No follower of Jesus would deny the importance of relationships within the church body. First Corinthians 12 and other similar scripture passages are quite clear on why we all need each other. And no happily married man or woman would argue against maintaining a healthy relationship with their spouse, or with their children if they are parents. But far more often than we’d care to admit, the prioritization of our relationships stops there—we focus on our family, and then as long as we’re involved in some type of church body in general, then we’re good.
No, not good. Not good at all.
Besides family, besides co-servants in the church, besides small group friends to live a bit more intimately with, there are three specific types of relationships involving discipleship that every believer should have. And for the pastor and other church leader who is constantly being drained by the demands and responsibilities of the job, these relationships are perhaps even more important to be purposeful about.
- You need to have a ministry mentor. No matter what the complaint was that came waltzing into your office Monday morning, there is a pastor who has gone through something similar. Whatever the latest challenge is concerning your church’s growth, or lack thereof, there is a pastor who has drudged through that as well. And whatever personal problems the ministry is helping attribute to your family life or your health, you have another pastor nearby who lives somewhere between you and a quiet coffee shop that would be a great place to learn in.
Find a local pastor or retired pastor who has “been there, done that,” and get to know him. And don’t just skirt around the issue; intentionally ask him if he would mentor you, both in the ministry and in your personal life. Hopefully, he will be quick to agree, because either he had a ministry mentor of his own once upon a time or he didn’t and he wish he had.
You have everyone and their mother coming to you for counsel. Who do you go to?
- You need to mentor someone of your own. Say what? Didn’t you just say that I already have so many people coming to me for help that I needed to find someone to go to myself? Yes, indeed I did. But counseling members of your church body or your family is not the same as intentionally mentoring a young pastor or student looking to become a pastor. Where would Timothy have been without Paul in his life? Where would Elisha have been without Elijah to learn from? Though it could not have always been convenient, Paul and Elijah purposefully took their mentees under their wings and trained them up in the work of God.
It’s very likely that the one God asks you to mentor will fall under the “millennial” classification. Don’t let the stereotypes or jokes about the generation intimidate you. But also don’t decide that you can “fix” their mind-set and turn them into a little you. God placed you as a minister during your time and your culture, and he has done the same with the younger generation. They don’t need to be “fixed”; they simply need you to invest in their lives and help them in the early stages of their ministry in the areas that they can’t even see coming.
- You need a brother-in-arms to fight through life with. You probably call your wife your best friend. Maybe your dad or your son is your go-to buddy when there is a game or a new movie out. But do you have a friend, maybe in your church or from another, who you regularly get dirty with, share struggles with, pray with, and encourage each other in all different areas of life—personal, marriage, financial, ministry-related? And are they local? Facebook and texting is nice for surface-level relationships, but digital hugs don’t bring men to tears or force them to look each other in the eyes.
Brothers-in-arms aren’t even all about sharing the highs and lows of life with. After all, life is filled with plenty of plateaus—don’t we need friends for those too? Of course we do. You need a brother to study scripture with, to bounce questions and ideas off of, to hold you accountable in specific areas of your life.
It is absolutely wonderful if you can honestly say that your wife is your best friend. But you still need a best brother-in-arms to live life with too. Do it for the sake of your best friend, your wife. Having a friendship like that will disciple you and mature you in a way she can only pray about.
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, which can both be found here at Amazon. You can also read about his family’s ongoing journey of adoption through foster care at www.OrphanToOrphan.com. Find him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.