As Christians we want to serve Christ in our homes more than anywhere. Our first ministry-field is our families. But I’m worried this has become cliche for me. If I want my family to know Christ, I need to make sure my ‘ministry’ to them constitutes far more than token-acts of service. I also need to ensure my focus goes much deeper than ‘methods’; for example, is my parenting becoming little more than a careful choice of ‘ways and means’?
So I’m going back to first principles to remind myself how the unchanging pillars of all ministry apply to everything I do in my family life. Thinking through these things has helped me to realise how the principles of ministry apply equally and eminantly to my role as both husband and father:
10 Principles for my Family Ministry:
1. ‘Character’ should be the ‘foundation’ of my ministry
What I say will never be louder than what I do. I need to primarily and continually focus on my own godliness and authentic display of christlikeness.
2. ‘Service’ should be the ‘nature’ of ministry
It’s only by ‘descending’ to serve the very least in my family that I can be truly ‘great’. After all ‘ministry’ means nothing other than ‘service’. I need to lead by humility, seeking first to ‘wash the feet’ of every member before presuming to give lessons or lectures.
3. ‘Love’ should be the ‘motive’ of my ministry
Without love I have nothing, gain nothing, am nothing. In fact, no matter what I actually do, let alone believe, without love I only teach hypocracy. I need to focus sincere faith-produced actions of love for the salvation of my family.
4. ‘Sacrifice’ should be the ‘price’ of my ministry
In the past I’ve focused on the sacrifices my family should make for me to carry out ‘my ministry’, rather than my sacrifices that are part of serving them. It is a sacrifice on my part necessary in giving up my own interests in order to properly serve my family for their good.
5. ‘Submission’ should be the ‘authority’ of my ministry
The only way I will have authority is if I’m under it. And it’ll be in proportion to the degree to which I’m under it. The highest level of submission is the highest level of authority. I need to submit myself more completely in trust of Christ who is my head.
6. The ‘Glory of God’ should be the ‘purpose’ of my ministry
Whatever my goals for my marriage and parenting, they exist in order to glorify God. This affects the purpose of my marriage and fatherhood. My wife is given me so that I might grow in godliness, more than anything else. My children are given me so that I can love them in ways that echos Jesus’ work on the cross and models Christ’s service to his people.
7. God’s ‘Word and prayer’ should be the ‘tools’ of my ministry
As a parent it's too tempting to get caught up in techniques. But like all ministry, I need to remember it’s the Gospel itself that is the power of God. I need to keep praying, coming from trust in God’s word as God’s means of saving both myself and my family.
8. ‘Growth’ should be the ‘privilege’ of my ministry
If only growth was the natural “result” of my efforts. But it’s not. It is a fruit of God's work, and he is sovereign. I need to labour in love to serve him in my family with all sincerity, but I cannot produce growth either in myself or my family. I need to leave that to God. True faith in God’s sovereignty shows in many ways.
9. The ‘Holy Spirit’ should be the ‘power’ of my ministry
If I rely on my ability or determination or ongoing concern or good efforts to reach my family, I relying on my own power. And if I do this I may find myself working against God, and failing. Only if God by his Spirit works in us though his word, will God’s good purposes for christlikeness in our lives be fulfilled.
10. ‘Jesus Christ’ should be the ‘model’ of my ministry
Parenting or marriage books can be really great. I’ve also become sidetracked by these things to rely on ‘methods’ rather than Jesus Christ himself. The examples of others can also be extremely helpful. Comparisons though can also produce guilt or jealousy. Worse still if I take my eyes off Jesus I might slip again in to a lazy carelessness in my family life. I need to keep focusing on Jesus. I need to keep coming to Christ my Lord in his word through prayer and relying on his model of service to my family.