I can remember since I became a Christian the well meaning warning to make sure I put God first, then family and that they came before Church. A warning to leaders to make sure they don't sacrifice their families for church involvement.
Yet I'm increasingly convinced that this has the exact affect it tries to avoid. Firstly because as a schema for life, can we really put things in nice progressive orders, God, then family then Church? It's such a western construction and compartmentalisation. And secondly because it involves and implies diminishing returns, it means you give what you have to God first, then family, and the church gets what's left over.
Put those two processes together in a consumer culture, and you get a recipe for privatising faith, praying when I need something, and then obsessing about time for family and justifying not needing or having the resources for mission with others. Even writing that sentence will upset people thinking I don't value families. But I do, which is why I'm writing it.
I know too well the crazy pressure to put our kids into every club and society and experience middle class life can provide, with no place for a life of mission together, other than church there to support families in times of crises.
So instead of sacrificing our families for the sake of Church, we sacrifice Church on the altar of the family. Why does it have to be a zero sum game like that? Surely a life of mission together in church community, with attention to my own spiritual life, and care for my family, are all interrelated. The best for my family as a Christian is not engaging in mission with what's left over, but making mission, family and my relationship with God of equal priority?