Christians understand the necessity of burden-bearing relationships. We know that we are broken, sinful men and women living in a painfully fallen world. Church planters, of all people, need the hope, healing and help that these relationships can bring. Sadly, they are often isolated—spending so much time bearing others’ burdens that they have no one around to shoulder their own.
Not only that, but many of us live and serve in a context that is steeped in individualism. Daily, we consume the notion that we should mind our own business. So, when someone has a burden to bear, we might sympathize–we might even lend a hand when it’s convenient–but ultimately we think that it’s not our responsibility to get involved.
The Send Network is working to change that. Our core value of “brotherhood” emphasizes the fact that we are all in this together. We work alongside one another to make sure that no church planter is void of burden-bearing relationships. Rather than lamenting the void of relationships they may have, church planters must proactively seek out others in the hope of bearing one another’s burdens in the following situations.
When A Fellow Planter Suffers
Church planters are not immune to pain and suffering. Many of us know the shock of an unexpected death in the family, a sudden onset of illness or a financial burden that seemingly comes out of nowhere. The widespread use of social media allows us to read stories of the burdens others face, and this presents us with an incredible opportunity for action. A phone call, text message or hand-written letter can go a long way to showing your fellow pastors that you care. However, lending a listening ear may be more important. Sometimes planters simply need to vent their pain to another like-minded pastor who is in the trenches with them.
When A Fellow Planter Succeeds
Give me a break, right? Success is far from a burden. Or is it? Like suffering, success presents an array of factors that may cause a pastor to falter. The burden of the spotlight can often be oppressive. Not only that, but church growth and increased missionary influence brings with it a host of practical and often time-consuming needs— new groups need to be birthed, new services added, new people to care for and the list goes on. Pastors need fellow pastors to keep them grounded, remind them of their priorities and help them celebrate the good things God is doing rather than wilt under the increased pressure.
When a Fellow Pastor Sins
This type of burden is tricky. We usually aren’t around other pastors enough to notice their proclivities towards sinful behavior. Sadly, we may not find out until it’s too late—the pastor is caught in a scandal and disqualified from the ministry. The best people to serve pastors in their battle against sin are fellow pastors who see them on a daily basis. They are the ones who can call out sin when it’s still in its infancy. Yet, other church pastors can help. They may not be able to spot sin in one another’s lives, but if they work to establish healthy relationships with one another, then they create a context where genuine and authentic sharing can take place. If they trust one another, even if the pastors only see each other once a month, they can immediately jump into conversations that sound like, “Yeah, lately I’ve really be struggling with. . .” or “I’ve noticed that my heart is. . .” These conversations will only happen in a context where planters see themselves as brothers.
The practice of burden bearing will take work, make no mistake about it. It doesn’t come naturally for many of us. We have so much to do—so many dreams and aspirations—that we may fail to see the need for entering into meaningful relationships with others outside of our local church.
Yet, there’s a two-fold gift to this practice of burden bearing. For one, it calls planters out of isolation and into relationships with one another, where they can be known and cared for. It also sets a precedent for the churches we lead. How can we expect those in our church to bear one another’s burdens if they don’t see their pastor doing the same? By setting a model for burden bearing, we demonstrate sacrificial love for one another and exhort our churches to do the same. It’s a win-win scenario that we’d be foolish to neglect.
Published August 3, 2016