I write this post not to create heartache for pastors, but for just the opposite reason: to help pastors and laity work harder at growing and preserving friendships that facilitate faithfulness and ministry.
If we understand better why friendships falter, perhaps we can avoid the faltering.
- Some pastors have had professors, mentors and other pastors encourage them not to develop such friendships in the first place. "You'll just get hurt if you get too close to church members," they've heard. Frankly, I think that's a sad—and unnecessary—approach to take.
- Some laypersons set unattainable expectations for their pastors. If the pastor can't possibly live up to what the laity expects, he'll always let them down—and friendships diminish in the fallout.
- Some leaders quickly lose trust in one another because of bad experiences in the past. It usually takes only one bad relationship between a pastor and a lay leader for both of them to be skeptical about any future relationships. That skepticism leads to a weak commitment to friendships.
- Pastors often move a lot. I trust that those moves are always under God's direction, but even if so, frequent ministry moves hardly facilitate long-term friendships. Absence does not necessarily make the heart grow fonder when moves are the norm.
- Some church members mistreat a pastor's family. Sometimes, they expect more out of the pastor's family than they expect out of their own. In other cases, they openly criticize the pastor within hearing distance of the pastor's family. From a pastor's perspective, it's tough to remain friends with people who hurt our loved ones.
- Some pastors don't know how to be a friend. They know how to speak into someone's life from a pulpit, but they're not so good at just spending time with brothers and sisters in Christ. What starts out as a friendship quickly settles into only a pastor-to-parishioner responsibility.
- It's tough (and risky) to be vulnerable as a pastor. And, when you do choose to be vulnerable, it's often harder to view yourself as the spiritual leader anymore. Embarrassment and regret get in the way of friendship.
- Pastors must at times lead the way with church discipline. Nobody wants to tackle this painful task, but it's sometimes necessary. The goal must be to bring the fallen believer to repentance and restoration, but that seldom happens without some immediate strain on friendships.
- Many pastors get so busy—in an unhealthy way—that they sacrifice time for friendships. That's one of the reasons the friendly pastor of a smaller church seems to be less friendly as the church grows. In too many cases, that perception is accurate.
- Sin disrupts friendships. Sinning laypersons pull away from pastors, and pastors living in sin pull away from the laity they're called to lead. Dangerous isolation is the result in both cases.
Pastors and laity, I challenge all of us to learn to be godly, intentional friends who provoke one another to good works (Heb. 10:24). The risks may be real, but the benefits trump them.
If you want ideas for developing friendships, take a look at Brian Autry's post, "10 Suggestions for Making Friends as a Pastor."
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Help Charisma stay strong for years to come as we report on life in the Spirit. Become an integral part of Charisma’s work by joining Charisma Media Partners. Click here to keep us strong!
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.
The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.