There is so much at work when a pastor neglects his family. There are pressures and demands of ministry. There are tensions in his relationship with his wife and children. There are ambitions the pastor has that go unfulfilled. Here are three ways a pastor can guard his heart from the decisions that bring neglect to the family in the midst of the pressures of his life:
1) Guard your heart from using ministry demands as excuses. What demands of your life and ministry are you most tempted to use as an excuse? In other words, which ministry demand do you most quote when your wife is frustrated you keep coming home for dinner 30 minutes late every evening? Which demands do you use as an excuse when you keep answering your phone on your day off in the middle of a family activity? For example, “So in so needed to talk with me and you know what grief I get from them if I don’t give them time.” Or “I don’t want to give the appearance that I am lazy, as they expect me to be at the hospital that day.” Call these pressures we so often use as excuses what they are…excuses that expose a greater problem.
2) Guard your heart from ignoring sin in your heart. One of the things that is so dangerous for pastors is that we take what is motivated by sin in our hearts and make it a ministry virtue. We work 70 hours a week thinking we are dedicated when it might be because we fear what other people think. We spend more time studying or visiting others because we want to be accepted and loved in a certain way, instead of focusing on what needs to be focused on for that week. We take a day off for our families and others praise us for that effort, only to approach that day with a selfish attitude thinking it is a time for our families to serve us because we have worked so hard during the week. Fellow pastors, ask God to reveal faithfulness where there is faithfulness and sin where there is sin. God’s Spirit is powerful enough to do that, but we first must desire to know the sin that hides in our heart that causes the neglect of our families and allow the gospel to root it out.
3) Guard your heart from dismissing your wife’s concerns. Many times our wives see us in ways no one else does, and when that happens they will say things to us others will not. In that moment, we are tempted to dismiss what they say because they are the only ones saying it. Those words are so often God’s greatest gift to us and presence of warning that something is out of balance. The best pastor’s wife is a wife that is supportive, but unimpressed. The reason I know what an invaluable gift it is to have a wife serve a pastor in this way is because I have a precious wife who is tremendously supportive and incredibly unimpressed with me.
Dear brothers and fellow pastors, pray your wife finds this balance. Open yourself up to her in such a way that allows her the freedom to play this role. It is for our good and growth that we cherish the gift of a clear, consistent, supportive, yet unimpressed evaluation of our ministry. There is no one better to play that role than the woman to whom you have given your life, lives with you in your darkest hour of discouragement, sleeps next to you every night, places herself under your care and authority, and sacrifices as much as you do for the sake of serving Christ in that local church.
Pastors, there is much going on in our heart and there is an enemy waging war for our souls everyday seeking to destroy us, our ministries and our families. One of the enemy’s cunning tactics is to subtly cause us to miss these warning signs in our heart that something is not quite right. Let your wife be the barometer on these matters. Watch for them. Pray and ask God to reveal them and guard your heart from them.