Family ministry is not a series of activities. Family-equipping ministry in particular flows out of an identity that begins in the homes of ministry leaders. But this doesn’t mean that equipping families should become the identity that drives our ministry. Jesus alone is our identity, and his gospel is our story. Anything more or less is idolatry.
This gospel-centered identity calls us to see every person as an orphan because of humanity’s fall and as a potential brother or sister because of Christ’s redemption. That is, at least in part, why Jesus blessed children indiscriminately and called his people to care for “the least of these.” That’s why Jesus called for outcasts to be invited to a banquet where they knew they didn’t belong (Matt. 19:13–15; 25:31–46; Luke 14:12–24). Jesus saw every person’s deepest need in the shadow of the fall and every person’s grandest possibility in the light of the gospel. The essence of family-equipping ministry is the implementation of this gospel-centered identity first in our homes and then beyond our homes. The gospel is to be rehearsed in our homes and reinforced in our churches so that it can be revealed with integrity to the world.
Particularly for the ministry leader, the home is a divinely designed context for rehearsing the gospel. The Christian household is, in the words of Martin Luther, “a school for character”—but this school, like every other school, is a temporary training ground, not the final goal. Because the home is not the final goal, family ministry remains incomplete until it results in the proclamation of the gospel beyond our families. Family ministry that never reaches beyond our households is like a regimen of spring training that never results in a real baseball game.
The problem for a significant proportion of pastors and ministry leaders is that they see their churches and even their communities in light of people’s need for the gospel, but they fail to see their own families from this same perspective. They see the needs of those who are far, but they don’t see the same needs in those who are nearest to them.
The student minister spends six months mapping out every detail of a weeklong youth camp. The volunteer in middle-school ministry meets early every Monday morning to pray with a half-dozen sixth-graders about their week at school. The pastor is present at every community outreach event, and everyone praises his clear vision for the church’s future. Yet the student minister can’t seem to carve out a half-hour each week to talk with his family about living in light of the gospel. The middle-school prayer leader hasn’t prayed with her husband in more than a decade. And, outside of keeping the children in church and hoping none of them does anything that causes a public scandal, neither the pastor nor the pastor’s spouse has any clear vision for his children’s spiritual formation.
In most cases, the root of these patterns is not deliberate rebellion against God. It is a misplaced perspective that fails to see the home as the ministry leader’s first context for ministry. As a result, ministry leaders try to do ministry in their churches and communities without first becoming ministers in their own households.
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