“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Friday, May 25, 2007

Alone Again, Naturally....

Continuing with my thoughts from a Small Church Pastor -- this post will address what I consider to be one of the biggest struggles that I have personally faced at one point or another; that is the pervasive feeling of being isolated and alone, especially if one is planting or pastoring a non-denominational church.

In our case, we are a fairly eclectic gathering, and meet next to a bar in a strip mall. This makes us difficult to place within the Body of Christ in the sense of finding an association to join with...

We do work with some wonderful churches who have come alongside us, and this has helped tremendously. But in the early days I often wrestled with the feeling of being alone, believing that every hardship I (we) faced was unique in the annals of Christendom. Maybe you have struggled with this as well.

Let me provide some thoughts on this:

1. Reach out to the established churches around you; be persistant as many churches may want to 'check you out' before they get too involved. Expect this especially if you are non-denominational. Many view that appellation as synonymous with 'unaccountable'. Ask one of the other pastors to be an accountability partner.

2. Join the local pastor's group. This may be the first interaction that you can have with the other pastors in the community. Let them get to know you.

3. DON'T walk around with a chip on your shoulder that says -- "Our church has it all figured out", all the while dissing all of the other churches in the town!

4. Read some good biographies of great Christians that went before -- people such as David Brainerd, or Hudson Taylor. Men who knew what it meant to die to self and live for Christ in the ministry. You would be surprised at how small your isolation will appear when you read about these people.

5. Have good men around you in the church -- DO NOT BE A DESPOT! I cannot stress that enough. Don't think that everything needs your 'special' touch to be valid! I learned this the hard way! As a small church pastor we sometimes believe that 'we' have it all figured out, and so we need to be leading EVERYTHING in the church. Wrong answer -- you will alienate good people, and burn yourself out. I have great men who surround me and provide leadership, guidance, a shoulder to cry on, and sometimes just their presence. I could spend hours telling you about the men in our church who have been so great at holding my arms up when I no longer could! This helps prevent that feeling of loneliness that strikes at every pastor once in a while.

6. Do not believe the lie that you should not have friends in the congregation! That was a piece of advice that I received from one of my old pastors. "Never develop friendships in the congregation, it will only hurt you." Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Oh, I see; I should distance myself from the flock as much as possible, right? That will lessen my feeling of isolation, and put them at ease!

Now, you may have some who will be jealous of your friendship with others, but you need to have friends in the church. However, when it comes to accountability, all should be treated equally. One way to do this is by the tried and true method of leadership by a group of elders; that way no one person has the 'reins' of power.

Also, do not forget the most important relationship; the one with your wife and children. A small church pastor can be overrun with 'stuff', and give his family nothing but the chaff, whilst spreading all the wheat of his time around the congregation.

7. Finally, never forsake the time of reading the Word and prayer. These are a great comfort in times when the weight of pastoring is overwhelming, as it can sometimes be when you do not have a staff to assist you. Never get too busy to pray or study!

May I say one more thing? Love your congregation. Pastoring is not a job, or in the words of John Piper "Brothers, We are Not Professionals". As a small church pastor we can become cynical, bitter, and angry with our congregation -- the overwhelming number of issues that come up during a church plant, or even at a small church that has been established for a while can simply drive us into the ground if we allow it. If you feel yourself heading that way, be honest with your leadership and tell them you need some time off. Also, read good books on Pastoring. I will place a list of books in my next installment.


This is not exhaustive, but just some thoughts... More to come...

6 comments:

Even So... said...

Good, and true...the friends thing is important, if tricky at times...

Ray said...

Yes, it can be tricky, but it is oh so important to me...

My best friends are my church family, and I would not have it any other way... They know me, and see my failings as well as my strengths...

I am uncomfortable with those who somehow think that I walk on water, and the better people get to know me, the more the realize that I am a sinner saved by grace just as they are...

Anonymous said...

I know all the men who hold up Pastor Ray's arms. I have never seen such a fine collection of "Aaron's and Hur's" anywhere. Pastor Ray is blessed with good men, but on the other hand, our church is blessed to have such a fine pastor.

Daveinlewisville

Ray said...

I would like to add that Dave is one of those men who hold my arms up!

Thanks Dave!

BugBlaster said...

Good stuff Ray. It's bringing back good (and bad) memories of a small church (25 people) that we attended in Saskatchewan many years ago.

BTW I might be in Grapevine Sept 16-19. If it works out I would love to hunt you down and come to church.

Ray said...

Dude, if you are in Grapevine it is NEXT DOOR to me!