Protecting your heart

Another year brings with it the history of story after story of pastors who are removed from their churches due to sinful choices. As a leadership coach and pastor to pastors, it breaks my heart and causes me to lose sleep every time. What happened? Nothing strange. Life. Pressure. Pride. Lust. That’s what happened.

At the end of the day, the ministry model so common in our day just tends to lend itself for this to happen. One thing is sure…this is us, except by the grace of God. This is us, if we’re not careful. This is some of us if we keep going the way we’re going. If we do not actively strive to protect our integrity and live a life that is above reproach, we will naturally suffer the same fate. Sure, our sin may look different than other guys, but we will squander the ministry to which we have been entrusted nonetheless.

To finish well, we will need to fight against the gravitational pull and beat our bodies into submission. This is our call: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” 1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV).

The #1 mistake I see pastors make? ISOLATION. We don’t mean to. We just get busy. Overcommitted. Overextended. Exhausted. Even numb. After a long week of ministry, many of us just want to go home and binge on Netflix or self-medicate in some other way.

What’s missing in the lives of many megachurch pastors I know? Genuine friendship. Camaraderie. Koinonia. Intimacy. Relationships who are for us and with us, not just behind us or under us. Jesus is our greatest example. Why did He pick the twelve apostles?

“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him (bold mine) and he might send them out to preach…” Mark 3:14 (ESV).

Even Jesus knew He needed people with Him and for Him. What do pastors really need? If there was one value I would list above all others it’s this: FRIENDS. Not acquaintances. Friends. Great friends. Friends we respect and admire. Friends who understand us. Friends who are dealing with what we’re dealing with and understand the pressure. Friends who have walked where we will walk and have the scars to prove it. Friends who will challenge us and hold us accountable. There is great pressure in the pastorate; but it doesn’t have to break us!

“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” Ecclesiastes 4:12b (NIV).

Pastors, let us not break. Let us not give up. Let us finish well. Let us finish together. Let us stick together. Let us do life together. Let us run the race in such a way that we don’t disqualify ourselves. Let us pray for revival together. Let us see God pour out His Spirit in our lives and in our churches.

I am all for the Great Commission; just not at the expense of the Great Commandment. Pastors, let us not just love God. Let us love each other. Let us stop criticizing, critiquing and isolating ourselves from each other…and love each other! Get connected. Get some friends. Get a coach. Get some mentors. Get help! Success is found in many counselors! If I can help, let me know.

This is not an optional add-on to pastoral ministry, it is vital. Without it, we will abandon our first love, neglect intimacy with Christ and be yet another in a long list of those who have done the same. But, with intentionality on our parts, we can run the race God has marked out for us, and do it with passion and joy in 2017.

Published January 19, 2017