Minister OUT of Your Brokenness. Please Don't Minister Your Brokenness.
Yesterday I was reflecting on different ministers I know who's stories have turned to tragedy. It breaks my heart and makes me cringe every time I hear of another moral failure, another suicide, another minister's kid walking away from the faith, another minister of the gospel settling into the ways of the world. My heart breaks. By the way, if it doesn't grieve your heart, if any other emotion other than grief bubbles up, you need to check your heart and take that response to Jesus. I believe the Church is on the move, I'm not worried about that, but it does feel like we're losing more and more of our own everyday.
The generation that raised me has been at the center of many of these stories and I can tell they're struggling to hold up their banners. I think more than anything, like all of us, they spent their years trying to balance marriage, family and ministry but really had no helpful example to look to before them. After all, for the first time, both spouses probably worked outside the home, sometimes even 2nd and 3rd shifts and much of the family dynamic was outsourced. We were the generation of latchkey kids and babysitters (think ET, Babysitters Club books and MTV). Most of us survived and are okay. It's fine, it was experimental at best.
We survived but I'm not sure many marriages or ministries did. It breaks my heart because there was a lot of real ministry happening. The culturally desperate times of the 80s and 90s created a harvest field of lives that needed changing. People were delivered from their 1970s addictions and trying to figure out how to nurture a family after sobering up to the realization that they had been absent fathers and mothers for the last decade. They scrambled desperately to blend one broken family with another in an effort to somehow makeup for all the mess left in their wake. Everyone in school was someone's step brother or sister, had at least one runaway older sibling or lived with their grandparents. Ministers' homes opened their doors to teenage runaways and addicted uncles, trying to help people recover from the wreckage of sex, drugs and synthesizers. It would have been hard to lead your home and truly minister to people at the same time. I've seen so many ministers hold it together then watch their kids graduate or marry them off and then take a deep sigh of regret and walk away from their marriage or ministry altogether. So many of them found themselves absorbed into the same addictions and brokenness that they had helped free others from.
Ministry and family today is in no way easier to balance but I do think there is a different cultural support in place. Our society puts great pressure on parents to do a better job. If you don't, they'll just take your children away (we won't get in to that right now). We realize some of our error in the past decades and I think we are trying to self-correct. We know more about child psychology than we ever have and after making it out of our own childhoods alive, we make sure our children come out of the womb knowing about stranger-danger. If all else fails, we'll just raise a bunch of boring lazy kids. It goes without saying that the pressures and issues are different.
Are we really better though? And what about the older generations and their ministries? They still have work to do to make a difference and they need to leave a legacy without running their Christian witness and integrity into the grave ahead of their time. Please, people, stop doing that.
I think it's time for all of us to get real and honest with ourselves. Having someone else call you out on it won't do a bit of good if you aren't being real with yourself. And, to be clear, just because someone hasn't called you out on it yet doesn't mean people aren't noticing. We live in the age of social media and I assure you, if you're on there, people are watching. Some are ministering out of a place of such unhealth that the fruit and support of their ministry are tanking and people are starting to forget that they've ever contributed anything to the mission. Some of you are letting President Trump get the best of you and your social media platform (I know, it's a temptation for all of us and not easy to avoid. Still, we don't hate). Some of you are trying to reach the world and heal their brokenness while neglecting your own broken family and personal disfunction. If you can't be honest with yourself or your spouse and children about your own brokenness and sin, I have news for you. You will never pass as authentic with the people you're ministering to, especially not the Millennials.
One of the things that disturbs me most about some ministries today is this tolerance for unhealth. We've so embraced the idea of our brokenness without fully surrendering that brokenness to the Lord and allowing Him to heal it (which, don't be misled, can sometimes hurt more before it feels better), and now I think we're actually ministering our brokenness to the world instead of ministering out of our brokenness. Please stop. Please stop vomiting your brokenness all over people who are already crying out to get healthy themselves. If the Lord hasn't healed everything in you, just minister out of the healing that He has done and the hope of what He began in you.
If you're taking a stand against sexual abuse and social injustices but you're neglecting to nurture the marriage and family you've been entrusted with, then you're basically perpetuating the problem of broken homes in our society that lends itself to such sin and darkness. It's so necessary to take a stand against these sins against humanity and contribute to rescuing the broken and healing the brokenness but if we're not working to build and support the institute of family than we are not helping to end the problems. No one is perfect or has perfect relationships but the healing has to first start in our own relationships and homes. It's both-and. Broken marriages lead to broken homes. Broken homes lead to teenage runaways and generational abuse. Absent fathers lead to identity issues and future broken marriages. Identity issues lead to addictions. Addictions lead to violence and abuse. It's all intertwined.
If you're ministering the gospel message of grace and forgiveness while not showing a father's love and grace at home, then you are driving your own children from the gospel by not living out what you preach in front of them. The fastest way to nullify decades of your parenting is to display hypocrisy. If the Lord has entrusted other lives into your care, whether they're your own biological children or they are spiritual children, whether they're young or full-grown adult children, you have a responsibility to be transparent and live out the message you preach with integrity. No one likes a loud clanging cymbal.
So much of the darkness in our world-- sexual abuse, human trafficking, social injustice, identity issues, addictions, violence, greed, selfishness, terrorism, generational poverty-- stems from the human desperation to survive pain and find acceptance. So many injustices done to others find their root at home in the family unit. We can strive to treat the symptoms everyday through our ministry, and treating the symptom is necessary in the short-term, but if we continue to neglect wholeness in our own families, in our own homes, we will only continue to sow into the same problems.
As I said before, I am not worried about the Church. She is God's plan and she will prevail but we cannot afford to not be good stewards of the lives and places of authority that God has entrusted to us in ministry. We are responsible before God for our transparency, our integrity, our commitment to holiness, our impact on the individual lives around us, the weight of our words that we speak or post online, our texts conversations, what we say and do when no one is looking. Age doesn't exempt you, size of church doesn't exempt you, past hurts and disappointments do not exempt you. As long as you are breathing in His Spirit and exhaling words, you are impacting someone, in some way. And it's never too late to let Him heal. It's never too late to ask forgiveness or apologize. It's never too late until your last breath. Let's do this right. Let's have high-impact ministries and families overflowing with love and purpose. Every. Single. Member. Let's end well.