My formative years in ministry were nothing short of anointed in terms of the freshness of God’s call on my life, yet looking back on those years, I realize I was told a lie about what life would be like as a pastor.
No, those that told it to me weren’t habitual liars. In fact, they weren’t liars at all. They were good men. They were righteous men. They certainly did not believe they were lying to me, the young gun going into ministry.
No, I found that they believed the lie themselves, for the lie shaped how they operated in ministry.
I began my work at seminary and I quickly found that the lie lived on my seminary campus, too. My theological education shaped my journey significantly, and I’m incredibly thankful for it. That doesn’t mean, though, that lies don’t exist at seminary. We all know better.
I heard the lie from pastor after pastor, and professor after professor. I didn’t believe the lie then, and I surely do not believe it now after spending over 2 decades of living out my call from God.
The lie was this: you cannot have close friends within the church you serve.
How The Lie Started.
The very first pastor that ever mentored me in ministry believed the lie. I’m sure the lie was handed down to him, for my first pastor wasn’t a liar. He had been shaped by the lie, however, and it showed.
He didn’t really let any man into his life. After going to college and looking back on my time with him, I realized that many of the conversations he had with people were about football, or business, or the weather. Sure, he’d hang out with the guys, but nobody really knew him.
He was friendly, but he was no real friend. He couldn’t be. The lie was deep within his heart that if he let anyone close, they would burn him.
Seminary Professors And Worldviews.
I’ll never forget sitting in a class one fall semester called “Introduction To Pastoral Ministry.” The professor was good, in fact, really good. He had been a missionary on foreign soil, pastored several churches, and was now a seminary professor investing into guys like me.
During one particular lecture he said to us, “You simply cannot allow yourself to get too close to anyone within your congregation. You deal with things nobody else deals with, and you need men, that is, you need other pastors, who can share that burden with you.”
That statement right there my brothers is how Satan does his best work: lies mixed in with truth. When lies are woven into things that are true, then lies are easier to swallow because they are harder to detect.
My professor was prophetically accurate. A pastor does in fact deal with things nobody else in the congregation deals with, and therefore a pastor absolutely does need other men within the pastoral fraternity to share his load and give insight along the path of ministry.
The embedded lie in my professor’s world view is this: there are tons of people within your congregation that deal with things you, too, will never deal with, so does that make you unqualified to be their pastor?
A sniper in a recon battalion with 47 confirmed kills shares absolutely nothing with you in terms of career path experiences, but you can be his pastor.
You share no ability to relate to a woman who was raped, yet that has no bearing on how God can use you to lead her out of tyrannical anger by speaking to her about a God that can redeem any thing.
An executive for capital investment firm that manages billions of dollars will see spreadsheets on a daily basis which you cannot even fathom, so does that negate your ability to speak into his life? No.
The reason my first pastor, and virtually every professor I’ve ever had the privilege sitting under, whether on the master’s level or the doctoral level, possessed this worldview is because they were taught the lie from those that mentored them in ministry.
Men who served in the generations before us were simply different in their approach to pastoral ministry. Pastors were community leaders that wore a tie to every occasion; and that included picnics, football games, or a trip to Woolworth’s. In fact, that’s how our moms and dads, and our grandparents wanted it. They wanted their pastor to be “otherly.” He wasn’t seen as normal. He was above the fold, and they liked it that way.
Jesus And Brotherhood.
It’s no secret that Jesus had His crew. There were 12 men with whom Jesus spent the majority of His time, yet we all know that within the 12 there were a special 3: Peter, James, and John.
Who knows why those 3 were closer to Jesus. The bottom line is that Jesus gravitated to these men more so than even those closest to Him within the circle of discipleship. And, friend, that’s normal. You cannot deny yourself the right to be normal, no matter what you were taught.
Here’s the ballgame for me: how can guys like us preach, and preach, and preach about God’s commandment to love one another if we are not willing to love people enough to let them into our lives?
A man cannot love well who is simultaneously unwilling to get close to those whom he loves. Love that is real is never formed outside the context of relationships, and relationships get messy. Relationships will get you burned if you walk with people long enough. That’s what they do, for relationships are not designed to be clean and perfect and without scathe.
You may be able to serve people on some level without getting close to them, but you cannot love them the way God calls you to love them if you are not willing to share your life with them.
Jason Cruise is a published author and speaker. He is the host of Spring Chronicles with Sportsman Channel.