[Note: This week’s guest post comes to us from our friend Dale Jenkins. To learn more about Dale, check out his information following today’s article.]
The apostle Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV). The New Living Translation says: “We ourselves are like fragile clay jars.” To Timothy he wrote that “… in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work…” (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
I’m not much of a cook but I do occasionally attempt to create something in the kitchen or at the grill and in 35 years of adult life I’ve never had a pot, pan, platter, or plate complain or focus on itself.
Yet we face the multi-headed challenge: Any family illustration seems to be the most applicable, relatable, and remembered illustration, but they are also the most difficult. You see, we don’t want to embarrass them. After all, they are not illustrations – they are family.
Further we don’t want people to believe they are perfect (wife or kids). I’ll never forget an old brother telling me about a preacher he heard once who went on and on about how grand his wife was. The guy said: “I knew his wife, and she wasn’t nearly as good as mine is.” Well, I’m not debating either guy; I’m just making the point that we are in a challenging position. If we don’t mention family, people wonder if we don’t love or appreciate them; however, if we do, people think we are overly exhausting them.
But I’ve been asked to write about what I’d want the church to know about the preacher’s family. So here goes.
Anyone who knows me knows I spend a lot of my time trying to encourage preachers and their families, but the bottom line is the “preacher’s family” is just a family. A family trying to go to heaven. A family with flaws. A family that sometimes has disagreements and “unscheduled discussions” (i.e. arguments), a family that hurts, a family that experiences loss, a family that has to live on a budget. A family that likes to laugh and create memories together. A family that isn’t serious all the time. And as a preacher with a family: I am a dad trying to train my children to love the Lord, a husband trying to support my wife, a man trying to be “more than an infidel.”
1. My wife is my wife not your employee. I happen to preach but some think that tells them all about my wife. She married ME – hopefully not “the preacher.” I married her – not “the preacher’s wife.” And if she ever told me that for us to continue as a husband and wife I’d have to stop preaching, I’d divorce preaching as a job before I’d divorce her as my wife. You didn’t hire her, her name isn’t on the paycheck, and while when you get me you get some of the fruit of her blessing in my life – let her be that – my wife. She is a Christian and therefore should be held to a higher standard, but no higher than any other Christian.
2. While I appreciate the respect that I think a preacher should receive I don’t pretend to have it all together in my life. The respect is for the role–for what I do–not for me. So let’s talk about my kids. They, too, are human. They will make mistakes. Treat them like you would other kids that make mistakes. Would you not let a man teach a class because his children failed publicly? Would you gossip about the faults and failures or go to the elders about mistakes of a deacon’s kid? It’s not their “fault” their dad preaches. Don’t make it harder on them or hold them to a higher standard. I’m not asking for special treatment for my kids; just that you treat them fairly.
3. Respect my family time like you would that of others. I know I have to be careful here because many jobs have demanding and odd hours that call you away from your family. One of the differences between this job and “most” others is that it is 24 hours a day. A plumber may get a call in the middle of the night or when he is on family vacation or sitting down to supper but he can say “no” and the only repercussion is that he doesn’t get that business. It’s much more complicated when you preach – and you know it if you’ve ever had a sudden sickness, death in the family, traumatic event and called the preacher. So, while we’re not asking you not to call, we do ask that you at least be aware that there are somewhat unique sacrifices that I knew I was asking for when I decided to preach BUT my family didn’t. So would you pray for them when I’m called away and for me for the wisdom to know how to handle that. To ministers I might add a personal note here: I always tried to do some special things for my family when my “job” asked “them” to sacrifice to make up for that.
4. IF you know that I am under-compensated for my job remember my kids at special times. Note, not all of us are underpaid and even those who are signed up for and agreed to the salary received. But if you know that what I do is a sacrifice figure out a way to bless us a little.
Bottom line: Even though we believe what we get to do is very special (holding forth the Word of Life and shining Light into darkness), we do not want you to believe that we are any more special than any other soul out there. We are just Christians who want to go to heaven and, like every other Christian, want to take as many with us as possible. We are just husbands and dads and families trying to be a Christian family. We are just clay pots, vessels – happy to be in the Lord’s Cabinet.
Dale Jenkins is a preacher’s kid married to a preacher’s kid they have two preacher’s kids who have three preacher’s kids. By the goodness of God and the grace of a good wife, they all love the Lord. He preaches at Spring Meadows in Spring Hill and helps run The Jenkins Institute.
Photo background credit: Kamaljith KV on Creative Commons