The Biblical Call for
Integrating Family, Work and Ministry
by: Stephen Beck
For most men today, our
lives resemble one of those TV dinners you get at the frozen foods
section of the grocery store. The kind where you pull the foil back
and the lima beans are in one compartment, the corn is in another and
the “meat” covered with that nasty gravy is in yet another. Each
component is separate and distinct, carefully crafted not to touch the
other. And yet, there is something characteristically unsatisfying
about this meal. Your hunger may be abated for a while, but you will
not be fulfilled - there is no richness. As with the cheapness
associated with a TV dinner, there is a corresponding cheapness in our
lives when we arbitrarily separate our lives into distinct
“manageable” areas. The Bible teaches that our lives, as opposed to a
TV dinner, should be more like a stew with the areas of family, work
and ministry being ingredients carefully blended together. A stew that
is described in Philippians 4:18 as a sweet-smelling aroma, an
acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
But given our current culture, how is it possible to integrate family,
work and ministry in a biblical manner? How can we please our God and
King in the three areas that affect every waking hour of our lives?
The answer can be found in Mark 12:28-31. In this passage, one of the
Scribes came to Jesus and asked Him, “Which is the first commandment
of all?” Here is a man asking God which is the first commandment. What
an insightful man! We would do well to ask God the same question. Of
all the things that are written down in the Scriptures, which are the
most important - the ones not to be missed? The ones that if missed,
will affect all other decisions made afterwards. Although we are
required by Scripture to know the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27),
we would be foolish to not identify and understand God’s priorities.
Are you surprised that God has priorities? Are there actually
commandments or principles that take precedence over others in the
Bible? There certainly are and we would do well to identify them and
implement them first! Take the example of elders in 1 Timothy 3:4-5.
If a man does not fulfill the first priority of ruling his household
well, then he should not even consider (or be considered) for the
subsequent priority of shepherding the church.
Why this focus on godly priorities? What do God’s priorities have to
do with integrating family, work and ministry? Everything! How else
will we know what is most important? How will we know where to best
spend our time, money and energy? We, as a people of God, have done a
very poor job of identifying what things are most important to God -
what things are closest to His heart and in line with His will. It is
no wonder then when we, as the modern evangelical church, tend to
major on the minor issues and treat lightly or ignore the major ones.
The First Great Neglected Priority: Training Godly Children
This brings us to the first great neglected priority. When Jesus was
answering the scribe’s question as to which was the greatest
commandment in all of Scripture, He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-7:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the
LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all
your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in
your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and
shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the
way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
The greatest commandment in all of Scripture is to love the Lord with
all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. How are
we to implement this greatest of all commandments (as well as the rest
of the commandments)? We are to memorize them, obey them and
diligently teach them to our children! And when are we to do this?
When we are at home, away from home, lying down and rising up.
Basically, we are to instruct our children in godliness at all times -
during normal activities. Are we to teach our children about God for
only one hour a week during Sunday school? Or are we to turn the
instruction of Him over to a youth pastor when our children reach the
age of junior high? God forbid! God charged parents, and especially
Dads, with the ultimate responsibility of instructing their own
children in God’s ways and promised to hold them accountable through
blessings and curses. It is the same today. Fathers are to rule their
households well, passing the commandments and principles found in the
Word of God down to their children who will then be equipped to pass
them down to their own children. This is God’s plan. This is His
priority, for this is how God has chosen to subdue the world for
Of course, this presupposes that parents spend time with their
children. How can we train our children in the ways of God during our
normal activities if we are never around them during those normal
activities? How can we give godly instruction in God’s prescribed
manner if we leave for work before our children wake up and come home
after they have gone to bed? Even if we make it home before they go to
bed, we must wade through the baseball practice, then dinner in shifts
because all of the kids have different activities, then homework for
two hours, baths and finally the last fifteen minutes before bedtime
to pass on the godly heritage that we will be held accountable for!
and He said to them: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify
among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful
to observe-- all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing
for you, because it is your life.” (Deuteronomy 32: 46-47)
Did you catch that? It is not a futile thing to command our children
to obey all of God’s word, because it is our life! What is your life’s
work? Is your profession? It had better not be! Your life’s work as a
father had better be training up godly children who will in turn be
able to train up their own godly children.
How Do We Get There From Here?
How do we get there from here? How do we fulfill one of God’s highest
priorities by raising godly children? First, make sure your own
relationship with the Lord is deep and abiding. How can you pass on
what you do not possess? Second, is your marriage based on sound
biblical principles. Unfortunately, most “Christian” books about
marriage at your average Christian book store should really be titled,
“How to be Your Wife’s Sentimental Fool!” However, one good book on
biblical marriage is Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson.
Aside from the “givens” of a good marriage and a good relationship
with God (and they are anything but “givens“ today), we must begin by
molding our children’s world view. Are they thinking and evaluating as
a Christian? For example, Scripture states that if a man does not
provide for his household, he is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy
5:8). But what are parents required to provide? 1 Timothy 6:8 states
that we (and our children) are to be content with food and clothing.
Have you taught your children that? Although a college education may
be desirable, it is not your child’s inalienable right. And providing
that college education is certainly not a good reason to send your
wife to work, leaving your little ones unprotected!
In order for your children to obey God’s word, they have to know it
first. Do you have daily devotions with your children? Quite frankly,
this should come first - before you pass “Go” or collect $200. Dads,
you must lead the way here. Let’s face it. When Dad is involved in
something, the whole family perks up and takes notice. If your wife is
the only one in your home who passes on the spiritual heritage, your
kids will grow up with an incomplete view of the Christian life.
Redeem the time. Are you engaging your children in spiritual
conversations while driving to baseball practice? Are you giving them
hypothetical situations and asking them how they would react
biblically before those situations arise? Are you watching videos on
apologetics together as a family and discussing them afterward? Are
you training your sons and daughters to not just survive in hostile
enemy territory, but how to overcome and take captives for King Jesus!
All of this training requires lots of work and lots of time. If your
current lifestyle does not allow adequate time to train your children
in godliness, then you need a new lifestyle! The Bible states that
although many things are lawful, they may not be profitable. And if
they impede the training of your children in godliness, they become
downright sinful. Busyness is the mortal enemy of family discipleship.
Take a long hard look at the activities your children are involved in.
Your kids do not have to play every sport that your community offers.
Let them choose one or two favorite activities and reserve the rest of
their time for family activities. Dads, take a long hard look at your
hobbies. Choose the ones you can do with your kids. Now I am not
saying that you have to jettison all of your interests. If you spend
time with your children, they will naturally gravitate to the things
that you like to do. My daughter, Ashley, is the top female Skeet
shooter in Texas for her age group. Why? Because she has been shooting
with me since she was eight years old. I like being the father of a
daughter who likes to shoot, because it means I get to shoot as well!
However, remember that your free time is not your own. It belongs to
God. There will be time enough to pursue your own interests when your
children have grown and have families of their own. You were bought at
a price - therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which
are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Deepening your relationship with God and training your children in
godliness should be your highest priorities in life. They supercede
all others priorities including work, ministry, church, hobbies, self
indulgences, material possessions, etc. I mentioned earlier that you
may need a new lifestyle, may I take it a step further? If your
present job does not allow you enough time to train your children in
godliness, then you need a new job! It may be a lower paying job or
have less prestige, but look at the price of that job that does not
give you the flexibility to disciple your kids. You will be failing at
God’s highest priority for you as a parent and you will be
disqualifying yourself for any leadership in the church body (1
Timothy 3:4-5). Am I being radical enough? Do you see the importance
of raising godly kids? It transcends all other responsibilities, for
this is how God has chosen to subdue the world for Himself! Now the
point here is not to rush out to find a new job. The point is that we,
as God’s people, must identify God’s priorities from His word and then
do whatever it takes to make those our priorities. Are you willing to
do anything it takes to obey God’s word? Or will you hold your own
agenda above God’s agenda (James 1:5-8)? Are you willing to be
transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is
that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2)?
During the heyday of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a reporter asked
President Clinton’s press secretary how the President was able to deal
with the scandal and still lead our country well. He remarked, “The
President has great powers of compartmentalization.” That is the
world’s way of saying that we can separate our personal and
professional lives. I would submit that President Clinton was not able
to “deal” with the scandal and still lead the country well; and
neither can we. You see, our lives are like a stew with work, family
and ministry being the ingredients. Each ingredient brings a different
characteristic, but all combine to form one flavor. Too much of one
thing or not enough of the other can cause the stew to be out of
balance and have an offensive taste (to ourselves and others). We can
not have problems at home and not expect them to show up at the
office. At the same time, we can not have problems at work and be very
surprised when they begin to follow us home. If our family and work
have severe enough problems, then we are become disqualified for
ministry. If we are not actively involved in other’s lives (ie: we
have no ministry), then how will our children learn to serve the Lord?
You see, it is all intertwined. God never intended for us to
dichotomize our life into separate entities over which we have
sovereign control. He is the Lord over all areas in our lives and He
is the One to Whom we must give an accounting.
You see, I have a dream. My dream is that my work can bless my kids
and not rob from them. That my kids can help me in my work and I would
be willing to share it with them. That my kids will see me discipling
men (and my wife discipling women) and the men whom I disciple will
see the way I raise my kids and both will be blessed. That my work can
include some of the men I disciple so that I can spend more time with
them and that they would be willing to serve me in my work. I pray
that all areas of my life would be brought under subjection to Him and
that as a stew it would be a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable
sacrifice, well pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18).
Stephen Beck owns and operates a small business in Bryan, Texas. He is
the author of A Father’s Stew: The Biblical Integration of Family,
Work and Ministry. His passions are discipling his three children
and leading younger believers to maturity in Christ, which he combines
with his other passion of duck hunting whenever he can!
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