The Lilly Endowment invested $84 million over 10 years to study and support the practices that allow Christian pastors in America to sustain excellence over the years. They funded 63 projects across 25 different denominations and traditions. Each organization made a similar discovery: relationships with peers are the key factor to pastoral longevity.
I’ve worked with and provided pastoral care for pastors in various forms for the last seven years. For the last five I’ve helped nearly one hundred pastors develop the characteristics they need to stay happy and healthy in ministry. My results aren’t as scientific as the Lilly study, but I concur: Pastors need real, intimate, vulnerable friendships, if they are going to last in ministry.
Yet pastoral isolation is common. Sometimes it’s self-isolation, either out of a fear of being known or a fear of being hurt again by those he considers friends. More often, though, it’s a public isolation, caring for and befriending many, with very few friends to care for him. A pastor can seem like he’s known by many — he reveals a bit of himself each week to hundreds or thousands — while he’s really known by few. Revelations of himself during sermons are often like revelations over social media: Controlled vulnerability that keeps people at a distance either through over- or under-sharing.
It’s tough to blame them. Pastoral work can be dehumanizing. People know and appreciate you for the work you do — the sermons you preach, the care you give, the prayers you pray, the visionary leadership you provide — more than who you really are. Since you perform publicly every week, appreciation can be a fickle thing. Good counselors guard against dual relationships, knowing it’s nearly impossible and often unethical to have a personal friendship with a professional client. Pastors experience some of that reality as well.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that loneliness and isolation impact our spiritual health as well: “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:1). We weren’t meant to live in isolation; we — pastors included — need daily, meaningful affirmation from others if we are to be successful in fighting sin.
In Psalm 25:16, David asks God to be near him, for he is “lonely and afflicted.” David models the right response to feeling lonely: a longing for intimate relationships. That longing is not a sign of selfishness or weakness. It’s simply an acknowledgement that you are human. God never intended for any of us to live in isolation. God doesn’t live in isolation; there is perfect communion within the Trinity. Created in his image, we are made for relationships, with him and with others. That’s true of all of us, including pastors.
Made for Relationship
We — pastors included — were made for relationships, with God and with others.
Like anyone else, a pastor’s relationship with God must be primary. If a pastor doesn’t have a relationship with God that is continually growing in intimacy, he will demand more from his relationships with others than they are capable of giving him. Therefore, a pastor must constantly work to deepen the intimacy in his relationship with God.
The Bible, prayer, and the sacraments are the means God gave his people to grow closer to him (Acts 2:42). They are not only tools a pastor uses to do the work of ministry; they are also the God-given means to deepen the intimacy in his relationship with God.
But God didn’t create us to live only in relationship with him. He created us to also live in community with others. That larger community is found in the local church, which the pastor leads. And this leadership can often seem isolating; it’s really tough to be both a friend and a leader. This leaves the pastor with a relational need — a relational need that is too great for a wife to carry by herself.
A pastor needs his wife as his friend, but not his only friend. She often feels isolated and alone, carrying ministry secrets and her husband’s secret doubts and struggles, ones that are not disqualifying sins, but also are not things that should be shared indiscriminately.
A pastor also needs more than ministry partners or co-workers. They are helpful. They can provide companionship. But you can have a lot of co-workers and still be lonely. Friends don’t just partner on projects; they partner in life.
Friendship Takes Intentionality
I’ve found the people best suited to be a pastor’s friend are fellow pastors, most often those in a different church. It’s easy for pastors to look at other pastors and borrow the phrase C.S. Lewis says is at the start of every friendship: “You too?” Pastors are usually willing to take the next step of vulnerability with another pastor and continue, quoting Lewis, “I thought I was the only one.”
For a friendship to grow from there, it requires intentional effort.
To put in that effort, you must view friendship not as a luxury, but a necessity. When David writes, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1), he is both celebrating the gift of friendship and encouraging us to think back to Eden when everything — including friendship — was good, just as God designed it to be. The Psalm ends with “life forevermore,” encouraging us to think forward to eternity when everything will forever be as it should be (Psalm 133:3). Friendship isn’t a luxury; it’s a blessing God gives us now because he loves us. God is, as Lewis wrote, the one working behind the scenes to make our friendships happen and help them last.
Not only are friendships good for our health and longevity in ministry; they also are essential to our perseverance (Hebrews 3:12–13). It is wise to have friends (Proverbs 17:17; 27:9–10, 17). It is right to need friends. Paul, in the midst of an incredibly hard time, found real comfort when Titus arrived (2 Corinthians 7:6–7). At the end of his life, Paul lamented his loneliness and asked Timothy to come visit him before he died (2 Timothy 4:9–16). The greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, experienced the gift of friendship with John. John was more than just a partner in ministry; he was the friend Jesus loved (John 13:23).
The intentional effort required for friendship can be described as making room in your life for others. It means you will make room in your schedule, budget, ministry goals, and family life for friendship. Friendship can’t be squeezed into an already tight schedule; it requires intentionality and it requires sacrifice.
Pastor, friendship will cost you time, money, and the opportunity for more ministry achievement. And it will require vulnerability, which means you probably will get hurt. Vulnerability can come as you admit your need for friendship: take a risk to give and receive the gift of friendship. It will be worth it. Blessing — for yourself, your family, and your people — is bound up in your friendships.
Well, the Bible says in the last days the world will be overrun by people who will be lovers of self. Perhaps it’s not a stretch to say that in the end, people will be lovers of selfies and selfie-sticks? But really, when do our social media project a corrupt self-love at work inside of us? That’s today’s question. “Hello, Pastor John, my name is Ed, a 22-year-old Filipino. I read in the Bible, ‘But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty, for people will be lovers of self’ (2 Timothy 3:1–2). Based on this passage, do you believe vlogs, selfies, and self-focused social media are a cultural sign of this self-love emerging in our culture? What warning would you sound to Christian smartphone users tempted in this self-promotive way?”
Yes and No
Let me answer with a double yes and no — two yeses and nos.
“God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with.”
First, yes. Vlogs, selfies, and self-focused social media are often (not always) an expression of the self-exaltation, self-preoccupation, and self-fascination of these last days. But no, these new technologies are not the emerging of such final experiences of sin. They’ve always been there. The new technologies are giving new ways to express old sins.
That’s my first yes and no: Yes, these are the manifestations of the end-times self-love, and no, they’re not just now emerging.
Here’s the second yes and no. Yes, these are the last days, and we should be looking keenly and expectantly and hopefully and joyfully for the coming of our precious, longed-for, all-satisfying Lord Jesus. But no, these are not yet the very last days. But they are very much like the last days that began two thousand years ago in the first century.
Beginning of the End
Now, let me try to explain. When Jesus came into the world as the long-expected Messiah, he declared the arrival of the kingdom of God, which the Old Testament anticipated as part of the last days.
“The judge is standing at the door. Be ready. Be alert. You’re going to be called to account.”
When Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and tried to explain the extraordinary events of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he said, “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’” (Acts 2:16–17). In other words, these events that you’re looking at right now (AD 33) are the fulfillment of promises made for the last days.
The last days were there in the first century right after Jesus had come. Take Hebrews 1:1–2, for example: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
The coming of Jesus is the beginning of the last days. First Peter 1:20 reads, “He [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.”
Two Thousand Years of Selfies
Ever since the time of Jesus, 2,000 years ago, we have been living in the last days, looking expectantly to Jesus, who stands at the door. We know this is the way that Paul was thinking even in the very text that Ed quoted about self-love.
Paul says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). Then he says to Timothy, “Avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:5). Whoa — I guess they’re here. They’re not just coming 2,000 years later.
In other words, Paul is talking about Timothy’s own situation. This kind of person comes in the last days. Now, Timothy is to avoid them because these are the last days, and the people are there.
You shouldn’t be surprised or swayed by them. Well, besides saying that the judge is at the door, we should be always alert and ready to give an account to the Lord Jesus when he comes. Ed asked me what I would say to people on vlogs. That’s what I want to say. The judge is standing at the door. Be ready. Be alert. You’re going to be called to account. That’s the first thing I’d say.
Longing for Happiness
Then here’s the last thing I’d say. God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with. He gave us a self, not to be the object of our joy, but the subject of joy. That is, not to be the focus of happiness in front of the mirror or the selfie, but the furnace of happiness in front of Jesus.
“Our desires are meant to lead us to God, in whose presence is fullness of joy.”
He gave us a self not as an instrument of self-worth, but as an instrument of worship. The self is and is meant to be a desire factory. The point of all those desires is that there is a joy outside ourselves that they point to.
Our self is an endless manufacture of desires for something beyond the self. This factory of desires is not the dream. This factory has a dream. It isn’t the dream. It is producing all these desires because, out there somewhere, there’s a dream.
They’re all meant to lead us outside ourselves — indeed, outside the world, because nothing in this world finally satisfies. The desires of the human self are meant to lead us to God, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
That’s what I’d say to the self-absorbed user of social media. The self was never meant to satisfy us. The self was never meant to find satisfaction in the perception or promotion of self. The self was made for God.
Nigerian Artiste Victoria Oluwasesan stage named Sis Victoria Oluwasesan has released a new song titled Yahweh from her upcoming album which is set to be released March 2018.
Yahweh is an expression of her love to God in worship for all He has done. This song is a song of thanksgiving to God, with a blend of afro pop tune.
Victoria Oluwasesan is a song writer and worship leader at The Redeemed Christian church of God, married with children.
The Lifepointe MAN, Folabi Nuel releases the studio version of his latest single, My Heart. This song speaks about the Love of Christ.
Folabi Nuel is a singer, song writer, worship leader, recording artist. His debut single “God of Heaven” peaked at #1 on the Rhythm 93.7 FM‘s “Holy Holla Top 5” Gospel Chart for several weeks. His debut album “Good God” which featured some of Nigeria’s finest such as Florocka and Wole Oni also topped the charts with “Good God” feat. Florocka currently peaking at No.1.
He currently serves as at The Lifepointe Church (The young adult expression of The Elevation Church). His sophomore project Good God (Deluxe Edition) is due to be released in the coming months and he features some of Nigeria’s finest. Folabi has the divine mandate to bring people into the consciousness of who God is and His love.
It’s a brand new Year and with it comes this powerful song Sweet Spirit Of God. From the unmistakable soothing voice of Frank Edwards featuring multi-award winning International Gospel singer/songwriter Nicole C. Mullen (I Know My Redeemer Lives/When I Call On Jesus) and talented Songstress Chee.
The track is written, produced and arranged by Frank Edwards and is a perfect song for the season. Listen, sing / pray along, share and be blessed
Congratulations we made it to the New Year 2018, where God is set to uplift and deliver the captives in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Triumphantradio is set to bring to you this new year more programs that will transform and bless lives, more ease in service delivery for all our customers around the world. As we all know music is the food of the soul, we believe to improve our service delivery system, bringing you new songs from around the world.
This New Year Shall be our year of pleasant surprises in Jesus Name. Amen
Hello everyone, we are almost in a new year and I hope you are as excited as I am to be in ‘that time of the year’. That time of the year when everyone has a reason to smile, love and be loved. That time of the year people make promises to be better versions of themselves in the next year. That time of the year when people plan on how to succeed in their diverse fields in the coming year. But we should not forget nothing can be achieved in the absence of harmony.
When Haman conspired against the Jews, Esther proposed in her heart to go into the inner court of the king to plead against Haman’s plot. That was a really brave move but she did not obtain favor in the sight of the King just because she was courageous. She instructed Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan to neither drink nor eat for three days (Esther 4:1-17). They unitedly prayed for her and this brought about their safety.
Genesis 11:1-9 speaks about the people of Babylon. They agreed to build a mega city where everyone would dwell under one leadership and a tower that would ascend into heaven. Their action displeased the Lord because He wanted the people to dominate every part of the earth and this compelled Him to scatter their language. Since they could not understand each other, they could not agree and without unity, they could not work together (Amos 3:3).
Hebrews 12:14 tells us to follow peace with all men but this cannot happen without the establishment of unity.
As a microbiologist, I am aware of the great harm or benefit microorganisms can achieve in colonies. Some microbes often go into mutualistic relationships to thrive in environments they could not naturally. If the tiniest things can understand the essence of cohabitation, how much more we with highly developed brains.
2018 will definitely be a greater year than 2017 but don’t forget you can only attain little on your own (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Happy new year in advance.