Maybe I’m too biased. I’ve seen all too close the destruction an unbalanced person in ministry can cause while being celebrated by those around them. But it pushes my buttons.
This past week I read the story of Hezekiah Smith, an 18th century Baptist “hero.” Between his work in a Baptist college, his numerous evangelistic tours and crusades, his incredible service to the Baptist church, and his pastoral giftings, he is credited with doing much to both reach the lost and expand the Baptist church, as well as make major inroads for religious liberty in America.
He would often travel for months at time, leaving his family behind to work their farm, orchard, and rental properties they owned. We don’t know much about his wife, but it would seem that she was not a fan of religion – she is described as being a “stranger” to it. He would write her letters asking if she had “yet found the comforts of true religion”.
Franklin Graham recently celebrated the legacy of Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, two incredible organizations. Behind the scenes, though, he left a family in chaos. He spent most of his time away, and seemed to resent the handful of weeks a year he had with his wife or daughters. The emotional damage and scars he left, consistently choosing ministry over family even in times of crisis was devastating and had lasting impact.
But the church routinely celebrates these kinds of men! Their failings at home and in the care of their families are discounted because clearly, Satan attacked them harder than he would others because of their impact. These men’s failings in their families and marriages are portrayed as almost unavoidable because of their importance for God and the resulting spiritual warfare.
I think we do God a disservice if we think significant ministry accomplishments justify unbalanced lives. We ignore God’s values if we celebrate a Hezekiah Smith or Bob Pierce and instead advance the values of the world – the ends justify the means! Hezekiah’s wife resenting religion and God is a small price to pay for all the lives he reached. Pierce’s failed marriage, and destructive relationship with his children is sad but worth the children throughout the world being reached.
I’m biased. I grew up in a family where my father had decades of ministry, but in the end lost the relationships with his wife and children. I read these stories, I see the authors gloss over the failings, focus on all the good that was accomplished. It frustrates me to no end. They do it by discounting the family. They do it by ignoring the sins against these spouses and children. I don’t believe for a moment that that kind of telling honors the heart of God for ALL His children. It IS possible to do incredible things for God AND honor His sacred calling to our families. We need to as a body of believers stop celebrating unbalanced approaches to ministry.