Just a couple of years ago, in the city where I am a pastor, I saw another pastor go through a series of moral failures that the elders of the church believed disqualified him from pastoral ministry. This was a fairly influential pastor in our town and word traveled quickly about the events and his removal from leadership.
Usually, my first instinct would have been a judgmental attitude in my heart about his poor decisions, but by the grace of God, I had a different immediate thought: “That could happen to me.” There were no current habitual sins or vulnerable situations that were alarming or present in my life, but the words from Paul to the Corinthian Church, warning about Israel’s history, still occupied my mind: “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 HCSB).
What happened to that pastor could happen to me in an instant. I had a sense of urgency that I would not become another illustration in Paul Tripp’s book, “A Dangerous Calling,” and knew that could not be done on my own.
Finding A Mentor
A few days after the tragedy of the pastor’s moral failure took place, I walked into Starbucks and saw a local pastor from a PCA church in our city. He is in his mid-60s, has a great marriage, a relationship with his kids, and has faithfully been in local church ministry for over forty years. I had admired him from a distance for some time, but didn’t know him very well besides a casual greeting. Yet, I thought, here was the person I needed to help me be faithful in the present ministry and endure till the end.
I walked across the coffee shop, not exactly sure what I was asking of him, and said, “Pastor Bob, would it be okay if we started spending time together, and talking about stuff?” That was my vague and less than impressive approach. “I don’t want to end up in a Paul Tripp book,” I added.
While I have tremendous mentors in the ministry that talk to me about preaching, theology, and Church leadership, I needed someone local. Another pastor who could look me in the eyes, be unimpressed with the size of my church, and ask me real questions. Thankfully, Pastor Bob Evans from Wildwood Presbyterian Church agreed to meet with me regularly, and the last two years of spending time with a pastor one year away from retiring, who is finishing well, has been something I treasure.
I am not suggesting that having a mentor is the secret sauce to enduring in the ministry, but it is certainly one of the ingredients. Pastor Bob asks me questions nobody else will. He has seen it all, so he doesn’t care that I pastor a large church; he cares about me.
While we have the blessing of so many resources in 2015 with access to more books, podcasts, social media outlets and blogs than ever, there is still the need for a mentor, in your city, that isn’t interested in your latest sermon series, but rather invested in your heart.
Our two-hour breakfasts are something I now crave, and believe I need, as the pressures and demands grow in my life. Honesty is critical in our conversations, in which he asks me difficult questions that inspect the heart, or our time together is pointless.
I know he has zero agenda outside of what I have asked him to be in my life, so I feel safe and comfortable in answering, even if sometimes I don’t like the questions. His investment in me has compelled me to want to do the same for others, so my wife and I have several young couples over to our home every Sunday evening. We laugh, check in, and let them see us be parents, and live normal life away from the church setting.
While we have the blessing of so many resources in 2015 with access to more books, podcasts, social media outlets and blogs than ever, there is still the need for a mentor, in your city, that isn’t interested in your latest sermon series, but rather invested in your heart. I went outside my denomination, to a PCA pastor about to retire.
Who is it you need to approach and ask to invest in your life? I am tired of the statistics of pastors who start and do not finish. There is no magical formula to enduring in the ministry. There are intentional steps to make sure you aren’t isolated, beyond questioning, and that you stay connected to someone who has run the race you are currently running. My challenge to you is to think of someone and ask for his help in your life. It is worth it. Who knows, God could use that person to prevent disaster in the future.
Published February 2, 2015