My new column at the Patheos Preachers Portal is up. It is the fourth and final part of my thoughts about pastoral loneliness. Here’s the beginning:
Essential Relationships for Pastors: The Loneliness of Pastoring, Part 4
This is the fourth and final installment in a series on “The Loneliness of Pastoring.” Let me offer a short recap of what I’ve covered so far.
Part One reflected on the recent suicide of a pastor I knew and how it underscores the loneliness of pastoring. I suggested that the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane exemplifies the experience, as well as showing that Jesus understands how pastors feel. Although we seem to be alone, we are not, because Jesus is with us in our loneliness.
In Part Two, I put forth the thesis that the professionalization of ministry exacerbates aloneness among pastors. Recovering the biblical vision of ministry, in which each member of the body of Christ is a minister, might help pastors be less removed from their congregations.
Part Three explained that all pastors need safe places to tell their “secrets.” They need relationships in which they can share their struggles, temptations, and fears, as well as their victories, opportunities, and dreams. In particular, pastors need close friends with whom they can share their true selves. Married pastors can open up with their spouses, though wisdom might require certain kinds of limits in marital communication about the church.
Today, I want to explore two other types of relationships that are essential for every pastor. Pastors who have these relationships not only will feel less lonely, but also will have safety nets to keep them from falling into disaster and coaches to help them excel in their calling.