You’ve got a Friend

24 Jun

I must admit , growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s was pretty awesome. The simplicity of life ( no internet , no cell phones or facebook ) was embraced and enjoyed by most-if not all. And the music we listened too is now considered  “classic” and is still loved today. Songs like You’ve got a Friend ( by James Taylor ) permeated the air waves through our transistor radios….and we loved every minute of those sweet melodic sounds.

As I work with pastors and church planters today, I see a sad trend that needs to be addressed. Most of the pastors I’ve come to know have very few friends or none at all. Some believe they actually have more enemies than friends! Why is this the case?

I believe there are a few good reasons. First off , if you haven’t heard this phrase , make a note of it: sheep bite! Pastors who’ve been in ministry more than a week know this full well. Christian people…yes church people may be saved , but not all are sanctified. Simply put– people can say vicious things to thier pastor without thinking twice about thier words. We must remember that pastors are people too and have real feelings like anybody else. If words can wound people as the word of God says , we need to protect our pastors from the onslaught of unchecked words spoken by reckless people. It makes no difference if they are elders , deacons or casual attenders. Words both wound and heal. Let’s choose to speak words that ” build up the body of Christ ” and honor those in authority over us.

Secondly , pastors lack friendships because they have little time to build them. If the average pastor works 65 hours a week ( according to the latest research by Fuller Theological Seminary ) then pastors has little time to invest in building quality friendships within the church or outside the fellowship. Most pastors spend the precious little time they have with thier families , because they know the next church event has already filled out next weekends calendar.

Thirdly , many pastors lack friendships because they no longer trust the people they’ve shared thier personal struggles with. Here’s how it usually goes : Pastor John meets with elder Bill once a week for someone to be ” accountable to”. Over breakfast , pastor Bill shares a personal struggle with elder Bill , for him to agree with in prayer about. Elder Bill then passes off the information to his wife for prayer and somehow , the pastors  personal struggle gets  leaked out to the congregation. Happens all the time.

What’s the old saying? Burn me once , shame on you. Burn me twice , shame on me. Most pastors eventually close the personal doors of thier heart off…even to thier closest church members because they no longer trust that personal information will stay personal!

So , here are a few thoughts to bring health and good practices to our congregations on behalf of thier pastor and church :

1) If you are a leader , make it your aim to protect your pastor from those with hot tempers and short fuses. The word of God instructs us to ” give honor where honor is due ” and ” give double honor to those who preach and teach the word of God”. This can mean stepping into volatile situations. Wise leaders can step into a dispute , speak a gentle word to a congregant , and put out a verbal fire before it gets out of control. Your pastor will not only appreciate it , he will take notice and thank you for it.

2) Make sure your pastor has time for his family and for building relationships within and outside the walls of the church. This will pay HUGE dividends both now and for days to come. Time off can be just as valuable as money ,especially when the pastor is under stress with people , budgets , counseling and leadership training.

3) If you are personal friends with your pastor ( especially accountability partners ) make sure that whatever is shared stays confidential. Keep your lips sealed. If correction is ever needed , do it one on one and face to face. This pleases God and follows the scripture’s guidance to the letter.

God does not want our pastors to be without a friend! Even King David , with all his mighty men, had one special friend named Hushai the Arkite. 1 Chronicles 27:33 says it best: ” Hushai was the king’s friend “.

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