You’ve heard it before or experienced it yourself. You are growing in your faith and feeling more and more called to ministry. Maybe you’ve decided to go to seminary or pursue a calling in pastoral ministry or overseas missions or counseling. Whatever the case may be, you feel called by God to pursue full-time, vocational ministry of some sort.
You expect opposition. You expect challenges. But sometimes, such opposition comes from unlikely places. Sometimes, your loudest critics will be your own Christian parents.
We might expect non-Christian parents to disagree, but when our Christian parents, who sit under preaching week in and week out, who benefit from the work of faithful pastors, and who even contribute to mission work, voice their opposition, we’re left confused, even angry.
How should we respond? My experience here is primarily in the Korean-American community, where children and parents often see the world through different cultural lenses, though what I say here can apply broadly to all cultures.
- Remember your parents love you. It’s hard to feel this way when they douse the flames of your convictions with angry outbursts, stubbornly refusing to support your aspirations for ministry. It’s easy to interpret their reaction as unfaithfulness to the gospel or disobedience to God, but we have to remember that our parents love us.
- Remember your parents struggle with different idols. Those of us in college, who have had few opportunities to face any real difficulty or responsibility, don’t really know what it’s like to struggle with the idol of security. Our immigrant parents know what it means to make real sacrifices for the sake of their family. While this is noble, it also means they have spent much of their lives living for the idol of financial security. As a recent college graduate, you may not struggle with the idol of security, since your parents have always provided for you, but you need to remember that your parents can’t simply give up this idol at a moment’s notice.
- Remember your parents may know better. It’s hard to imagine that your parents could know better than you about what would be best for God’s Kingdom. They’ve only been Christians for at least a decade longer than you, right? It’s not likely that God has placed them in your life to speak with words of wisdom, right? God has placed your parents in your life for a reason. This doesn’t mean they’re always right, but it does mean you should temper your quickness to trust your own judgment before theirs.
- Remember that your parents will be your greatest prayer partners. You need to have a long-term perspective about whatever God may be calling you to do. In the moment of conviction, you don’t want anything to curb your momentum, but your parents’ hesitation may be what you need to enter a season of prayer and think more wisely and with discernment about whether this is really what God is calling you to at this time. Also, you want your parents to be on board with what you’re doing, since wherever God sends you, they will be one of your most fervent prayer partners.
Calling is always a community endeavor. It may begin with an internal sense of calling, but it must be confirmed by the Christians God has placed in your life. Often times, that will include your parents. Even if they are not on board, what will it look like to respond to them with grace?