For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. (2 Corinthians 7:5)
But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you . . . (2 Corinthians 7:6-7)
The Pain of Friendship in Ministry
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Recovering Our Hope
The soul-companionship of a fellow minister is God’s means for providing down-deep comfort within the pains of ministry.
When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,And hear how these two Pilgrims talk together,Yea, let them learn of them in any wiseThus to keep ope’ their drowsy slumbering eyes;Saints fellowship if it be managed well,Keeps them away, and that in spite of Hell.
- If we have embraced the unbiblical ideas of “individualism” and “competition” in ministry–the twin ideas that we need no one and that against all others we will be the best pastor and have the best church in town, we are in desperate trouble already; no matter how many followers we have on social media or in our local communities. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This friend, Jesus, is the one you need.
- If we are afraid and wounded choosing self-protection as a strategy for getting through ministry; we become like a fortress surrounded by a mote with a drawbridge. We only open it if a would-be-friend can answer three mysterious riddles correctly. We have the trolls out, ready to eat them, should they stumble in just one part. This isn’t love. It is something else. Successful ministry based on this “something else” will eventually rot the roots of our lives. Risking friendship might hurt us, but so does resisting friendship. Neither strategy can save us. Only Jesus can.
- If we are too important; we think we are not like other men and women, remember that pride comes before a fall. The grace that goes deep is our hope.
- We are in need of a different kind of training. To learn the ordinary skills of human conversation, carving out time, wisely listening, sharing the matter of our souls with a trusted friend.
- We begin to pray now in this way. “Lord will you provide me a friend in ministry? Will you teach me how to offer such friendship to another?”
- We begin to look for a mentoring community, a spiritual director, or a fellow pastor, who doesn’t necessary look like us or belong to the same denomination. Remember, Titus was Gentile. Paul was Jew. What gave common ground for companionship was Jesus.
The Great Commission Relies upon a Small Fellowship
Perhaps this is why the Great Commission relies upon and is preceded by call from Jesus to a small fellowship. There were twelve. Now there are only eleven. There is pain in this story. But Jesus calls the eleven together. They worship together. They doubt together. They are sent together. Without this prior fellowship with Jesus and with each other, the Great Commission that Jesus speaks to them, isn’t feasible. We need help to remember that Matthew 28:18-20 is preceded by Matthew 28:16-17.
The minister, Leighton Ford was right. “Leaders in ministry need safe people, safe times and safe places in order to bear fruit over the long haul.” This kind of fellowship in Jesus is one of God’s primary means of providing the deep-inner-rest that you are longing for.
(This blog post was written for “Am I Called”–which offers encouragement to leaders in ministry)