A significant part of the brotherhood I have experienced was an inherited grace. I take no credit for creating it. Since moving back to my hometown of East St. Louis to plant City of Joy Fellowship, it’s been evident to me that God went before us to provide life-giving gospel relationships. He sovereignly oversees His people being put into community to reflect the Trinity.
I have a glad burden to see brotherhood flourish all over the world in the lives of my fellow church planters. I would strongly encourage anyone who doesn’t know the grace of brotherhood to ask our Father in heaven to raise up men with whom you can be in the battle.
I experience brotherhood in concentric circles, both regionally and through the local church. The Send Network’s St. Louis team, under Noah Oldham’s leadership, along with our church plant’s leadership team, have provided great iron-sharpening-iron opportunities for me. It’s so sweet to have these circles of brotherhood. God uses them to create a kind of spiritual firewall of brothers who are all standing together, arms locked in Jesus’ name. By the power of the Spirit, we seek to protect one another from sin and the schemes of the devil — all the things that seek to spoil a man’s walk with the Lord.
Making brotherhood a priority
Like most planters, my life is full. My sweet wife, Caryn, and I have several children, so there is always primetime action going on in the Turner household. But a full life and a full house can’t be an excuse to not pursue brotherhood. Scripture is clear: Isolation can be self-destructing (Prov. 18:1). If we simply consider the abundance of “one another” commands in the Bible, we see God values us being in community.
Confession: I live by my Google calendar! If it don’t reach the calendar, it don’t happen. One of my high priorities is brotherhood, and because of that, brotherhood makes it onto my calendar. These times are sprinkled throughout the week, but take place in a focused way on Tuesdays — the whole day. Whether I am pouring into someone else, being poured into, or engaged in mutual encouragement, I make sure it happens. It’s not just a meeting for our City of Joy leadership team. We really aim to enjoy God together in all of life throughout the week, but especially on Tuesdays.
The three values of brotherhood
From the beginning, we have worked to make brotherhood a priority in our relational culture. We plan retreats as a team about three times a year: a marriage retreat, a leadership retreat, and an equipping retreat/conference. Whenever we are together, we make sure we eat, pray, and play. Those are our main values for brotherhood.
This really comes down to the power of Pappy’s ribs. Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis is life! But, for real, food is a powerful means of bonding. God made us like that. It’s not a coincidence that all the Jewish celebrations in the Bible (which point to the coming Messiah) include food. It is sacred to share a meal together. Our team loves to taste the goodness of the Lord as we enjoy a scrumptious meal together.
We also spend time worshiping the Lord together and seeking His face. Sometimes we even sing. It’s a rare thing for pastors to get together and sing, but we do. One of our priorities during this time is to linger in God’s presence, making space to hear from the Spirit like the leaders in the Book of Acts (Acts 13:1-4). We want to worship the Lord at the center of all we do. We practice being vulnerable about our weaknesses as men, fathers, and pastors, and we confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). We also discuss the challenges people in our city and congregation are facing and intercede for them in prayer (Eph. 6:18).
We enjoy playing all kinds of sports together. After all, we are whole people — spiritual, emotional, and physical. God made us to move and to laugh, and we need to connect on every level of our being so we can grow in brotherhood. I think the “play” aspect of our core values is easily overlooked, but God wants us to have a good time together! Relationships include more than just the serious moments, but laughing and competing with each other too. We’ve done escape rooms, arcades, basketball, flag football, etc. It’s such a good way to experience true brotherhood. God made us to enjoy life. He made us to have the capacity to enjoy each other. It’s part of being a whole human being.
All I can say is that God’s mercy through accountable, loving, intimate relationships with my brothers in Christ has kept me from destroying my life and leaving the ministry. I can’t overstate it. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
The Holy Spirit uses the loving exhortations from my brothers’ lips to keep me close to Him. These men help me when I fall, show me grace, and call me back to Jesus. They are great conduits of God’s grace in my life — from marriage, to parenting, to ministry. We cannot do this by ourselves.
The Send Network is a great place to start for getting connected with other church planters who are in the same area or stage of life. If you aren’t currently experiencing brotherhood, please begin to pray for it. God is faithful!