I have heard different speakers try and prioritize how our lives should be. Often, they will use the acronym J.O.Y. – Jesus, Others, Yourself. This is probably the most famous. And it would seem that Jesus as well did a bit of this prioritizing when he spoke of the "greatest commandment…and the second is like unto it." So, love God, followed by a love for others sounds like the order we should follow. But the question that is most troubling for pastors is where does their family fit into this order? If God is #1 is their family #2, or is the church #2? I think it was in An All Round Ministry where Charles Spurgeon mentions his wife (whom he called "Wifey") complaining that she was feeling like he was giving greater priority to the church over her. His response was that he asked her, "When the Israelites were to offer a lamb to God, did they offer one that was injured or their very best?" She said, "Their very best." To which he said something to the effect that she needed to be willing to be offered up as the very best on behalf of the ministry. Read into that what you want, but it seemed to me like Spurgeon was saying that she needed to let the ministry take a higher priority. And certainly if you look at people like John Wesley or George Whitefield, that is EXACTLY how they saw it. God was #1, and pastoral ministry was #2, while family was #3. This is the model that many 20th century missionaries followed as they would drop their young (age 5, or 6) child off at a mission boarding school, only to not see them for the next several months. Ministry was more important than family, or so they believed, and those children came to learn.
Times have changed and today there is, among pastors and missionaries, a much greater emphasis placed upon "family." After all, it is reasoned, what is the point of giving one's life to ministry if, in the end, one loses one's own family? And I would agree.
So, God first, Tera second, the children third, and the church/your pastoral ministry fourth. That's how I would see it. Let me add some Biblical support to that order…
In 1 Peter 5:4 Peter exhorts the elders to be "examples to the flock." What kind of example are you if your wife is unhappy, your kids despise you, and there is general chaos taking place in your home? You should work to not merely make your wife happy but to make your marriage an example to others. And the same goes for your children. As pastor, you will be the standard bearer for the church. We will be looking to you to show us how to have peace in our homes and how to raise our children. That's a heavy burden to bear! Are you ready for it?
We're praying for you!
By His Grace, Doug