I remember sitting at a conference for a particular church planting network. We had reached the portion of the conference where it was someone’s job to get up and fill everyone in on the benefits and reasons for joining the network. I was early on in the planting process, so I wanted to pay close attention to what they offered.
He began. “Really, when I think about why you should join [network name], I think of one thing: community.” I listened up, thinking that he was about to describe how it’s helpful to have community not just in your church, but also among like-minded pastors in your area and region. I would have loved that.
But that’s not what he said.
“We know that most of you guys can’t be in community with your people—you’re the pastor. So we want to make sure that when you guys aren’t doing well, you have another pastor in your area that you can call and meet up with to share life.”
I was confused to say the least. There is absolutely a need for pastors to connect with other pastors in their city and region to care for one another and pray for one another. Yes and amen. But to the exclusion of living among the people they shepherd? It’s hard for me to get behind that idea.
YOUR PEOPLE NEED YOU IN COMMUNITY
Pastors, there is a need for you to be in community with your people. First, your people need it. Your people need a pastor who doesn’t just instruct them to live in community, but lives in community himself. They need to see you as a person just as much as they need to see you as a pastor.
Your people need a pastor who doesn’t just instruct them to live in community, but lives in community himself.
They need to see how you confess your failures, repent of your sin and build relationships with unbelievers. As Wayne Cordiero puts it, “you can teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are.” If your people see you walking intentionally in community, there’s a good chance they’ll follow suit. And as an added benefit, you won’t be speaking out of ignorance when you preach to them about how to practice life in a church family.
YOU NEED IT, TOO
But perhaps more urgently for some of us, you need it. You don’t just need someone you can call in crisis—you need people who walk through life with you day-by-day. If you wait until you’re in trouble to call your other pastor friends, it might be too late. We need people who interact with us on a weekly basis to spot our sin, encourage us in our strengths and point us to the never-exhausted gospel of grace.
I want to be realistic here. There are absolutely details that need to be thought through in doing this well. Things like how should we discuss conflict with another pastor? How do we confess anxiety resulting from a particular care issue and keep the details confidential? Those are absolutely things to take the proper precautions with. But brothers, that can’t be an excuse to avoid community altogether. It can’t be a justification to not walk in the community God calls us to, that our people need, and that we so desperately need too.
We need people who interact with us on a weekly basis to spot our sin, encourage us in our strengths and point us to the never-exhausted gospel of grace.
A FINAL PLEA
Let me plead with you, as a fellow pastor, to live not over and beyond, but among your people. You need it, and your church will be better because of it. I can’t help but think of how many burnouts we could prevent, how many moral failures we could avoid, if we as pastors put a little more effort into being known by our people. And moreover, think of how much healthier we would be, how much healthier our churches would be and how much more attractive our communities would be to outsiders, if everyone was known fully and loved fully—starting with us.
Published May 16, 2016