SBC Today: How do you balance ministry and family responsibilities?
Fred Luter: Make it known to your congregation that your wife and family is your first priority. Then put actions to your words by spending quality time with your wife and family.
Jesus Christ: Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it… And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
How does Butler’s second statement mesh with his first: “Three keys to being an effective pastor are: Love and commitment to God, love and commitment to your family, and love and commitment to the church where you serve”? Is family first? God, or the church?
We see the perspective in John 3:16 in that God the Father sent the Son to do the will of the Father to gather and disciple his church. Jesus placed his laying down his life for the church even before the personal needs of his church, “But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” He demonstrated the priority of dedication to his disciples over his family: While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Paul teaches the priority of Christ’s life for the church before family using the wife as a type of being the object of his sacrifice, so also then, of a minister’s life so that the church might be sanctified and presented to God pure. Christ didn’t defer the priority of care of the flock for his family, nor does Paul teach that minister’s of the gospel should. Paul elsewhere makes it quite clear what the status of marriage is in a minister’s life: But if you do marry, you have not sinned… Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. Simply put, the priority is not family, nor recreation, nor mournings without hope and with all the attachment to the world as it is commonly thought of in the world, not common labor as if to live the good life, to build houses and barns and store as the world does, nor even to become entangled in civilian affairs if it interferes in any way with the prosecution of the minister’s calling.
Strange thing how a person would pursue ministry who has no clue as to its cost or commitment, or its priorities. But it does makes sense how such a person might pursue the leadership of the SBC and be clueless about what Scripture teaches.