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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes


There are things we just don't like to talk about. They're not really secrets but are more lke unmentionables, things under the surface. Like the family uncle, or the check that bounced, or what your neighbor told you about his business. No, they aren't genuine secrets because in the cyber world very few things can be hidden. Instead they are the things unspoken.

One of the key themes in the New Testament is life in the community of faith. Being the church and exhibiting the character of Christ within the Body is central to our concepts of the spiritual life. Fellowship, worship, and discipleship and many other corporate elements define the relationship of believers with one another. That we are the Body of Christ is in itself a declaration of our inter-connectedness and mutual dependence. Who can argue the biblical standard? We are to experience this life in a gathered setting. We are not alone.

One of the unspoken parts is how many pastors, ministers, church staff, and spiritual leaders live lonely and isolated lives. Most all of the research about ministry health, usually in the form of statistical surveys, reveals the high percentage, as many as 70%, of church leaders without close friendships and living in isolation. Mark Brouwer's column at the Leadership Journal site March 24, 2014, begins, "It's ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least." Life on an island, which Scripture addresses from so many directions, is one of the most unspoken, whispered, and denied real-time truths about pastoral health.

Why do pastors so often experience such isolation? Well, there are a number of reasons and my list won't raise the bar in that study. But, here are a few of the unspokens about it---

1. There's a time factor. Most pastors and church staff work long hours. They

are typically never off the clock. When they step away it is usually for family

time. So, there's little time for developing relationships with colleagues.

2. There's a reluctance factor. Pastors, especially in smaller churches, fear the

playing favorites label in their church, and therefore are reluctant to develop

close relationships with church members. Also, many of their church member

interactions are personal and confidential. Relationships in the church may

create an impression that confidentiality is violated.

3. There's a family factor. Most pastors would like to separate their work and

family lives. This is usually a pipe dream. But, it is admirable. Because of this

they cannot always speak to their wives or other family members about critical

church matters.

4. There is a competitive factor in cohort relationships. No, they're not all dog

eat dog competitors and this competition thing isn't always about winning

and losing, or who's being more successful than who. But, it is a small world.

Often the unspoken things of ministry are spoken out of turn and there's

some reluctance in being with people who may know your unspoken realities.

5. There's a systemic factor. Many pastors have little in common with their

colleagues in other local churches. Often, the only common trait shared by

pastors and ministers even in the same community is that they are serving

churches. As a result, the formalized systems of pastors conferences doesn't

fulfill the relational needs.

Over the last couple of years I've become more aggressive in seeking to engage fellow pastors in fellowship. The example of Onesiphorus from 2 Timothy was convicting in this regard. In the blog yesterday I quoted the verses that challenged and moved me. Paul wrote,

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often

refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome

he searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find

mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered

at Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:16-18, ESV

Yes, the way Onesiphorus refreshed Paul and ministered at Ephesus were immediately impressive. But even more, Paul made special note of the aggressive way Onesiphorus sought him out and found him. You can only imagine Paul isolated in Rome, imprisoned though with only a guard, being lifted and encouraged by his friend.

It's a great biblical model in addressing one of the unspokens shared by so many of our fellow pastors and spiritual leaders.

"...he searched for me earnestly and found me..."

May it be so.

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