Sometimes we confuse loving God first, with loving the church, and in order to love God we sacrifice our family for the church. This is not biblical and a root problem for young men in ministry today.
If you are a young pastor, quit your job before you quit your life. Stop hiding behind church, religion, God, a calling or even a savior complex. God’s church will prevail without you. Your wife and children need you more than your church needs you.
Church, allow your pastors to step down on good terms…provide them with a healthy exit strategy. Allow them to work until a job has been found that fits their personality and strengths. Sometimes we put square pegs in a round hole. Know when to allow someone to stay and know when to help them go. The biggest fear is failure, so help pastors fail in a way where there is no shame or condemnation. Providing healing and a path to a ministry that will allow them to continue to grow as a father over their household.
Young men, God will accomplish what he needs to, with or without you. Don’t assume you are failing God if you step down. It is possible that if you step down, someone will step up.
We need to see mental disorders the same way we see any other areas of brokenness. A pastor that is turning to a sexual addiction is dealing with the stress of ministry in a negative way. A pastor who struggles with suicidal thoughts is dealing with their stress in a negative way. It’s not enough to talk about it, we need professional counseling on all levels of emotional care for pastors. There is also the potential that the burden of leadership is too much for a person with a mental disorder and the church needs to lift that burden for those pastors.
I will not return to church ministry until I know that I can function healthfully both for my family and the ministry. God’s calling is true only if I can manage my household first. If not, it’s not from God, it’s from what I think God wants. Don’t confuse God’s desire to use people with the human notion that it has to be you. Moses went with Aaron, he refused to go on his own. He talked back to God and was unwilling to move on his own. Was this a sin or error on Moses’ part? The Bible isn’t clear, but God listened to Moses and sent Aaron with him.
My talk back to God is that I know I can’t do church ministry as it is in place now. He will bring me to a healthy church or give me the resilience to handle the ministry He brings me to in time. I refuse to sacrifice my family, and call it ministry. I refuse to sacrifice my own mental health, and call it ministry.
Young pastors, you might need a break for an extended period of time. God doesn’t need you; God needs you whole and healthy before he can successfully use you without the end result being suicide.
Suicide is preventable, we are doing a poor job of preventing it. I don’t think we get the accolade, “Well done good and faithful servant.” I think we have buried our talents in the sand when we decide to take ourselves from this earth before God does.
Two of the most prominent men in the Bible didn’t have the burden that married pastors with children carry. Jesus, and to our knowledge Paul, did not have children. They fully devoted themselves to ministry without a family to manage, so to expect yourself to carry the ministry weight that Jesus and Paul did on the same level is unreasonable.
The two major places for advice for married men with children in leadership comes from Paul to Timothy and Titus.
“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”1 Timothy 3: 2-5, NIV
“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.”Titus 1: 6-7, NIV
These qualifications are for what we consider pastors, not simply our traditional elder board members. It can apply to our elder boards but they should also apply to anyone that is doing the work Paul and Timothy were doing. Paul needed to give instructions to Titus and Timothy on how to find capable men to lead in the early church.
Here is what I want to pull from the two references above: manage your own household in a way that your children desire to be believers, because they have submitted to your authority willingly. Outside of the obvious forms of moral conduct that we must observe; when it comes to mental health, we must be one who loves what is good and who is self-controlled…and disciplined. A mental health disorder, gone untreated, prevents both self-control and discipline and ultimately loving what is good which is the life and family God has given us.
“Manage your own household in a way that your children desire to be believers, because they have submitted to your authority willingly.”
Young men, seek discipline, self-control and love what is good. Loving the church to the point that you are mentally unhealthy and cannot manage your family is not good. Young men love your wives more than the church. Be committed to your family you created more than the church. Loving God and loving the church is not the same thing.
Your wife and children need you before the church does. Let God take of the church; Christ died for the church and gave himself up for her so that you don’t have to. In fact, this is the call to the husband, to lay down his life not for the church but for his wife (Ephesians 5:25). May we elevate the care of our family, and may the church enable, empower, disciple and set the example of how young men can be in ministry and love their family’s first. This isn’t just a personal problem by people who have taken their lives, it is a church problem and an oversight problem. May we do better, lead better, love better, put health before growth. When we are healthy, then our ministry growth will be healthy and sustainable.
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J. Diaz
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