Last week, I shared the story about how God graciously rescued me from ministry idolatry. For a season, I placed ministry above my relationship with Him and my relationship with my wife. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
1 – I am the one responsible.
Godly people in the church surrounded me, but no one confronted me on my ministry idolatry. And how could they? They did not know my heart. They did not spend every waking moment with me. I went through a period where I blamed others for my rotting soul and neglected marriage, but I learned that ultimately I am the one responsible. Today I am blessed to work for two godly leaders who have high expectations; low expectations are boring, so I am grateful for the environment. They care for me too, and I am grateful for their challenges to love my family well and their encouragements in personal integrity. But it is not their job to ensure that my role does not become my first love; that is my responsibility. They are not the ones ultimately accountable to ensure that my soul and family are not neglected; I am.
2 – There is a relationship between negligent home leadership and negligent church leadership.
When the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about the qualifications of a church leader, he insisted that leaders must be able to manage their own homes and boldly stated, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5). While my feverishly running around attempting to meet every need and every person could have been perceived as good leadership or effective ministry, that would only have been the perception. Wise ministry leadership involves equipping others for ministry, not merely doing everything yourself. Wise ministry leadership includes designing a discipleship process, not merely cluttering everyone’s calendar. My haphazard approach to ministry was a reflection of my haphazard approach to my soul and my marriage.
3 – A healthy marriage on display is exponentially more impactful.
When ministry is your idol, you can deceive yourself into thinking that the best investment of your time is running to meet another need or solve yet another problem. But if all the running leads to a cold marriage, the frantic pace and the desire to be needed by the people undermines the message of the gospel. Because a healthy marriage is a beautiful reflection of our eternal relationship with God, investing in your marriage is exponentially more impactful than ministry idolatry. When people see a healthy marriage, they see a picture of God’s special relationship with His own.
When Kaye and I look back on letters and messages from students during our student ministry years, we find that the display of our marriage was much more important to them than the season of feverishly running from one thing to another in a futile attempt to make everyone happy and justify my existence as a pastor. Those who observe your life and your doctrine will be impacted by your marriage much more than your busy calendar.