Several years ago I ran into a brick wall of reality. I was ministering in a church that taught that a great part of personal Christian growth came through community, vulnerability and transparency. One Problem: My life and leadership didn’t reflect any of these traits. I could wax eloquent on the importance of these truths but my words were empty. I was a salesman and even I wasn’t buying.
I was lonely, isolated and headed for a melt down. To drown those feelings out I buried myself in my work. Working with people gave me a false comfort that I was actually doing community. I wasn’t. Here’s the truth: proximity doesn’t equal intimacy.
Here are a 5 reasons pastors like me resist investing in personal community:
1. Time: The lack of margin in our lives doesn’t allow us to invest in self-care, thus pushing us toward being a salesman of community rather than partakers.
2. No One to Go To: “Even if I had time, who would I go to?” The bubble we can end up living in many times only houses people we’re over or under in leadership.
3. Pride: Though it’s never said aloud, there is an internal belief that “As a pastor I’m different. I don’t need this.”
4. Mistrust: “Who could I really trust? What’s their angle? Can I really share this with you and know it’s going to stay here?”
5. Competition: “Why would I partner with you relationally? I’m competing with you.” We don’t want to look weak in front of anyone!
I battled with every one of these “reasons.” As a church leader I realized the most dangerous leaders are those that are walking in isolation and I was one of them. Faced with the reality of my hypocrisy God took me on a journey that broke me out of my old isolated ways of doing life alone and gave me the grace to risk and trust others in relationship.
Just over a year ago God called me to pastor RCC, in Raleigh, NC. As I settled in to my new role I made an effort to find other pastors I could develop friendships with. As a pastor I’m blessed with many wonderful relationships with those in our church family. I have great friendships with the men on my board and others throughout the church, but I knew I needed friendships that didn’t fall under my leadership. So I began to reach out to several pastors in the area.
By God’s grace a friendship fell into place with one of those pastors. He’s become a true friend. We now meet about twice a month. We do talk shop, but we also spend as much time talking about life: our families, what God is speaking to us, our victories and struggles. We’ve committed to being honest, open and transparent. Mike has challenged my assumptions, given encouragement when I’ve needed it and asked me really hard questions. He’s a gift from God.
There’s a reason Jesus sent his followers out by twos. We’re not meant to do this life alone. This is how God desires us “carry one another’s burdens.” No one can help carry a burden that you’ve not shared. You invest in those you lead by first investing in yourself. Find a person or group that you can share life with. It’s God’s design.
Your turn! What does community look like in your life? What obstacles have you run into? Share below.