As a church Pastor I always faced the task of prioritising. There were demands and expectations all of the time. At college we were taught that there was a list of priority in ministry life; God, family, others, myself. I soon found out that for church people and eldership teams this list was a bit different, it went; us, others, God, family, self, although they would tell you it was really the same as the list the college gave you, that is unless they were from the old school and then it was; God, others, family, self. Whatever over nearly twenty years of ministry I realise one thing (well I realise alot of things but this one is relevant here!), family suffers for the sake of the so called ministry. My marriage suffered as meetings were always priority, other phone calls more important, other people always got listened to, always needed to be seen to be doing the right thing etc. I remember once when Allison was pregnant and she started to bleed in early term on a Sunday night. I still had to go to church and stand in the pulpit while she began to miscarry at home on her own. I had to be called home from church just as I was finishing my preach. I feel so ashamed of myself. Allison has had to put up with some crap inthe name of ministry and commitment to the Gospel. My kids suffered; they wanted to play football on Sunday-No, busy. Wanted to go to parties on Sunday- No, busy. Cannot take you there I have a prayer meeting/Bible study/having a cup of tea with an old lady etc. Dad was always about His Fathers business. (Jesus was not the best example here, lol). My parents have suffered too, and that brings me to this…
Only Son of a Bricklayer
It is nearly 44 years since I came into the world of Derek and Janet Leader. An only child. My mum and dad wanted more but I was a bit of a pain as a baby and they decided I was enough. I am blessed in that I can look back with fondness to my childhood and upbringing, my dad was a real laugh, a bricklayer but a softy, and my mum was a hard working sometimes disciplinarian woman. I loved them to bits. When I started going to church they were not over the moon but they accepted that. When at 19 I wanted to go to Bible college my dad wanted me to get a proper job like him, but they both drove me to the college for my interview, and were so proud when I became a so called Pastor. They would tell everyone what I was doing. But there was a price for them, when I drove away in tears at 19 little did I realise that I would never really live at home again. My holiday visits got shorter and less frequent. Then I left college and went into the ministry (learningto despise that term). Was in Lutterworth near Leicester. A year later got married. Most of the time if my parents wanted to see me they would have to journey to where I was. My Christmas breaks were spent with Allison’s family. The three had really become two! Then I moved to the Welsh valleys five years later, even further away. Now I was really too busy. More ministry, missions work, conferences… The list goes on.
The Big ‘C’
Then came the real hammer blow, my dad was diagnosed with cancer of the bowel. He became very ill and started treatment. Over the course of a couple of years I visited on a few occasions but the ministry had to continue. Made great escapism anyway. I could live my life and pretend his did not exist. I had my church and my family to think about anyway. Mum would look after him. She did, she gave everything, literally. Dad responded to treatment and slowly recovered. So much so that he was given the all clear. Then came the double hammer blow, my mum was then diagnosed with exactly the same thing. She had been showing symptoms for a while but did nothing because she was looking after my dad and did not want to worry anybody. By the time she was checked out it was too late. It was too advanced. Then was the painful journey of watching her deteriorate, well my dad watched her. I carried on with the ministry and my life. Priority! Humbug, bloody poor excuse of an only son who did not want to face real issues of life and ministry. Six years ago my mum died. Death does sting. I spoke to her the night before but still took no hint. Had a phone call the next day and drove to Suffolk, but I missed her, she had gone, it was too late. No rewound clocks. She was always there for me, I failed to be there for her. But at least I was a good Pastor. I was pretty crap at that too. Life hey!
Where has all this come from? My dad is coming to visit me today. He is here with his new lady. That is another story, lol. I love my dad to bits. Still don’t do enough for him but at least ministry and church is not the excuse anymore. He is doing really well, he returned to work as a bricklayer full time with no ill effects, still has a social life and has recently entered the world of the retired, and he is alive. I still have a chance to show him I love him. He is not the greatest conversationalist, but hey we talk football. He attends church but we never talk about whether he has been washed with the blood of the Lamb. He would have no clue who Evan Roberts is or the Toronto blessing or who David Wilkerson was (sadly passed away today), but that is refreshing. I am so glad that for a couple of days we can share food, laughter, stories, grandchildren, tv and definitely no church meetings. He has no hang ups to my journey. As long as I am happy he always says. And do you know what? I am. I am happy with my wife Allison, my boys and the visit of my dad. And I want to make sure that I am not neglecting Corban as Jesus called it because I am being religious ever again. I have a new list of priority;
Family(blood) + Family in Christ ( that includes everyone?), self…. that is it!
God is there through all and in all so He does not need to be listed.
Oh well must go for now, my dad will be here soon…