by Jamie McClanahan, Pastor, Wayne Hills Baptist Church, Waynesboro, VA
There is a unique power that comes from pastors helping pastors. I have benefited immensely from friendships with other pastors in my 22 years of ministry. The Apostle Paul gave instructions to the believers in Colossae (Colossians 3:13) and Ephesus (Ephesians 4:2) to “bear with one another in love.” Additionally, Paul instructs the believers in Galatia (Galatians 6:2) to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The notion of burden-bearing applied in pastor-to-pastor relationships is vital to their resilience.
I want to share four ways pastors can help other pastors:
First, be available and intentional with your time. It is hard to minister to other pastors without a margin for it in your calendar. Set aside an appointment with a pastor every other week. Consider times when pastors may feel overwhelmed or drained, such as beginning a week, after a funeral, following a family crisis, or following significant events. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Second, ask questions and listen actively and empathetically. Pastors often listen when counseling others, but how often do they have someone who asks them questions and listens? Active listening means fully engaging verbally and non-verbally with the pastor before you. Empathy is not about solving a problem or giving sage-like advice; it is hearing a brother out fully and praying with him. Take the approach of Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings, who said of his friend Frodo’s great burden, “I cannot carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
Third, prayerfully consider whom you will contact and let the Holy Spirit direct your attention. Never assume a pastor is okay or healthy because of his church size (small or large), its location, or visible growth factors. All pastors grow weary from time to time, and they equally need Jesus and to be around other pastors who recognize their need for Jesus. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ statement on friendship and burden in his essay, “The Four Loves.” He wrote, “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).”
Fourth, examine the possibility of starting a pastor gathering at your church or attending a pastor gathering for fellowship, testimonies, and prayer (SBCV has these kinds of pastor network meetings are all around the state—probably one near you). Avoid a focus on numbers, nickels, and noses. Consider guarding the meetings against becoming event-oriented or politically focused. The relationships born at these meetings can be lifelong. And these meetings are beneficial to pastors, their churches, and to the Kingdom of God. ■