This is a guest post from Zack Eswine, Pastor of Riverside Church and Director of Homiletics at Covenant Seminary. This is the conclusion of Zack’s two-part series on Am I Called. You can read part one here. In it, Zack discuss how God comforted Paul not by absence of stress, but by presence of a fellow friend in ministry and how the soul-companionship of a fellow minister is God’s means for providing down-deep comfort within the pains of ministry.
What does this mean for us?
I don’t know fully. But I do know this much.
- 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.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Risking friendship might hurt us, but so does resisting friendship.[/pullquote]
- 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.