Today’s post is by Joey Cochran. Joey is married to Kendall, has two children (Chloe and Asher), and serves as a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Tulsa. Joey blogs regluarly at jtcochran.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeyCochran.
We are parents before we are pastors. I do not mean to say that every pastor has a child before he takes up the vocation of pastoring. Nor do I mean to say that you have to be a parent to be a pastor. However, it is interesting to observe that the norm and expectation in 1 Timothy and Titus is that an elder is one who is married and has children. I do not wish to get into the minutia of elder/pastor distinctions, qualifications and roles. What I do intend to illustrate is that for the parent-pastor, the primary and prerequisite ministry as a pastor is the ministry as the parent.
The day that I wrote this guest post for Aaron happens to be a Sunday. And on this morning before I ever pulled into my parking spot at the Church, I parented my daughter before I pastored God’s people. I carried her downstairs from her bed. I served her breakfast. I disciplined her for impolite behavior and I commended her for correcting her attitude. I held her and I kissed her goodbye. Of course I did not parent alone. My beautiful bride and help-mate partnered with me in this task, but it is critical that I played a crucial role in the process. I do not wish for my daughter to grow up thinking, “Daddy is the pastor. Mommy is the parent.”
No, pastors have without excuse for abdicating the role of parenting. In spite of how busy a pastor’s schedule is, how many meetings, programs and lessons to teach, counseling sessions and elder meetings to attend, the pastor must shepherd his home well before he can shepherd God’s church.
My first exposure to the work of Douglas Wilson was many years ago when our young married’s small groups studied Reforming Marriage. In this short and extremely helpful book Wilson explains, “Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly (Wilson, 24).” In like manner, the parent who pastors is either an excellent parent or a poor parent, but they are a parent nonetheless. Each time the pastor does not find it opportune for their child to need parenting, and thus passes on the responsibility to his spouse it sends a blaring message to his children that they were not important enough to experience tough love. But remarkably tough love is where our children experience the fullest picture of fatherhood. Moreover, as children experience the tough love of their earthly father they can best understand the oft-misunderstood character of God the Father in the Old Testament.
So, parent who pastors, parent your child in the foyer of the Church, in the hallway outside your office, in the parking lot, at the restaurant, in the park, at the zoo, in the retail center, and especially in your home. Correct the behavior and commend the corrected behavior. Love well and cherish your children. This is a model to the church, who desperately needs a parenting model today more than another class on how to count to three.