He related to people in delightful ways. However, when my grandpa died, the numerous people from the churches he served were not there holding his hand as he took his final breath. His children and grandchildren were there with him. My grandmother would have most certainly been there had she not suffered with Alzheimer’s. This point is not to begrudge anyone from the churches he served. The same is true for numerous other pastors and deacons who have died. It simply relays a profound point—put first those who will be there for you when you take your final breath. Sacrificing your family for ministerial success is not only unbiblical, it disqualifies you from serving.
reprinted from The Christian Post, with permission from the author...
Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.