Serving in ministry can be isolating. There are numerous factors that contribute to the isolation a pastor or ministry leader can face. Ministry is not a typical job, nor is it a role that is generally well understood by those outside of ministry. Pastors and ministry leaders are often viewed as authority figures in their context, which can cause some people to back away. Unrealistic expectations and unbiblical standards can also contribute to the isolation of a leader. In some cases, wounds, hurts, and ministry challenges cause leaders to put walls up and insulate themselves from close relationships. A geographic move or change in ministry context can also disrupt established relationships. These are just a few of the factors that can contribute to isolation and a lack of genuine friendship.
In spite of the obstacles mentioned above (or any other challenge/excuse) ministry leaders need genuine, close, long-term, relationships with others. Early on, David’s survival depended on a providential friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan (see 1 Samuel 20). The need for close friends may not be something that is popular to admit.
However, I’m convinced that close friendships are critical for those in ministry. Why?
God is the author and creator of meaningful relationships. When was the last time you and a group of friends stayed up late into the night enjoying a meal, drinking coffee, telling stories, or doing whatever you like to do? Friendship is a gift. It is a joy-filled blessing to be with others for the sake of fun and relationship. For those of us who constantly feel like we need to be working, times like these are a welcome interruption into a demanding life.
God sees who you really are, others should too. Having nothing to hide is a liberating feeling. Being known and accepted by others frees you from a host of unhealthy feelings. No walls. No pretenses. Free to be you. How wonderful is that? When there is a struggle, it is shared. When there is a sin, it is confessed. When there is anger, it is vented and released. Some might not believe this is even possible. However, I’m convinced it’s not only possible, its critical for your survival in ministry.
A friend loves at all timesProverbs 17:17a
A godly friend can provide a wellspring of wisdom. Having friends outside of your church and ministry context gives you access to a fairly objective view point. A real friend will ask questions and provide perspective that can be extremely helpful, especially during difficult times. Many people in ministry experience times when they are ready to give up. These seasons are typically not the result of one specific factor, but usually the culmination of years of challenges or difficulty. A real friend will have the patience to listen and courage to speak up before you do something rash (Proverbs 27:6). A true and godly friend can provide the counsel you need before you make a decision that changes everything.