Reverse-Engineering Your Life

November 9, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Home FamilyThe other night, I, along with three other pastors, had the pleasure of meeting with a group of seminary students for an informal discussion about life and ministry. I cherished my time with these guys. Even though we were with them for only a short time, it quickly became apparent that they are theologically curious and nuanced and have a deep passion to serve in Christ’s Church as pastors. I am excited to see what the future holds for these men.

Our discussion took on an informal Q&A feel, with seminary students asking any questions they wanted. One question particularly struck me: “What goals do you have for ministry and how do you work backwards from those goals to develop a plan to reach those goals?” This is a great question. It’s a question of reverse-engineering. You start with the end in mind and work back from that to get to that. But this question also took me aback a little bit. Because I do have goals. And I have done my share of reverse-engineering to try to reach these goals. But my goals are not particularly inspiring, captivating, or scintillating. I simply want to love Jesus, love my family, and be a faithful pastor.

I used to have other goals. More exciting goals. Once upon a time, I wanted to build and pastor the largest congregation in my church body. Once upon a time, I wanted to become a renowned and respected spokesperson for orthodox Lutheranism. After all, it seems like on the broader stage of Christian dialogue, Lutherans are all but missing in action. Once upon a time, I wanted to be an esteemed public scholar to whom people would turn for insight. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a pastor who would change the world. Now, I just want to be a person who finishes life well.

As I ultimately wound up telling the student, long before you worry about reverse engineering your goals for ministry, you need to begin by reverse engineering your goals for life and, specifically, for your family. After all, if you change the world as a pastor but forsake your family as a husband or father, you have failed miserably because prior to your vocation as a pastor is your vocation as a husband and father.

The New York Times recently published an article on the state of today’s family. Its title sums up its mood: “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” Clair Miller, writing for the Times, explains:

Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey

Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding. For example, half of those who said the work-family balance was not difficult said parenting was enjoyable all the time, compared with 36 percent of those who said balance was difficult.

This is sad, but it is also not surprising. As workplace demands continue to rise and the line between company time and personal time continues to blur, time to invest in family inevitably suffers.

Being a pastor carries with it many demands, which are often difficult – and, quite honestly, sometimes impossible – to juggle well.  There is no doubt about it. But this is why, long before you sketch out goals for ministry, you do need to set out goals for your marriage and your family. Goals of time together as a family. Goals of date nights with your spouse. Goals of daily expressions of love and affection. Before you worry about what is outside your home, tend to who is inside your home.

Jesus once asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? It may behoove us to ask similarly: What good is it if a man changes the world, yet forfeits those closest to him? This question good not only for pastors, it’s good for everyone.

I hope you’re asking it. The people closest to you will thank you if you are.

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Entry filed under: Devotional Thoughts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Family Is Good, Even If It’s Not Good For You Pray for Paris

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