What a Pastor, Facing a Family Crisis, Learned about Healthy Leadership
Many years ago Pastor David Jeremiah faced a crisis in his family life. His adopted daughter as a teen became involved with drugs. When he found out, he discovered the root of it was from some issues related to the adoption that his daughter was struggling with that Pastor Jeremiah and his wife were unaware existed. Of course, this caused some real soul-searching for a pastor. Was this a failure as a father that disqualified him from the ministry because his daughter was involved in illegal activity? Did he no longer measure up to what the Lord expected of a pastor-elder because his daughter had gotten out of his control?
When Dr. Jeremiah went to 1 Timothy 3 and the qualifications for pastor-elders in the church, he observed something that had a big impact on his outlook. Verse 4 says, He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive. Pastor Jeremiah realized the text did not say that his kids could not have any sinful problems, but that he was to make sure that he managed those problems. In other words, Scripture is not saying a pastor’s family will be perfect (what an unrealistic & unhealthy expectation), but that when serious issues of disobedience arise, the pastor-elder manages them bringing necessary correction to his children.
What David Jeremiah saw, which he hadn’t seen before, is that the requirement is that the pastor-elder not neglect the management of his family and just let the problem continue unaddressed. This is the indictment that God had against Eli the priest in 1 Samuel. Rather than dealing with his sons who were abusing the priesthood, he let them continue and God said to Eli that you “honor them above me,” 1 Samuel 2:27-36. Dr. Jeremiah said the issue for him was not that his daughter had a serious problem, but that he needed to manage it, not just let it fester by neglect.
For the Jeremiahs it ultimately led to entering their daughter into a Christian-based drug treatment program for teens. The addiction was more than they could manage alone; they needed to get outside, professional help. By God’s grace, they saw their daughter respond to the treatment, overcome her drug use, and begin to faithfully follow the Lord. It was a combination of parental management, the intervention of others, and God’s ability to turn a life around. PTL!
What Pastor Jeremiah did, along with his wife’s help for sure, highlights one aspect of healthy leadership that is essential for the healthy direction of a church. Remember from our last article that we saw in Titus 1 that pastor-elders must be spiritually healthy in three areas: 1) family life (1:6), 2) personal life (1:7-8), & 3) public ministry (1:9). Family life in v. 6 says “the husband of one wife, & his children are faithful & not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”
When a father allows his children to become negatively like what v. 6 depicts, without taking the measures necessary for correction (while they are living under his roof as minors), it reveals inattention, passivity or weakness. The longer it goes on the more ingrained it becomes and difficult to change. It not only undercuts the pastor-elder’s reputation making his ministry ineffective, but it sets the wrong example to other fathers about their priorities. Pastor Jeremiah set the example for every spiritual leader. Healthy doctrine means making our families a priority, and managing kids’ problems with all diligence while living at home, so that correction and health can be regained. The church is blessed with elders who do this. Everyone learns.
Your friend, needing God’s help, Pastor Brian (:-})