Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Christian Leader's Priority

Walking one day with a wise old man, at least fifty years my senior, I asked what now seems to be a stupid question: "What should be my priority? My family (meaning loved ones) or the Lord's work?" It seemed an appropriate question then. I'd grown up in a Christian tradition that makes it clear that the "Lord's work" always come first. Sacrifices had to be made, and loved ones get the leftovers in a leader's schedule, the last dregs of his or her energy.

I have carried a mental picture of my father, a one-time pastor, all my life. It s of his back when, each morning, he walked away from our home to his church office. In my imaginative picture, I never see his face. Only his back. But I understand why. It was because he was told by his mentors that "you must give yourself to God's work, and God will take care of your family." I know he loved me, but it's still his back, not his face, that I see in my mind.

So I asked the old pastor, "What should be my priority: the family or the Lord's work?"

His answer? "Gordon, your family is God's work." That simple sentence, spoken in a very teachable moment, changed a large part of how I structured relationships in my life."

Gordon MacDonald
The Leaf Raking Doctrine
Leadership Journal Winter 2009, 93-96


  1. I would agree with the old pastor "family is God's work."

    But what about evangelists who need to travel extensively ?

    Dr Stephen Tong often echo similar the word like Gordon's dad "If I take care of God family, God will take care of mine." ...

    According to the book "Good Husbands, Good Christians" by Doreen Moore. Great men like Wesley and Whitefield has also put their "special" callings above their family, many of their family suffered.. some took it quite bitterly while some see the ordeal as a kind of suffering for God's kingdom.

    ...these women who endured silently in the darkness of loneliness.. do you think they have great reward in heaven ?

  2. Hi John,

    I am sure there will be great reward for them in heaven.

    This is an issue I have been struggling with. When I was a young Christian, I have been taught that I must burn out for the Lord; to light the candle at both ends. I have been encouraged to be like the great missionaries who sacrificed all (including their families, health, lives) to expand the kingdom.

    Now, we are taught that we need to place our family before God or that God does not expect us to sacrifice our families. Something has changed and I am not sure I can put my finger on it.

    Is it God's demands on us or our response to God's demands?