Manage Your Household Well

The Tragedy of Distracted Dads and Pastors

One of the greatest needs wives and children have — and all the more in our relentlessly distracting age — is dad’s countercultural attentiveness. Perhaps human attention never has been more valuable. Today the largest corporations in the world no longer compete for oil, but for human attention. And when attention is short and scarce, one of the greatest emerging tragedies of this new era is distracted dads.

 

The gratuitously distracted, and often unexamined, lives of modern unmarried men can be concerning enough. Then the seriousness of the problem rises higher when we say, “I do.” And even more when we bring children into the world.

One of the greatest needs wives and children have — and all the more in our relentlessly distracting age — is dad’s countercultural attentiveness. Perhaps human attention never has been more valuable. Today the largest corporations in the world no longer compete for oil, but for human attention. And when attention is short and scarce, one of the greatest emerging tragedies of this new era is distracted dads.

And in the church, its digital-age analog: distracted pastors.

Qualification for Christian Men

“He must manage his own household well.” The risen Christ, through his apostle Paul, requires as much of any officer in the church, whether pastor or deacon (1 Timothy 3:4–512). As is plain from the rest of the leadership qualifications, however, these traits aren’t meant to set leaders apart from the congregation, but to make them “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3) of every Christian’s calling. Christ means for these attributes to be true of us all, and so it is essential that they be modeled, at minimum, in the leadership. By extension, Christ means for every dad to “manage his own household well.”

This qualification to “manage his own household well” forges a special relationship, among the other requirements, between church leadership and domestic husbanding and fathering. Why must a pastor be one who manages his household well? “For if someone does not know how to manage his own household,” Paul reasons, “how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Such caring attentiveness is at the heart of pastoring — keeping watch (1 Timothy 4:16Hebrews 13:17) and paying careful attention (Acts 20:28) — and at the heart of fathering.

Learning to be a Christian man goes in both directions: pastors first learn to lead at home, and fathers learn from the pastors to “shepherd the flock” (1 Peter 5:2) of their own household. On-duty lifeguards shouldn’t be hypnotized by a smartphone. Nor shepherds watching over their flocks. And if such is the case for sheep, how much more should a father keep watch, and fight distraction, for the sake of his wife and children?

His Own Household

Twice in 1 Timothy 3:4–5 Paul says “his own household,” not just “household.” In doing so, he implies a distinction between the man’s household and the church, which is God’s household (1 Timothy 3:15Ephesians 2:191 Peter 4:17). Pastors are household managers of God’s household, and being called to such, they must manage their own households ably as a prerequisite.

Our families, then, are our first pastorates. If our families are being led poorly — exposing certain deep faults in our leadership, whether inattentiveness or simple inability — it doesn’t make sense to make us leaders in the church and multiply the effects of those same faults in God’s family. Glaring gaps in domestic leadership need not extend to the church. Besides, if our family already needs more of us, better not to take even more of dad’s attention away from the home.

Even on the other side of ordination, as Thabiti Anyabwile comments, “Paul warns against men who could be too preoccupied with the affairs of the church and too little occupied with what’s going on under their own roof.” One’s own household, then, is a testing ground, and an ongoing test, for leading in the church.

How Does He ‘Manage’?

What, then, does it mean for a man to “manage his household well”? Elsewhere in the New Testament “manage” (proistēmi) can be translated “lead” (Romans 12:8) or “rule over” (1 Thessalonians 5:121 Timothy 5:17). Such leading, for one, requires attentiveness, and rules out negligence. God calls fathers and pastors alike to be, at minimum, responsive to the needs of those in their charge.

But “leading” also implies more than mere responsiveness. Leadership involves a measure (indeed, increasing measures) of initiative and proactivity. Good initiative progresses over time, rather than regresses, on the spectrum from mere responsiveness toward proactivity. Leadership entails “being out ahead” mentally and emotionally: thinking ahead, planning ahead, taking initiative.

Christian leadership, then, is formed and shaped by the example of Christ, who did not “lord it over” his people but gave his own life for their eternal good (Mark 10:42–45). So also we fathers and pastors must not be domineering with our God-given authority, but gentle. We use it for building up, not tearing down (2 Corinthians 13:10). Not for selfish, private ends but self-sacrificially, for the good of the whole household.

Good fathers, and good pastors, habitually choose to inconvenience themselves for the sake of their flocks, rather than presuming on what feels most personally convenient. They bear the cost themselves for the gain of the household, rather than angle for personal gain, whatever it might cost the family.

Take Care of Your Home

We do have another verb in 1 Timothy 3:5 that helps explain what Paul has in mind by “manage” in this context: “care” (epimedeomai). “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” God calls fathers and pastors to care for their flocks, which confirms the Christ-shaped vision of Mark 10:42–45.

The only other place in the New Testament where this verb for “care” appears is (twice) in the parable of the good Samaritan:

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” (Luke 10:34–35)

This kind of taking care of others — with energy and gentleness, strength and compassion, diligence and love — is at the heart of what it means for dads and pastors to manage their households. Not just as the Good Samaritan did in the parable, but as the one to whom the parable points (Jesus) did in his life and leadership.

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