MAINTAINING A BALANCE BETWEEN THE FAMILY AND MINISTERIAL CHALLENGES by Bishop Dr. J. Akin Atere

LECTURE DELIVERED AT FAMILY FOR THE CLERGY AND WIVES OF THE DIOCESE OF IFE HELD ON THE 5TH SEPTEMBER, 2017 AT 9.00AM AT ILE-IFE

TOPIC: MAINTAINING A BALANCE BETWEEN THE FAMILY AND MINISTERIAL CHALLENGES
The commission recorded in Matthew 28 catches the fullness of the task charged to the Church Communicated through His inner circle. In Mark’s version, Jesus made specific and clear imagination as to how to go about it. “Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15)
Before the birth of the Church at Pentecost and after resurrection for 40 days He was shewing Himself alive, speaking of the things of the kingdom of God, he was together with His disciples in an assembly and there commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the father of the holy Spirit. Here Jesus specified the method to be employed for the commission in Act 1:8 “But yee shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and yee shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the world” Jerusalem was their hometown, they were supposed to evangelize there first, Judea also was their home area, next in line since it was a nearby mission field is Samaria, the end of the earth means any foreign country.
Where is our ministerial Jerusalem or Judea? (our home).
Event though, Paul’s ministry was specifically to Gentile world but home was also considered to take priority, while concluding his report to the Romans, he proclaimed in Chapter 15:19 “Through might signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
Why should they start from Jerusalem? This was their immediate environment, they knew the nook and craning, understand the language and culture, they had lived in their midst, they have friends, age mate, co-Temple attendance, they must know the best method of approach.
The most proclaimed priestly family failure according to the scriptures is that of Priest Eli. The Jewish meaning of the name is High or Ascended or my God. When it comes to Eli as a priest, he was second to none in terms of commitment, hard work, sincerity and trustworthiness. He was available in the temple at the visit of Hannah 1 Sam.1:9, He confidently spoke in honour of God when in verse 17 “…God in peace: and God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has asked of Him.” (the rest you know). He was of the priestly house of Aaron 1 Sam 2:27-28. Eli failed in his responsibilities as a father. He esteemed his sons above God; he did not want to offend his sons and thereby offended the living God. His problem is that, he focused more on others and neglects the immediate parish. The two side f the ministry are necessary but the starting point was wrong, or the neglect of Jerusalem amounts to disobedience of the system. We may also trace the curse on Eli as being inherited from Ithamar’s his father “I will cut off thine arm and the arm of thy father’s house” (1 Sam.2:31). It shows the bitter attitude of God to priestly home not patterned in His fear, as far back as in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, Church minister/leaders were required to demonstrate faithfulness at home before they were considered eligible for leadership. (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-13)
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (Titus 1:5-9)
1. This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5. (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8. ¶Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9. Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
11. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
12. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
13. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

Too often, we consider the ministry some important that we neglect our home, building on the assumption that “without me, God’s church can’t survive”. But God says “I will build my Church” (Matt.16:18). It means by extension that when we get married we become our husband and we are His wife. You will both give account on the last day of your marriage stewardship, your parenting/family. How does this relate to Jesus who called on us to expend ourselves for the gospel. When in Matt. 19:29 “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Earlier in the same chapter Jesus quotes what God said in genesis about the utterly unique and permanent relationship of marriage (Amtt.19:4-6) “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” There is a reason Paul’s advised husbands to love their wives the way Christ loves the Church in Eph.5:25, 28-29. Peter also corroborated this in this in 1 Pet.3:7. Both command husband to strain against the bent, against that desire to conquer the world to the neglect of home. Wives were also challenged “wives, submit to your own husband as to the Lord. Both Ephesians 5:22,24 and 1 pet 3:5-6 command wives to do what is not natural namely, to trust their husbands and follows their lead, even when its difficult. How husband and wife relate to one another couldn’t be more central to the building of God’s kingdom. God designed marriage to refer to, or be a picture of a cosmic reality Ephesians 5:31 “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” He intends that how the husband treats his wife will tell us something about how Christ treat His bride, the Church and He intends that how the wife relates to her husband will tell us the truth about how the Christ is to relate to Christ. I see family as a priority for the godly husband and father, not because of any sentiment, because joining God in the creation of new 00 and training our home in the fear of God is spiritual warfare Gen. 3:15 “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” When Malachi says God made them one for the purpose of a godly seed (2:13-15) “And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” He shows that it’s not enough o make babies, husband and wives are called as disciples of Christ not only to be procreative but also to be generative, our children are given to us for a season to disciple in the way they should go, it is the work of the kingdom “let the children come to me” Matt.19:14, Fathers are to teach their children the way of God at every point. Deut 6:7 “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” The patriarch of old went on dangerous journeys and often took their families with them.
What seems contrary is the message of Jesus in Matt. 10:37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This shows that there will always be tension between our family’s and ministry agenda. This tension if not well managed can develop into a problem. I have this belief that since our life situations often change, we will also regularly need to re-evaluate how we balance these two areas, we cannot compare our level of services to the Church between when we were bachelor & spinster with when we become a family man/woman. What should not change are our heart’s commitments to both the church and home ministry. Prov. 11:1 “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.” Some of us try to continue with ministry obligation at the same pace and level of involvement prior to being married or having children. The danger is that you may not know how until their family life deteriorate and it may be too late to repair. Sadly, when ministers are not interesting in the family, it is usually a direct reflection of their true value. No wonder Paul advised that a minister should not be a novice; he must be mature, having ability to combine both home and ministry tension. A minister must understand the cost of combining family with the ministry before going into it and if married before going into the ministry must be a joint agreement between the spouses. There is probably no greater blessing and joy than a Christ-centred family, but it is not an end in itself. The family stand to serve God (matt.6:33). God wants us and our children to be committed to him foremost, then through His love, guidance and power, we can love the family Matt.12:29; Luke 14:26.
Let check through the Bible to see biblical principles of ministering to your wife and family and to the body of Christ. Deut.4:9; 6:4-7; 11:18-19, Joshua 4:6; 1 Tim. 3:4; Eph.6:4; Matt.28:19; Mark 3:33-35; John 15:5; Matt. 6:33; 10:37-39.
The major roles of a minister in the church is
a) Teaching/preaching of church doctrines that build the spirituality of the people.
b) Caring as a shepherd and pastor, this he demonstrated in visitation, counselling, comforting and taking care of the needs of the people.
c) Performing rites of passage such as baptism, wedding and funerals
d) Administration, such as taking care of meetings, putting together a bulletin, developing programmes for the church and evangelism.
e) And finally, serving as ambassador of God, Jesus, Church and his denomination to the community.
All the above are time consuming, you need more than 24 hours to be able to cope, yet God expect that you don’t lack in any of these. According to Acts 1:8 earlier quoted if you choose to start from your Jerusalem you will have a shortcut to success. Therefore, I want to recommend the following practical way of balancing your role as one called unto God ministry and to a God given home.
Following the pattern of Jesus of leadership, he was servant leader Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27. Jesus still respect and obeyed His parents, evidence in His love for His mother and brethren.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO BALANCE FAMILY AND MINISTRY
a) ONE DAY OFF IN A WEEK: at least we must take a day off duty to be spent with our family especially those having children at a formative stage. Your children will always look forward to this day. Failure can lead to a burnout. Every child in the world wants more time with their parents.
b) TEACHING/PREACHING: the very day you get married you must assume this role first with your wife, in an official or non-official manner, teach her what she needed to know in the scripture, the nature of the church, her roles in your ministry and in the home, teach her to be your curate and service clinic conductor. You must help her spiritually. By the time you start rearing children, with the coming of each child, you have your home church increase with additional responsibilities. Teach them unto maturity, it will be easier for you and your family to prosper the church.
c) CARING AS A SHEPHERD: the role of care and responsibilities of both husband and wife is clearly specified in the public especially Paul and Peter, let your pastoral duties start from home, let your family see that practical love exhibited by you and your wife, you must continue the children that you love them not by spoiling them but being kind, good, honest, setting example, make provision for their basic need. This will translate into what result will be at the ministry, the church will be encouraged by the standard of your home. At a point, your children and wife will form together with you a team ministry. They will be ready to offer sacrifice of their time, talent and treasure to help your ministry. Have time to attend to the different mood of your household, in the area of visitation, counselling, comforting.
d) PERFORMING RITES OF PASSAGE: This has to do with communication of what the system is all about. What is baptism to the church? Admission into the body – Your family like the church must feel to belong to the family, whatever the standard set the family will key into, “Like father like family”. The gold of the family belief, goals must be clearly set out.
e) ADMINISTRATION OF THE HOME: This has on the parents, regular meetings, administration of the home lies on the parents, they initiate programmes of the family and communicate to other members of the household.
f) Minister must see himself first as an ambassador to his family representing Christy, God, Church, to the lesser community. His family becomes the standard to the Church. The more you achieve this in your home the more success you are surely going to achieve in the ministry.
g) RESPECT THE PRIORITY OF YOUR MARRIAGE: You must set a non- negotiable date, night, and do devotion together early in the morning and when going to bed.
h) SET BOUNDARIES: When ministry cannot take your family schedule, ensure that your home is a refuge of affection, warmth and encouragement. If you are too busy, you set a home of stress and chaos. Let the word of God be visible in your home and your actions. Be intentional with your own children, i.e. include your children in ministry. Allow them to be part of the service in your ministry, and be available when at home, find unique ways to encourage and celebrate with them. Play game with them, have time to answer their questions, attend their graduation ceremony, and rebuke them when they go wrong but must be done in love. Be open and sincere.
i) LEAVE THE OFFICE ON TIME: This need to be based on a time frame, not based upon you is to do list. It’s important to know that even if you want to finish or clear your table, there will still be more to do tomorrow. When last time you prioritised your work at the expense of your family?
j) ELIMINATE WHAT IS UNNECESSARY: What are you doing currently that could be done by someone else? What are you doing that could be stopped and it would not have negative effect on anyone in other to attend to something more important either in the ministry or home? What are you doing that you could train someone else to do either in the ministry or at home. What kind of things is your family participating in that are just filling up space on your calendar without really contributing to your overall purpose and direction as a family?
k) COMBINE FAMILY AND MINISTRY WHEN POSSIBLE: Don’t make a mistake of the idea that there is a fine and definite line between family life and ministry life. They can often been the same, killing two birds with one stone. Learn to take some of your kids with you in some of your ministerial duties. Such as visitation, prayer let them be in the choir, stewards, etc. They get to have responsibility in those areas of service but make whatever ministry they choose memorable to them.
God never intended for your family to take a back seat to your ministry.
God never intended for your ministry to keep you away from your personal time with Him.
God never intended for you to always feel stressed or to carry your burden alone.
Maintaining balance between ministry and family life is possible. There are many ministry leaders who are both Godly and successful both in their ministries and their homes. But it does take intentionality, a plan, and the help of God to carry it out.
What is important is that you must not fail in any, you only need knowledge and wisdom and follow the right approach and be at alert. But pray that God will choose for you your spouse because if you marry your enemy, no matter the method, you can be frustrated, only God can deliver you.
Remain blessed in Jesus name.
Your friend

Rt. Revd. Dr. J. Akin Atere
Bishop, Diocese of Awori