Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Less kids to focus on ministry

I promised to post about those who say they want only a couple kids to focus on ministry. This post ignores the fact that I find all forms of birth control unacceptable, because that would obviously be another reason not to contracept. I just want to challenge this mindset.

First of all, that's rarely the reason. It just sounds more Christian than "I don't wanna drive a minivan" or "I hate being pregnant" or "I need sleep." Are there some couples who decide to really throw their lives into ministry, or go to dangerous places, and decide that they can't bring a child? Yes. But most people who say this are probably talking about teaching Sunday School and leading a Bible study. And to those going to situations where there is poverty and danger? There are children there. In most of these places, if American culture hasn't contaminated them, children are welcomed and valued--as Scripture states they should be. That part of the culture is one missionaries should be encouraging. I can't conceive of going into long-term ministry in a place and saying, explicitly or implicitly, to people with children, that they are better off not having children at all. How can they model Christian family life to those people without any children? The idea that children should have everything and never work and never be in a difficult situation is not found in the Bible. That may be a cultural value, but my understanding is that being a missionary isn't about propogating cultural values, but Biblical ones. Granted, I have never been a missionary (at least a long-term missionary). But I don't trust the theology of people who deliberately sterilize themselves, so I don't know why anyone who believes openness to life to be a positive good would trust them on other matters of theology either.

Secondly, parenting is a ministry. Not only is it a ministry, it is one of few we can be certain God has given to us, specifically. The Bible is very clear that God creates children. If a person, using the normal biological act, gives birth to a son or daughter, God intended parenting that child as a ministry for his or her parents. I've done nursery, and Sunday School, Pioneer Clubs, and even been a Sunday School Superintendent. I never felt called to it. I was filling a need, and that is good; I'm not saying one should only do ministry when one feels called. But there can be no doubt God intended me to be Firstborn's mother. When I feed her and play with her and read to her and walk with her, when I teach her and love her, I know with certainty I am doing something God intended me to do. How could I leave her with someone else and a bottle of something made by scientists so that I can teach someone else's children, when I am sure God means me to care for the first baby and not at all sure I am called to teach the others? Maybe in some other season of my life, when I don't have a very young child, I will teach Sunday School again. I still take a turn in nursery often--I would do it every week if I could. But if my baby and another are both crying, who do you think I will comfort first? When I have left Firstborn in the nursery, I have trouble concentrating anyway. My ministry in my home, to my family, must come first. I have no business teaching Sunday School when my living room looks like it was hit by a Christmas tornado. If I can get my home under control, and Firstborn can get through it without nursing, I would teach Sunday School if I was needed. But if I do these things to the detriment of my own family, my priorities are misplaced.

Third, children are not a hindrance to ministry or spiritual growth, and the insinuation that they are is a lie straight from hell. I'm convinced that any ministry God wants me involved in during this season of my life will be one where Firstborn fits in. Are there ministries that would be more difficult with children? Absolutely. But the church is a body with many parts. Single people, childless couples, and couples who no longer have young children are all important parts of the body that can participate in these ministries--and ministries that really can't be done by someone with children, even many children, are fewer than most probably think. At the same time, mommies are part of the body. Nursing mommies shouldn't be prevented from participating in church functions, or made to feel unwelcome. They should try and keep themselves modest, and their children from being a distraction, but the church needs to be open to all its members, from the one-month-old to the ninety-year-old. I love hearing babies cry during the service. Even in my struggles with infertility, it seemed such an affirmation of life. I like that my church has a "parents' room" where those with young children, babies, or children with disabilities who might distract others can sit and still hear the sermon. I don't like that the sound quality is awful and no one makes fixing it a priority. I don't like being told I can't go on a women's retreat with my nursing daughter. I don't like the expectation that my husband and I cannot be ministered to at the same retreat, or that my spiritual growth depends on seperation from the family unit God has designed. I think that there should be more effort to minister to the body rather than its parts. I think that families with children of all ages, families without children, nursing mommies, the elderly, and single people should all feel like part of the body. And I think that the body's best work can be done when the whole body is present, and that the body can be best cared for when we care for the whole body.

Lastly, the couple that wants to "focus on ministry" is also focusing on themselves. It may not seem that way, but think about it--they are only considering the ministry they can do. If they have only two children, they may do more. But if they had 11, how much more would those extra nine do for Jesus? And if those nine had an average of six children each (the average before birth control was widespread), that would be 54 more souls, and 54 more workers for the kingdom. If Christians were to have all the children God wanted us to, we could see some very big numbers. And if God wants that couple to only have two, he can make that happen as well, without the use of birth control. But what would it say to the world if we trusted in God enough to give Him control of the future? And just think, in the next generation, they'd be voting. The liberals are already concerned about the fact that we have more children. I can't wait to see who my future children are--missionaries, lawyers, politiciana, artists, builders, pastors; single people devoted wholly to God, or mommies and daddies raising up a new generation of soldiers for the cross.

Today's sign of pregnancy: Joy! and hormones.

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Anonymous Jodi said...

I've been hopping around your blog a bit while my girls are napping/having quiet time, and I have agreed with just about everything I've come across. This post touches on the one area I am just not sure about.

I *am* sure that God had laid it on my heart and my husbands to welcome many children, but I can't bring myself to say that all use of bc is wrong.

In my mind, since the Bible doesn't (as you acknowledged) specifically prohibit bc, a lot of it comes down to motive. Most people's motives for not having more children are pretty selfish, but this one might not be, if it is genuine.

Some of our best friends are missionaries to street kids in Mexico City. When we were pg with our first, they were preparing to go to the field and waiting to have children, though they desperately wanted them. As soon as they got to Mexico, they stopped using bc and now have two children and plan to have more. I know they're reasons for delaying were sincere, because when we announced our pregnancy, while they were very happy for us, my friend told me later that she had cried that night out of sadness that it wasn't her.

These two are more spiritually mature than I am, as far as I can tell, and I wouldn't dare want to make the judgment that their conviction to postpone having children for a couple of years wasn't from the Lord. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but I just don't feel the Bible is clear enough on this subject for me to come down on one side of the fence or the other on this one.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Young Christian Woman said...

The thing that sticks out to me is that the Bible is very clear that God is sovereign over the womb. Reproduction is not just a natural process; none of us is capable of creating an immortal soul. Anyone who has experienced infertility and/or miscarriage knows that the "control" we claim we can have only goes one way.

Certainly birth control that carries the possibility of harming children cannot be right.

And I do think that preventing children can harm ministry. I cannot imagine that someone would be well received if they wanted to do ministry with children in a Catholic country while using birth control other than NFP. I don't know the couple in question, and it is quite likely their motivation is good--but I can't be sure that their conclusion was.

And too often, those who limit their children or don't have any "for the sake of ministry" do so permanently, not for a short time. I understand it better when it is only for a season--and even then, I cannot imagine using birth control.

Also, I would not trust the theology of anyone who used birth control in order to minister to me.

I am not trying to attack anyone personally--I just cannot understand why God would say, "I want you to thwart this process which I created and am sovereign over, by which I grant blessings which last for all eternity, in order that you may do something else for me." I can see why He might deprive a couple of children, for a time or permanently, that they might minister for Him. He says that good can come from what seems evil, but He never tells someone to commit evil that good may come of it.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Jodi said...

I agree that it was probably misguided, actually, but was it sin? That I'm not sure about. God knows our hearts and motives and I believe holds us accountable for what He convicts us of.

I'm totally with you on hormonal BC. It's so sad that most Christians just don't know the truth about them. I was on the pill for three years before I found out.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Young Christian Woman said...

Oh, certainly I cannot say whether it is a sin. That is up to them and God.

5:08 PM  

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