It used to be the “mission field” was somewhere far off in another country where we sent brave souls to work to spread the Gospel. Today, those same place we in the U.S. sent people are sending people to the U.S. as missionaries because they recognize that the U.S. is a mission field. In working with churches I often encourage them to think of their community as a mission field and approach ministry like a missionary would in a far away land.
However, the primary mission field for a pastor, and any lay person for that matter, is his or her family. A wise preacher once said that when it came to priorities one always had to remember:
- God comes first
- Family comes next
- Then the Church
- And never, ever get one and three confused.
That is the danger for many a pastor: getting one and three above confused. One simply cannot sacrifice their family on the altar of the church. This is true whether your family is 2.5 kids and a dog, just you and your spouse or your family is your extended family.
I think this is what Paul was getting at when he wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:12 that deacons must “manage their children and household well.” I don’t think Paul was saying that a Deacon should not have hell-cat children (that would disqualify half the clergy I know including me!). I do think Paul was saying that the family mattered in ministry.
Before we invest in building relationships, being incarnational, conducting demographic research, and strategizing how we reach our community for Christ, perhaps we should find ways to build Christ honoring relationships with those closest to us, be present with them, ask them about what they are doing and facing, and be intentional about being like Christ toward them. They are our primary mission field, not the community outside the doors. There is a time to minister in that mission field but not to the neglect of the primary mission field.
If you are like me you have failed and fallen a thousand times in making your family the primary mission field. Thanks goodness for their forgiveness and the mercy of God. May God give us the strength to reach, love and nurture our primary mission field.
The new year offers churches a wonderful opportunity to begin the process of leadership training and equipping persons for ministry in their various ministry positions.
Notice I said start the process. Leadership training and equipping servants for ministry should always be an ongoing process and it should be varied in approach. When most persons think about leadership training they think of getting together their board or council on a Saturday morning for an information dump and maybe some discussion. Perhaps there is some redeeming value in parts of that approach.
How much better though to have an ongoing and intentional system for leadership development and training. Maybe this happens through reading a book together and having discussion about the principles found in the book and how it applies to your church. Maybe in conjunction with this you and your leadership plan on attending a conference together to spur innovation and creativity. Maybe you bring in someone from the outside to do a mystery guest audit or interview key leadership to give you an outside perspective that leadership can then wrestle with and apply to your church setting. The possibilities are limitless and there is no one way to do leadership training. The most important thing is to have a plan and be intentional in nurturing this system of the church.
It is important for leaders in the church to not only be equipped themselves but to equip those who serve in their ministry areas week in and week out. Maybe this is done with ongoing quarterly get togethers supplemented by sharing resources via email. Persons serving want and yearn to be equipped for that they have said they would do it is necessary for leaders to provide such equipping.
How will you equip leaders in your church in 2015?