I recently went to an out-of-state conference and had the opportunity to sit next to a fellow pastor on the flights to and from the conference. I most always enjoy spending time with fellow pastors and talking theology, methodology, common challenges, failures, successes and every other conceivable topic that relates to being a pastor.
As I was reflecting on the trip and conversations, I realized there are some consistent benefits that come from these exchanges. First, I always come away thankful for where God has placed me. I don’t mean that as a negative reflection of other pastors or the churches they pastor, I just see that God by grace, has providentially brought me to the place I am to shepherd His people for His glory. I want to be like Paul, constantly marveling that God would use such a sinner as myself. I also want to fight the tendency within me to think the grass is always greener somewhere else. There might be more green grass in other places, but there are weeds with the grass wherever one might go.
Second, I always come away with a new-found sense of humility regarding the abilities that God has given me to use for His glory. What I mean is, while I am thankful for the skill-set that I have as a pastor and preacher, in visiting with other pastors I am reminded that I have some glaring weaknesses that cause me to appreciate the gifting of fellow pastors. The strengths of others and my weaknesses serve also as a reminder of my need to depend on God in the energy and strength that He supplies through the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:4-6; Col. 1:29; 1 Pet. 4:11) Left to myself I might come to the conclusion that I’m a pretty good pastor and that I can manage the church to successful results. Being with talented and gifted pastors reminds me that I am deficient and need God. It also reminds me that I need others who are a part of the body of Christ.
Finally, I always come away with some new ideas for myself and our local gathering that I can think through and possibly implement. I really enjoy and value the exchange of ideas, though I am confident that I become somewhat annoying with the litany of questions I ask other pastors who are captive by various circumstances like a full plane. By way of example, here are a few of the ideas that I have gleaned from interactions with pastors.
- Spend time with pastors who are both like and unlike you, and ask a lot of questions. I love the people I pastor but I need time with other men that I can trust who understand what the demands of the pastorate are. If you are a pastor, I hope you have pastors you can trust for the exchange of ideas and accountability.
- Go to conferences with another pastor. If you are able to attend a conference, it is helpful to know someone who can share ideas with you. It makes for a more well-rounded learning experience.
- Keep a pastor’s log or journal. I have started recording on my computer every meeting I have, every sermon or Bible study I prepare and give, every phone call I make, every blog I write, etc. I do it for two reasons. First, it helps me to know how I spend my time. If I spend too much of my time in sermon preparation and reading but haven’t been meeting with people, I can see it in my “pastor’s log” and know I need to adjust. The other reason is protection. For example, if someone wants to know, “What does Brent do?” I can show them. It takes a little time, but I believe it is worth it.
- Listen or watch yourself preach every week. It is painful for me to listen to me, (do I really sound like that?) but it is one of the most beneficial things I do every week. It helps me listen for wasted words, poor sentences, unclear thoughts, annoying repetitions like “um” and it keeps me trusting in God. I wonder if some guys know what they look and sound like when they preach? I wonder if some guys realize they are monotone or look and sound angry? Watch and listen. It will help.
If you are a pastor, I hope you have the chance to dialogue and share with other pastors for God’s glory, your edification and the good of your people. I hope that your people pray that you have healthy relationships with other pastors. Finally, if you are a pastor I would welcome your thoughts on the helpfulness of intentionally having relationships with fellow pastors. Comments might serve as an illustration of the very thing I have been suggesting that pastors need.