Featured Leadership

The Dangers of an Isolated Pastor

It is becoming increasingly clear that even spiritual leaders need to have good friends.  The suicide of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein[1] reminded us that even we can struggle with mental health.  We watch as fellow pastors like Bill Hybels, Perry Noble, and Tullian Tchividjian fall into sin and wonder how this can happen.  We preach of the importance of community and spiritual accountability and then retreat into our own thoughts, fears, and inner solitude.  This type of isolation is terrible.  It is not healthy.  It is not sustainable.  It is not biblical.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Your Pastor Needs to have Friends!

Friends in the Flock

Is it possible for the pastor to be friends with those in his local congregation? The answer is YES!  It’s not only possible, it is essential.  The pastor is not only the spiritual leader of the congregation, he is also part of the congregation.  We are to worship with the flock, study with the flock, share with the flock, and be vulnerable with the flock.  They should know our joys, fears, strengths, and weaknesses.  They are not simply your followers; they ought be our friends.  We look to Jesus as the example here:

John 15:12-15 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends.

Jesus was not a distant spiritual guru who sat atop of hill, mysteriously waiting for truth seekers to approach.  He was with the people, among the people, loving the people, laughing with the people, living with the people.  Yes, there were thousands, but he centered his time and affection on just a few friends. At times these 12 disciples were the greatest encouragement to Jesus and at times they were the greatest discouragement to Jesus.  They were there in the good times and the bad times.  They were his friends.

It would be a lie to say that I feel equally close to every person in our church. With a thousand members it’s become nearly impossible to know every name, let alone become everyone’s personal confidant.  However, there are men in my church that are simply friends.  Some I grew up with in Las Vegas and are gracious enough to let their childhood friend also be their pastor.  Others I met solely as their pastor but have those with whom I can go to the rage, hike a mountain, play clash of clans, grab a coffee, or run a Tough Mudder.  These friends are fun to be with, yes, but they are also willing listen to my hopes, fears, concerns, and dreams.  They care about me as an individual.  They pray for me as a friend.

True friends understand a pastor’s limited schedule.  They don’t feel slighted when he walks right by them on Sunday in order to greet a visiting family.  They know that he’s unable to be at every function that he’d like to attend.  They are patient with their pastor because they see him as a friend.

Friends with other Pastors

Let’s be honest.  There are certain things that only another pastor will be able to understand.  They know!  They know what it’s like to prep all week for a sermon that bombs.  They know that it’s like to an angry member accuse you of being an uncaring shepherd.  They know the disappointment of another low attendance.  They know the fear of another low offering.  They know the pressure of denominational control.  They know the feelings of insufficiency, inadequacy, and ministerial failure.  They too sense the dark presence of the Accuser who seemingly never sleeps, never tires, never yields, never abates.  They know!  HA…  They know what it’s like to pour their heart out in a sermon only to be greeted with either yawns, grammar corrections, or “pastor, you should’ve said…”.  Oh Yes! Other Pastors.  They know!

There are few things more satisfying than venting your frustrations to someone who experientially understands the life you lead.

Additionally, pastors love to talk shop.  To me, the greatest moment at any pastor’s conference takes place at Denny’s after the final session of the day.  It’s 10:00pm.  Coffee is being poured.  Stories are being told.  Pastors are being encouraged.  In these moments we complain about our struggles, we celebrate our victories, we open up about our fears, we test our ideas, we make fun of each other, we put forward our dreams.  In these moments my methodology has been challenged, my philosophies have been opposed, and my theology has been argued.  In these moments I have shared secrets, confessed sins, laughed until I hurt, and shed tears of joy and sorrow.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

I believe that one of the greatest things you could possibly do for your pastor is to send them to a pastor’s conference.  There are MANY to choose from.  The Pastor’s Refresher School, The Spiritual Leadership Conference, The Purpose Driven Conference, The Jacksonville Pastors’ Conference, Standing Together Conference, The Gospel Coalition, In the Gospel Conference, The Enrichment Retreat, and Catalyst are some of the amazing events I’ve been (or soon will be) privileged to attend over the last 15 years of pastoring.  Every one of these events have been amazing though each one had a different focus and unique structure.  But most importantly they all had the one ESSENTIAL thing in common. They allow pastors to get-away and spend time with other pastors.

I’m not exaggerating when I say, connecting with other ministry leaders at these events have kept me in the ministry.  And here’s the secret… this encouragement had less to do with the content of the conference than it did with the connection to other pastors.

We host Idea Day.[2]  Idea Day is a day to share ideas for all ministry leaders.  It’s unique structure focuses on collaborative round-tables for the purpose of sharing practical ministry ideas.  Each session is like a communal brainstorming session.  It’s fantastic and I’ve loved each and every one we’ve hosted.  But honestly, the most important thing that takes place at Idea Day for me, is that Heather and I get to see our ministry friends.

Seriously, if you’re in ministry and you don’t have a place where you can go and find this kind of fellowship and friendship – you should come to Idea Day this year.  Idea Day is a place where you can just be you.  No one is going to focus on your clothing choices, music styles, methodology, alma mater, church attendance, or favorite preacher.  The cool thing about Idea Day is that there are no Big Shots here.[3]  We are just a bunch of independent guys who want some fellowship and a few fresh ideas.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Your Wife Needs other Ministerial Wives

I’ve spent many hours discussing with Heather the inherent difficulties with Pastor’s Conferences for women.  First, there is often little content provided for the pastor’s wife.  So much attention is given to the man that the woman feels like an after-thought.  Second, there is often a sense of judgement from other ministries; especially in regards to outward appearance (what should I wear?), ministry involvement (what is my role?), and ministry size (how big is your ministry?).  Third, there seems to be very few practical applications made to the ministerial life of ministerial wives.  This is why it’s not difficult to convince a man to come to a pastor’s conference, but they will often come alone.

But our ladies are becoming increasingly discouraged in the ministry.  Many feel alone in their calling and seem to draw further way from the passion that has embraced their husbands.  This is why Heather and Kylie are making a very strong effort to transform Idea Day into an event that is equally attractive to men and women in ministry.  Yes, we are excited about the things we plan on revealing over the next few months for the women at Idea Day Summit, but we are similarly excited about the fact that so many ladies will be here with plenty of time for fellowship and friendship.

You’ve Got To Make Some Friends

If it’s not Idea Day, it’s got to be something.  If you, or your wife, feel uncomfortable going to denominationally sanctioned conferences, you’ve got to find ministry friendship somewhere.  It is simply unhealthy for you to be isolated and without friends. So, how can you make these friends?

Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Of course, Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother!  But Jesus seemed equally concerned that the disciples were connected to each other as He was that the disciples were connected to Him. He wanted them to love one another in the same way that He loved them.

Here is the question.

Have you done everything you can do to establish and build these ministerial friendships? Have you gone out of your way to be friendly?  Could it be that God is encouraging you call 20 pastors in your community and start a monthly coffee meet-up?  Could it be that God is leading you to invite a few community pastors over to your home for fellowship and dinner?  Could it be that God is wanting you and your wife to register for a pastors’ fellowship or conference?  Is it possible God is leading you to send your pastor or pastoral team to a ministerial gathering in the coming year?  If so – follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I leave you with the words of Solomon.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

What are your thoughts?  Where am I going wrong?  Where do you agree?  What have I missed?  Please comment in the thread below and I will attempt to answer each.

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[3]This is the 1styear we’ve invited a well-known keynote speaker to our event.  Thom Rainer will bring his sermon on Monday Night prior to our Tuesday Night Idea Day.

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  • Reply
    Daniel Hester, Jr.
    October 9, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    This is such an important but often overlooked topic for pastors and their wives. I loved Idea Day for the ideas, but I REALLY loved Idea Day for the fellowship. As someone who pastored a smaller, rural church for the last 14 years, getting the opportunity to talk with other men in ministry was the biggest draw for me.

  • Reply
    Scott Cook
    October 11, 2018 at 3:54 am

    I’ve only been in ministry for 5 years, but I already see the vital role of ministry friends. I believe it strengthens our hearts to see others striving to fulfill God’s calling in our lives. Love this article!

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