I send out an email to my church once a month, and there’s over a 1000 people in our database. I average about 20 social media posts a month that go out to a couple of thousand people as well. Additionally, I preach roughly three sermons a month, averaging 4000 words a sermon, to about a 1000 different people over the course of the month.
That’s roughly 14,000 words that I speak or write to 3000-4000 people a month. Each word is carefully studied, prepared, edited, and prayed over (except for the occasional live-tweeting of the MLB playoffs…).
Quite literally, a pastor’s ministry is a ministry of words. But what about our words at home?
“Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged ” (Colossians 3:21)
I don’t know about you, but the majority of my sinful provocation is with my words. Careless, loud, reactionary. Not the thoughtful, prayerful words I speak and write at work. These words discourage, while my “ministry” words encourage. These words tear down, while my preaching builds up. The hypocrisy is sickening.
I was reflecting on the Advent season recently and the incarnation struck me: God made himself small to come rescue me from my sin. I think that says something about how I should posture myself to “rescue” my girls from theirs.
When we provoke our children we get “big.” I want to be small.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly…A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit ” —(Proverbs 15:1-2, 4)
A soft answer. A wise word. A gentle tongue. Is this not how our Father responds to us?
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her ” (Hosea 2:14)
He allures us. It’s the face of a loving Father, the countenance of a patient, gracious Daddy who kneels down to get at our level. In the same way, I want to gently and calmly embrace and respond to our paroxysmal daughter. My face not conveying ire, but love. A soft answer.
God made himself small to come rescue me from my sin.
He brings us into the wilderness. He leads us into His presence. He is peace (Eph 2:14). He is love (1 John 4:8). Now we are in the presence of Peace and Love. With my daughters, I want to get small, get at their level. I want to explain why we shouldn’t respond in that way when we don’t get what we want. How we have so much. That more of what she wants could hurt her. I am not trying to rob her of joy but be a force-shield for anything that would try to do so. A wise word.
He speaks tenderly to us. How can He do this? How can a holy, righteous God not light us up for our constant rebellion, our continual transgressions? He can because His love is patient. It is called steadfast love. The Jesus Storybook Bible calls the Father’s steadfast love His, “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
As well, I want to speak tenderly to my daughter—not assuaging her selfishness, but tenderly and lovingly speaking truth to her. A gentle tongue.
HOME SERMON PREP
J.C. Ryle speaks truth: “Children are weak and tender creatures, and, as such, they need patient and considerate treatment. We must handle them delicately, like frail machines. They are like young plants, and need gentle watering,— often, but little at a time.”
I carefully study, edit, prepare, and pray over my sermon every week. What would it look like to prepare and pray about the words I speak at home? “Be ready in season and out,” the great Apostle instructed the young pastor, Timothy. Perhaps this is a little application stretch on that text, but certainly you can find biblical warrant to say, “Be ready on-the-job and off, to minister with your words”—1 Timothy 3:4-5 certainly speaks to it.
Here are four quick things to think through:
- Pray. Just as you pray during your sermon prep and for your sermon, pray about and for the words you use at home to your children and spouse.
- Repent. How many times have you been led to repentance as you are preparing for your sermon? Hopefully often. Maybe you need to repent about your ministry with words at home.
- Study. Do you need to put down another book on Biblical Theology and pick one up on anger? or parenting? or growing in affirmation? Do you need to study the Proverbs for your heart at home and not for your work in ministry?
- Prepare. What are some homilies you can prepare, Gospel-rich responses you can prep for the next time your children disobey, the next time you get into a conflict with your spouse, the next time you don’t get your way?
Dads, our work at home is largely a ministry of words.