Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pastoral Loneliness & Friendships

According to many statistics I have read, pastoral ministry can be one of the loneliest professions. I guess I don't need to read the statistics, I have often felt it. I feel it. I have felt the sting of putting in 60 hours in a week and only dealing with problem after problem. And I have friends that feel it as well. Not too long ago, there was a survey by LifeWay research that indicated that 65% of pastors either strongly agree or somewhat agree with the statement, "Pastoral ministry makes me feel lonely at times." I can relate. And I bet if your pastor is honest, so can he.

But why? I think one main reason is that often times, pastors do not feel like they can be themselves. They feel like they have to be someone that they often times are not. They cannot share they struggle with pride or lust. They cannot share with the average person of the church that they are having marriage problems. It is not just that they worry how people will respond to them, it is that they are scared for their livelihood. They are scared that people will leave their church if they knew their thoughts or even who they really are before God.

(SIDE NOTE: If you are not a pastor and reading this, please remember that your pastor is NOT Jesus. He will sin. And he will probably sin against you at some point. You must be patient and forgiving of him. You must be patient with him. You must be willing to shepherd him from time to time as he shepherds you most of the time. Please try to avoid contributing to the loneliness of your pastor by putting him on a pedestal that no human person can achieve.)

When pastors do seek friendships, they tend to find comfort and help from other pastors. That is one of the things I have enjoyed the most about my move to Cornerstone Bible Church. I have enjoyed getting to know some of the other pastors in my community. There are several that are meeting together on a weekly basis and another group that meets monthly (I get there occasionally) to talk and pray. They are a good group of men and I hope to continue relationships with them.

But even in those relationships, it is hard to talk about deeper issues I am facing. It is hard to connect the theological questions I have with the practical implications upon my ministry. You see, we all come from different theological perspectives, which makes for some conversation killers. Or at least makes for hesitations in what is off limits and what is acceptable to talk about.

Enter Dave and Mark into my life. I am so thankful that God has placed in my life a few men I have met and begun, what I hope will become deep friendships. We have set up a schedule to meet once a month for a couple of hours to talk and pray. They are deeply committed to the gospel. They are each concerned about the Word of God. They love the church and take seriously the primacy of preaching.

They are both young enough to be going through the same things I am going through. But they have each been in the senior pastor role longer than I have, which means I get the opportunity to learn from their experiences. We are trying to meet one time a month for a couple of hours to just talk and pray. We study a book together. We are trying to encourage each other (and I think a bit, seeking encouragement from each other). I am learning to listen to them as they speak truth into my life. I just don't want to be the guy who has no friends. I don't want to become that pastor that is isolated and lonely. I want them in my life and I sense they want it as well.

Pastors, who are you seeking to speak into your life? Don't be afraid to ask.

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