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October 02, 2020

Will My Commitment to Ministry Hurt My Family?


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If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, what will be the impact on your family? If you extend yourself in serving the Lord, will it hurt your children?

These are very real questions for many parents and grandparents. You love the Lord and you want to serve Him. You want your life to count for Him, but you also have a family. You feel a tension between these two things.

When Moses says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (6:5), he immediately goes on to describe the impact on the family. The best way to love and serve your family is to live for the Lord. Indeed, any other choice will be destructive to the people you love. Here’s the principle: Love the Lord first, and your family will be blessed. Love your family first, and your family will suffer. But how does this work out in practice?

Align Your Life Around One Consuming Passion

Putting your family first is the worst thing you can do for your children. Aligning your life around a single passion is not the same as prioritizing. People sometimes say, “God first, your family second and ministry third.” I have never found that helpful.

How can you separate loving God from serving God? Loving the Lord is seen in obeying His commands and in devoting your life to serving Him.

When the issue of loving God and loving your family is raised, people often say, “Well, you have to keep a balance. You should set aside time for ministry, and time for your family.” It sounds good, but it is surprisingly unhelpful. If serving the Lord and serving your family have to be kept in balance, it means these two things have become separated: They are on opposite sides of the scale. They are being weighed against each other. I don’t want my family to be weighed against the Lord, I want my family to be weighed for the Lord.

Instead of looking to maintain a balance, try to achieve alignment. Moses tells us how to do that:

Your heart

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words that I command you today shall be on your heart (Deut. 6:5-6).

Loving the Lord has to begin in your own heart. Luther says, “This first commandment is the chief source and fountainhead which flows into all the others.” And, “Where the heart is rightly disposed toward God and this commandment is observed, all the others follow.” [1]

Your conversation 

Talk of them when you sit in your house… (Deut. 6:7).

Don’t let your love for the Lord, your work for the Lord, or your giving to the Lord remain private. Talk about it with your family. Let them see, as they grow, and in an appropriate way, the passion that drives you.

Your example 

Bind them as a sign on your hands… (Deut. 6:8).

The hand is the means of action. Let this love for the Lord that is in your heart, and in your conversation, also be put into practice through your commitments, your choices, and your ministry. If you want to align your family around a single passion for the Lord, you have to step out and lead by example yourself. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.

Your family   

Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut. 6:9).

Bring your children increasingly into this great consuming passion of your life. Let them participate in it, as they see it.

Seeing a passionate love for Christ in my father and mother has had a life-shaping impact on me. My father worked two jobs to sustain the family. He served on the church board (they were called “deacons”), taught a Sunday school class, as well as editing and producing the church magazine. It was a family production line—typed by my mother and then duplicated, collating the covers and the inserts, and then stapling it together in our home on Friday nights. My folks lived Deuteronomy 6:9. My parents wanted me to catch a glimpse of living for one, single passion for the Lord. And I saw it!

My wife and I have tried to follow that model in a small way in our own family. When we came to The Orchard, we decided to get to know as many of the people as we could. So, we invited all the members of the church to our home. There were about 800 people, and it took a year of Sunday evenings to do it.  Our boys were ten and eight years old at the time. They got involved-opening the door, giving out name tags, and serving coffee.

People often ask me, “How do you protect your children from the pressures of life in ministry?” Our children have received immeasurable benefits from their exposure to ministry: the people they have met, experiences they have enjoyed, and life lessons that they have learned. It’s the tapestry of a family that’s trying to live out a biblical commitment to ministry: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Let the Cross Explain the Passion of Your Life

As you live with one consuming passion for the Lord, your life will provoke questions. It will need explaining. Moses did not say “If” but, “When your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God commanded you…’” (6:20, italics mine). If you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength, expect questions from your children. “Why do so many people come to our home? Why are we giving all this when it could be used for other things? Other families are not like this…”

So, why are you living with this one consuming passion for the Lord? Tell your family the truth of Deut. 6:21. “If it wasn’t for the Lord, I would have been a slave. He redeemed me from past slavery, and He has promised me the future inheritance of His promised land.”

When your children ask you why you are living for the Lord, let the cross explain it. Tell them what the Lord has done for you and what He means to you. Tell them, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. Everything I have, I received from Him.”

Live for your family and you will lead them into the desert. Live for the Lord and you will lead your family into the Promised Land.


This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Tell Your Children Why”, from his series, Take Two: The Power of a Fresh Start.
[1] Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism of Martin Luther” (Fortress Press, 2010), 54
Photo: Pixabay




Colin Smith

Founder & Teaching Pastor

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.
Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.