Pastors need pastors. We benefit from people outside our local churches and towns. They can provide safe places for us to share the condition of our hearts and souls. They may give advice on dysfunctional relationships or be sounding boards during conflict. Friends in ministry will share wise counsel on a variety of issues (without having to fear that concerns will leak back to our local communities).
But finding other pastors who’ll provide this kind of friend support can require intentional and sacrificial work.
What if you’re part of an independent church with no denominational or network affiliation? What if you’re in an area so remote that finding like-minded pastors requires traveling many miles?
Whatever your situation, make finding trustworthy ministry friends an absolute priority. Avail yourself of technology, networks, and church-planting groups to make these connections. I’m confident the Lord will go before you as you seek people to pastor your soul. I’m confident because he did the same for me.
From California Sun to Long Ohio Winters
When we first moved from the large, crowded, suburban culture of Southern California to the small, quiet town of Ashland, Ohio, it was like relocating to an alien world. We finally experienced all four seasons and had to purchase these things called winter clothes. Though there were plenty of churches in our county, I knew it was going to be challenging to find like-minded brothers for a lot of reasons.
Finding other pastors who’ll provide friend support can require intentional and sacrificial work.
For one, I was a stranger in a strange town. The preexisting relationships that surrounded me were largely generational and had been built over decades. To break in as an outsider, and a Californian, no less, proved more difficult than I could’ve imagined. And all this came packaged with a severe case of culture shock (something I’d foolishly dismissed as not real before we moved).
I remember the quiet horror I felt sitting alone in a coffee shop one rainy afternoon. I was convinced I’d made the worst decision of my life, and I was contemplating the “right time” to share this glorious discovery with my wife.
Thirteen years later, I’m still living and pastoring in this town. What changed? What helped me persevere?
From Isolation to Ministry with Close Friends
Early on, I received an invitation to attend a meeting of pastors who were part of a regional chapter of The Gospel Coalition. These men gathered once a month in Columbus, Ohio. I leaped at the opportunity, but it wasn’t exactly easy to participate. Columbus was over an hour away, and by the time I drove there and back, it was an all-day commitment. Yet I went, and everything changed for me.
At this gathering, I met pastors who took an interest in my life, encouraged my heart, prayed for my situation, and offered to partner with me in any way they could. These new friends gave me the encouragement I needed to continue pastoring in the small town where I was questioning my call. I owe much of the ministry I’m doing today to the influence of these men, many of whom are still some of my closest friends.
What helped me persevere? Early on, I received an invitation to attend a meeting of pastors who were part of a regional chapter of The Gospel Coalition.
Whatever your situation, seeking out connections with people who could be a light to your soul won’t be a simple or easy task. But I believe it’s one you can’t afford not to pursue. A tree takes effort to plant, intentionality to maintain, and patience to wait until the branches begin to bear the kind of fruit you dreamed they’d produce. Pastoral friendships are similar, but as Paul models, ministry is lighter when you have faithful fellow workers like Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Epaphras (Col. 1:7; Phil. 2:19–30).
Pastors, I can’t encourage you more strongly. Seek out your own fellow workers. You’ll find sustaining grace in like-minded pastor-friends.