Updated: Sep 12, 2018
By Eric Pfeiffer, Lead Pastor
FAMILY AND MISSION
I grew up with parents who chose family AND mission. They both had full time jobs, carted 5 kids around to endless extracurricular activities, cooked, cleaned, fixed cars, tutored us in our homework and so much more. Growing up I thought they were ‘super parents,’ able to balance endless activities in a single bound! Though there were signs, it wasn’t until they divorced that I realized they did all that at the expense of sustainable health and wholeness. They fought for an amazing family AND to make everyone’s passions possible, but in the end, they were run ragged and we all paid the price in a painful divorce that left our family in ruins for years.
FAMILY OR MISSION
In my own early years of marriage I vowed not to end up like my parents and fought for a different approach – family OR mission. Any activities I feared may threaten our young family, I put the kibosh on; I was policing the activities and therefore passions of the members of our family. Sadly, because I thought I knew best, it was my wife who suffered most, regularly sacrificing opportunities to express her God-given passions so that I could invest in my own. They say ‘ignorance is bliss’ but our experience proved ignorance is destructive and in the end, after years of this practice, we were quietly losing both our mission and our family.
In either of these two cases, we find ourselves sacrificing family on the altar of mission or vice versa.
FAMILY ON MISSION
Over the past 10 years we have been learning to invest in something entirely different – family ON mission. This began as we realized God created humans to operate more effectively in units called family. In part 1 of this post we saw how we were created to function and flourish primarily in and through the context of family, both blood and non-blood related. Contemporary TV shows like Modern Family, Parenthood, The Walking Dead and even older shows like Friends and Seinfeld reveal the deep desire in our culture to redeem family (broken as it may be), to find a way to operate in this extended relational unit because it’s in our human DNA. We know, even intuitively, that together we are better.
The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6)
As we’ve been learning to submit our individual needs, passions and resources to the greater vision of our ‘family,’ we are experiencing greater effectiveness in our mission while enjoying more sustainable, healthy family relationships. In other words, by surrendering family to mission and mission to family we find this process of integration both challenging and incredibly life-giving.
EXAMPLES – HOW WE’RE DOING IT
Our daughter, Charity, has shown a lot of natural talent for dance and for years her instructors have encouraged us to put her on the competitive dance team. This would require 5 days a week of dance, a significant financial investment as well as adding a new sphere of relationships, responsibilities and incredible mission opportunities. As a family on mission we had to decide whether WE were prepared to commit to this opportunity. For 2 years in a row we prayed TOGETHER with Charity and decided TOGETHER this was not in the best interest of our family at that time. Last year we prayed again and TOGETHER felt the Lord was releasing us to make this investment. It has been both challenging and tremendously rewarding as our family engages this mission during this season. Remember, “nothing which THEY purpose to do will be impossible for them.”
As part of my job over the past 6 years I have been required to travel extensively, sometimes up to 3 weeks in a month. Some would immediately say this is crazy, but our job as a family on mission was to ask the Lord whether this was a mission he was calling our family to, and if so, how we would leverage our collective resources to follow the Lord in this way. We were learning that dad’s time is not his own, but part of the family’s ‘bucket’ of resource, and together we’ve had to constantly calibrate and recalibrate how we serve this particular part of our family’s mission together. Each trip they sent me out as a representative of our family on mission and they were participants in both the battles and breakthroughs. Together we are better.
Over the past year our family has been in a season of discerning our next major assignment – where we will move to, what we’ll do for work, how our daughter might continue in her dancing, our son in his growing love of tennis, whether we’ll continue homeschooling and who will go with us. That’s right, who will go with us? Recently we’ve been spending a bit of time on Friday mornings as a family praying about this transition and sharing with each other and God our hopes, dreams, wants, fears and questions. Participating in this ‘family’ time with us is a young woman, named Madi who moved across the country and into our home 2 years ago to be part of our extended family unit for a season of intentional life training, otherwise known as discipleship. She has grown leaps and bounds since her arrival and is by no means dependent on us, but shared recently with us her desire to continue with us in this next season. When God called Abraham to take his family and move to a new land the record shows, “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5).” In this season Madi is part of our family on mission and will go with us wherever the Lord calls us. Her hopes, dreams, needs, wants and fears are part of our bucket and together with Madi we will listen to God and trust that what’s in our family’s best interest will be in her best interest and vice versa.
DAY BY DAY
Someone once shared with me ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far then go together.’ Family on mission requires me to slow down often, listen more than I speak, entrust myself to others, consider others more important than myself and mostly, trust God to do what I can’t. Through submission to the family and lots of sacrifice, I find significance and even greater success in all our missional endeavors. Our culture is constantly reminding me that I need to make my mark on the world, that my 40’s are all about rising to the top of my game, and yet the Lord is right there reminding me there are no awards in heaven for what I accomplish, but rather the praise will come for whatever I can empower others to accomplish. Leading family on mission is about making my ceiling everyone’s floor and leveraging everything I have so that others can do greater things.
Family on mission is hard, but worth it. And anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you get better.