The Preacher's "Hot Seat"

The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.

C. R. Stanley is Ministerial secretary of the Australasian Division.

A HAPPY home, rather than being an extra luxury, is an absolute essential to the life and experience of the successful pastor and evangelist. The clergyman, above all others, needs to maintain a love relationship with his family. If he cannot, should he not question his experience as a Christian and his suitability for the ministry?

One obvious reason for this is that the minister's influence is greatly enriched or impoverished by his family. No other family in the church is so much in the "hot seat" as is that of the minister. The influence of a Christian family in the community and in the church is one of the strongest arguments that can be given in favor of the gospel we pro claim.

Another reason why I believe this subject demands special attention is that the inroads of immorality are being seen in the ranks of the ministry. As a professional group we are by no means immune from the plague of immorality that is sweeping the world today. In Australia and New Zealand, our church is losing, on the average, more than one minister per year as the result of immorality. You can very quickly assess the impact this kind of thing has upon the membership of the church. These tragedies in the ranks of the ministry are usually the result of an accumulation of little things rather than of some sud den gross moral failure.

One more reason why it is so important for the minister to foster happy home relationships is that many ministers often violate the very counsel they give others regarding love, marriage, and family relationships. The tragedy is we are so involved with our church and outreach programs that we fail to take time to give our family the time and loving attention we should.

The Scripture says, "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth a favour of the Lord," "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies" (Proverbs 18:22; 31:10). Our wives and children constitute our most treasured earthly possessions. But are we taking appropriate care of these valuables? We just can't afford to allow our profession to be responsible for devaluating this greatest of earthly treasures, or to become so wrapped up in our work that we neglect practical expressions of kindness and love to the members of our family.

The Lord said: "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). This divine injunction is given in the generic sense. It is not good for either man or woman to be alone. Here our attention is called to the danger of loneliness. Man is a gregarious creature and his being cries out for companionship. It is possible for us to be so ambitious in our work that we will seek to climb the ladder of success at the expense of family happiness.

I recall the experience of a young la borer who left his home very early in the morning, returning in the evening after his children were put to bed. His evening meal stretched the household duties late into the evening. This happened day after day, year after year. One day he returned home only to dis cover a note on the table from a dutiful wife whose heart was starved for love and companionship and who now had responded to the overtures of a man who, rightly summing up the situation, was wise enough to know that she would be a ready mark for his evil designs. . In the eyes of the church she would be blamed for breaking the marriage covenant; but in reality, who had broken the vows to love and cherish?

Believe it or not, many evangelists would greatly increase their efficiency if they were to spend more time with their families. As a general principle we ought to spend two nights a week with our families and one complete day each week should be devoted to them. This is not at all to be considered wasted time. Whatever may lift the quality of home life multiplies the productivity of our ministries. Many of us would accomplish far more in less time if our hearts were free from the corroding care of a dispirited wife and despondent children.

It was God who said, "It is not good that the man should be alone." "Hus bands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. ... So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself" (Ephesians 5:25-28). Love is the answer to all problems of human relationship. As one wise commentator said: "If you have tried love and it has failed, then the only thing left to do is to double the dose." Love is a principle that must be fostered and nurtured. Too often the love-light fades because attention is lacking. The question is: How can we keep the fires of love burning warmly in the hearts of husband and wife?

Million Dollar Answers

The book Happiness Homemade brings us the following million-dollar capsule answers:

"Human love can never bear its precious fruit until it is united with the divine nature and trained to grow heaven ward" (page 21).

"In your life union your affections are to be tributary to each other's happiness. Each is to minister to the happiness of the other" (page 22).

"Let all seek to discover the excellencies rather than the defects" (page 24). "Continue the early attentions" (page 24).

"Do not try to compel each other to do as you wish. You cannot do this and retain each other's love" (page 25).

"Let not the heart of one connected with you starve for the want of kindness and sympathy" (page 25). "Let each give love rather than exact it" (page 25).

"He who manifests the spirit of tenderness, forbearance, and love will find that the same spirit will be reflected upon him" (page 29).

Each of these statements involves profound truths that, if believed and acted upon, would turn many a home from a torture chamber to a garden of happiness.

However, this takes real determined effort. What we put into marriage we will get out of it. If we give love we will get love. If we are unkind, morose, sullen, and uncharitable we shall gather a harvest of bitterness, irritability, impatience, and moodiness. What we give we get. Show love in action and words. Spread love lavishly over each day's activity. Remember the words of an unknown author: "The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother."

Another piece of practical counsel the Bible gives for happy marriage seekers is, "Bear ye one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). If this injunction applies anywhere, then, of a certainty, it applies at home. If it is for anybody then it is for husbands and wives. There is much pleasure in doing things together. We ought to arrange our pro grams so that we can spend a few minutes assisting the wife in the common chores. This will put her up on "cloud nine" more than expensive gifts. It gives splendid opportunity for the kind of casual chatting together that is so essential, especially when we realize that the lack of communication is responsible for the breakdown of so many marriages today.

We are all aware of the healing effect of a cheerful, contented mind. Many a wife is sickly and dispirited because of the attitude of neglect or lovelessness manifested by her husband. An unknown writer says: "If a woman has a good and loving husband you will see it in her face."

In Regard to Children

In the marriage treasure hunt one cannot ignore the needs of the children. It is lamentable to hear the words of scorn so often leveled against a minister's family—ofttimes unjustly so. How ever, the minister's family is in the "hot seat" and every effort must be made to enlarge our influence by an exemplary, well-ordered family. Here are some suggestions for doing this:

1. Make the children happy. "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath" (Ephesians 6:4). How often we have aggravated our children when, with a little thought and patience, we could have done the very opposite. We should first seek to make our children happy rather than good. When this order is re versed it leads to nagging, scolding, growling. When we have happy children we then have prime soil in which to plant seeds of goodness.

2. Play with the children. The family that plays together stays together. Children will never want to run away from a home where they and their parents en joy simple and innocent recreation together. If we don't have time for our children now when they need us most, we will find that in the sunset years they will not have time for us when we need them most.

3. Commend the children. The best thing I have ever read on child training is this short, six-word sentence: "Com mend your children whenever you can." —Happiness Homemade, p. 11.

This one simple piece of instruction put into practice could radically change the atmosphere of many homes. Children respond very quickly to a worthy word of honest praise.

4. Spend money on recreation. Our children are the best investments we have for the future. When we come to the end of the way and the road is lonely, loving and considerate children will then be far more precious than all the accumulated assets we can imagine. In order to bind their hearts to ours we need to provide for their recreational needs. Money spent on suitable games, hobbies, and sports equipment is well invested. So often we deny our children's needs in this area because of our personal interest in cars, cameras, tape recorders, and such gadgets, which we consider so essential or because of our feverish desire for a larger bank balance. The Bible says, "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house" (Proverbs 15:27). It should be added that one does not have to be lavish in this regard. Actually the value comes more from your involvement in your children's sports than from the amount of money spent.

5. Make religion attractive. Children are expert detectives. We cannot deceive children by a facade of piety. They can read us like a book. Let us bring the reality of the Christian life into the home and show our children that we love Jesus, and that He is real to us.

6. Watch your personality. Jesus said, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). As ministers we have more reason to live cheerfully than any other person on earth because we should know Christ, and be experiencing His presence with us daily. Of all people we ministers should "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

While we are to relax when at home we should not assume the right to save our smiles and pleasant expressions for those outside the family circle. If any one has a claim to our cheerful demeanor it is our immediate family. We ought to be fun to live with.

Whatever may have been our past experience, Christ is able to make the future all that it ought to be. If we have been neglectful of our wives or children; if we have allowed the burden of our profession to rob us of the radiant joy that is our right to experience, we now have opportunity to correct our course and to learn to live in love before it is forever too late.

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

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C. R. Stanley is Ministerial secretary of the Australasian Division.

July 1976

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