I didn’t want to “close the meeting in prayer.” Our chairman of deacons asked me to close their fruitful 100 minute meeting last night, but I knew God had impressed on me to reverse the request. I swallowed my pride and asked them to pray for me instead. It was Sunday and I had been carrying the burden of a family need all weekend that I did not need to continue carrying alone.
So forty deacons laid their hands on me last night and prayed fervently for the need I asked them to pray for. I drove home feeling loved and with a sense of peace that I had not had in several days.
Why don’t more pastors receive this kind of support from their church leaders and other members? We don’t ask. I can think of at least five reasons we keep our members at arm’s length.
We fear putting our reputations at risk.
This blog is a safe place for pastors to talk shop, so let’s start with the most painfully obvious and awkward reason—our insecurity. I talk to pastors almost every day who are carrying burdens alone because they are afraid to share them with their members. Most are not so much afraid of getting fired as they are being pitied. Men thrive on respect, and so we hold on to it too long sometimes.
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
We confuse friendship with favoritism.
So many pastors serve in isolation because they have made this mistake. Can pastors and wives have friendships in the church they serve? Only if they believe they are members of that faith family and not merely employees.
If you confuse friendship with favoritism, you will fall prey to Satan’s dangerous isolation trap.
We forget the reciprocal nature of grace.
Not only did I leave last night with less of a burden than I brought into that room, but those deacons left with the satisfaction that comes when you have fulfilled your calling. My pride almost robbed them of that blessing, as well as myself.
For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother. (Philemon 1:7 )
We prefer serving to being served.
This is a commendable line of reasoning, as it follows the model of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). We also understand and preach on the interdependent dynamic of the body of Christ.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”… the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21, 25-26)
We underestimate the dangers of isolation.
Popular South Carolina pastor and author Perry Noble was terminated last year, primarily for alcohol abuse. About this painful period he wrote:
“My #1 mistake—I chose isolation over community. I was a hypocrite—I preached, ‘You can’t do life alone,’ and then went out and lived the opposite. Yes, the Scriptures do say we should seek solitude from time to time. However, solitude is refreshing, isolation is destructive. Isolation is where self-pity dominated my thinking, thus justifying my abuse of alcohol.” (10/16 Church Leaders)
The name of the last book he wrote two years before his ministry meltdown was entitled, Overwhelmed.
Whenever you face the inevitable challenges of life and ministry, please remember that your sacred siblings are as called to help you as you are called to help them.