I knew a guy once who was a pastor. When he was in high school he knew that he wanted to ‘serve the Lord’—which is Baptispeak for ‘I want to preach when I grow up.’ Upon graduating from high school, this desire still burning in his heart, he promptly reported to the nearest Southern Baptist University and completed his Bachelor’s degree. Somewhere in the process he relieved himself of the title of bachelor and awarded a lovely young woman her MRS degree. (Don’t hurt yourself laughing at that old chestnut.) And proceeded to Seminary where all good preacher boys go to get ready to ‘serve the Lord’. Amen brother, preach on.
I knew another guy once whose parents didn’t offer him the kind of support—emotionally or financially—that would enable him to go to college. When he got out of high-school he sort of schlumped around community colleges and extension programs for a decade or so and finally ended up getting a job. His desire to ‘serve the Lord’ was intense, but he didn’t feel like he was able to do so without preparation—I.e., college and seminary and had no idea about how to do it on his own. So he volunteered and did things that were ‘at his level’ or so he was told. Someone along the way told him that the desire would fade. They were wrong. Poor, poor, layman.
So what’s the difference between the two? Is it merely poor parenting? And who had the parents that were in need of correction? How did the first young man decide that ministry was for him and who pushed him along the way? Did the second young man’s apparent lack of decisiveness eliminate him from serving? What about his lack of preparation? Were his parents to blame for his eventual status in the church?
And there are many more questions we could ask.
I have to wonder, though, about the motives of everyone involved in this situation. I recall how unhappy the first fellow seemed to be. He and his wife, though deeply in love, were inordinately unhappy in the ministry and eventually left it altogether. I remember how unhappy the second young man was, wallowing as he was in his desire to preach and at the same time bearing the expectations of those who said he didn’t match up with their idea of a preacher.
Part of me wants to cheer the first young man for throwing himself into his training and preparation, but it’s a joy mixed with sorrow knowing how it worked out in the end. A Doctorate, no matter how big the certificate, cannot cover the wound left by an ending like he had. Part of me wants to cheer for the second young man and encourage him. But is that the right thing to do? After all he’s not really qualified…
Or is he?
And that’s the thing right there that we have to remember. No one really knows which young man was more fit for the ministry. Who can see the heart but the Lord?
The point of all this is to get us to think about why we do the things we do with our kids. Are we pushing them in directions that they don’t need to go? (Notice I didn’t say want) Parents are charged with teaching and disciplining their kids and ‘raising them up in the way they should go.’ To a certain extent there should be guidance and direction. You should use what wisdom and knowledge you have to show your child the right way. As long as that way is toward the Lord you’re doing OK. Pushing a child away from the Lord is never a good idea. I don’t really have a rule of thumb because there’s not a one-size fits all solution for this sort of quandary. Most of the time I believe its obvious.
I recall reading the biography of J.L. Dagg which is in the back of the copy of his Manual of Theology, at least the one I have. In it he talks about how he was gradually affirmed in his ministry by the church until it was pretty obvious that he needed to be a minister. If your child is at that point and you push him away from it, that’s bad. If its been obvious and you’re fighting it and him and the Lord, you’re going to lose. Especially if they listen to you. The flip side of that is the young man who’s pushed into the pulpit because his folks wanted a pastor for a son. That’s bad too, especially if they listen to you.
That ought to muddy the water some.