A Voices Forum: Should a Pastor Have Close Friends in His Church?

When I was a young whippersnapper like many of you here, I disdained some older pastors who stood somewhat aloof from their congregations. I determined to be myself, to be vulnerable, to be “real” with my congregation. I had my closest friends within the congregation. I refused to be called anything but Dave, rejecting any honorific titles.

But as time went on, I began to notice something. This may come as a bit of shock to some of you, but I am not perfect. No, really, I’m not kidding. I have flaws. And what I found is that a lot of people in my churches had trouble dealing with seeing their pastor’s flaws firsthand.

  • I have a bizarre sense of humor that has gotten me in a lot of trouble through the years.
  • I used to be (still am?) hyper-competitive when I participated in sports and gave some offense to people I fouled on the court or argued with on the ball field.
  • When I was young, I had “whippersnapper’s disease” – the inability to walk away from an argument. I would argue my point to the death and never admit the other person had a point.
  • Cataloging all my faults would take too long and frankly, its none of your business.

What I discovered is that people did not want to come face to face with their pastor’s flaws. Worse, I found that whenever there was conflict, people were using those things as weapons against me – throwing back in my face that which I had admitted to (or sometimes demonstrated). And frankly, through the years some of the deepest hurts I have received have been from people I thought were my friends.

Gradually, through the years, I have pulled back a little. I have friends in the church and try to be friendly with everyone. But I do not have “soul-friends” – people with whom I share my soul. I have found it preferable to have my closest friends outside the church and to maintain a pastoral relationship with people inside the church.

  • I do not try to pretend I am something I am not. I admit publicly and frequently that I am a sinner deserving of hell.
  • I admit my faults and struggles, just without some of the details I used to share.
  • I do not tell stories that make me the hero – generally, my stories are about my struggles and failings – they just are not quite as specific as perhaps they once were.
  • But I keep my spiritual struggles and personal issues to my (and my wife). I do not believe any pastor should share family issues or other deep personal struggles within his church.

And, ultimately, I think I am more effective this way. People don’t want me to pretend that I am SuperDave, faster to truth than a bullet, with more spiritual power than a locomotive and able to leap tall conflicts in a single bound. I do not try to pretend I am something I am not. .

But neither do my people want me to walk around with all my flaws hanging out for all to see. They don’t really want me to be “Dave” at the church. They want me to be real, humble, vulnerable and genuine, yes, but they also want me to be “Pastor Dave” – someone they can follow.

I know there is a balance here. I think I went too far to one side in my youth and perhaps too far the other way at times.  I’m trying to find that balance every day.

I’m interested in other pastors’ views on this. Are your closest friends in the church? How transparent are you with the people of the church? How much of your failings, struggles and trials do you share with your congregation?

What say you?

 

Comments

  1. kschaub says

    I hear you. But I think we also need close friends. Not so much the “come over and watch the game” friends as the “here’s what you need to hear” friends. Whether other pastors or whomever, I think we need them.

  2. cb scott says

    Dave,

    Let me take a moment from the frivolity of football watching and commenting smack about that and address this post.

    This is an excellent post. Also, it is a post that is only understood after some years…..and some deep seated scars on the hearts and souls of men who are called; Pastor So and So, Dr. So and So, or Rev. So and So, or even Preacher or Brother.

    Those who are younger who read this post will do well to heed to the wisdom of the man who wrote it. He is telling you the truth. You can take this one to the bank.

  3. says

    I’m not a pastor, but I will make an observation. I think it depends on the Spiritual maturity of the member. The more mature the member, the better a friend, the closer a friend he can be.

    My pastor has been my pastor for 31+ years. He can be a close a friend of mine as he cares to be. It would not affect his being my pastor. But I do realize that, for some, it would.

    But I do “get” the reasoning. I do understand it, from practical experience with people I know and whose opinions I trust.

    • cb scott says

      Bob,

      I know from experience, you are a rare bird as far as church members go. Dave has given some sage advice here that many, if not all young pastors should give serious attention.

      • Frank L. says

        Bob,

        You are most definitely the “exception” to the rule, as is your pastor (31+).

        I quite frankly struggle with this issue. I’ve been in situations on both sides of this issue. There are struggles related to both perspectives.

        One issue that comes up for me is this: some people really think we are “close” friends, and by all appearances we are, but as Dave points out I still do not share all my struggles with anyone, not even my wife. I do share with her 99.9%.

        Personally, I’m a lone wolf by nature. I’m fiercely independent to a fault. My greatest friend (outside of the Lord, of course) is my work. I derive immense satisfaction from my work.

        I can be friendly with a wide spectrum of different personalities, so this is why many people consider me a close friend–and perhaps, semantics aside, I am their close friend.

        I guess what I am saying that even in my closest friendships, I remain guarded in regard to my deepest thoughts.

        I find that “prayer” prevents me from becoming overly obsessed with the lack of close friends that seems to be an occupational hazard. I can tell God anything, and that really helps.

        • cb scott says

          Frank,

          What does 99.9% mean in real life. I have learned, as a man with very dark past, to share everything with my wife if she wants to know. Yet, there are some things about my past that she has told me she would rather not know.

          My wife is my best friend and my most true confidant. I would have it no other way. I have learned that if your wife and children think you are special, you can stand alone in any other situation, ’cause you know you are going home at the end of the day.

          I have also learned that Jesus will never forsake me or let me walk into a bad place alone…..and I have been in a lot of bad places.

          • Frank L. says

            “Need to know basis, I guess.”

            I’m not really sure. I think there are simply those issues that I cannot frame properly enough to share them with her.

            Sort of the “groanings that cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8).

            I don’t mean I “hide things from her.” She is semi-omniscient and would find out any way.

            I’m not sure I answered your question because I’m not really sure I know what I meant myself. Romans 8 keeps coming to mind.

          • cb scott says

            Frank,

            I think I understand what you mean.

            BTW, I think you to be an honest man. A rare quality in Baptist preachers.

          • Frank says

            CB,

            Coming from you that comment almost made me cry . . . I said, “almost.”

            Actually, I’m not sure I’m as honest as I am simple-minded. I think I’d be a better liar if I was smarter.

    • John Fariss says

      Bob is right on here. I would add one thing: not only the spiritual maturity of the member, but also the emotional health of the church as a whole. A spiritually/emotionally mature congregation can handle things that a dysfunctional congregation cannot, and both pastor & congregation pay for it.

      John

  4. Frank L. says

    PS–There’s also the issue of FaceBook.

    I have “friends” there I don’t even know.

    And, there’s the neat feature of conflict resolution, so much an issue in relationships. With FaceBook, one click of the button and the conflicts resolved.

  5. Dave Miller says

    A good question might be how many of us in the “fraternity” really have no friends that we share our lives with.

    Frank mentioned being a lone wolf – I think that is common among pastors and probably not a good thing.

    • cb scott says

      Dave,

      I have few real friends. I have a lot of acquaintances. Bob Cleveland is a guy I count as a real friend. There are a few others, very few.

      To me, family is everything. Everybody else is after them.

      In my life, as it was what it was, the “lone wolf thing was highly necessary. It took me a long time to get over that after I became a follower of Christ.

    • says

      This is an issue for me, though not so much by choice. I have a few loose friends within the church, but nothing of great depth. I think it is probably best this way, for the reasons you name. I have a few closer friends outside the church, but still nothing approaching the level of deep camaraderie. A big part of this struggle is the simple reality that my social circles are pretty well limited to home and church. I have a few civic involvements, but I participate in those as pastor of a local church which creates similar restrictions to what I do within the church. In short, my big question – and I think the question for many pastors – is how in the world to develop deep friendships when the ordinary means for developing those friendships are already somewhat off limits.

      • cb scott says

        Chris Roberts,

        Spend more time in discipleship ministry. Maybe your friends will become less “loose.”

        • says

          cb,

          One issue with the dynamic of my church is the age breakdown. The vast majority of my congregation is at least two times my age. In fact, we have no current members in my age range, though there are a few visitors around our age. There is my wife and I, then there are a few people in their 50’s, then there are quite a few in their 60’s, 70’s, even 80’s (we have a few in their 90’s but I don’t believe any of them are currently able to attend). I have developed some wonderful friendships with some of these older folks, yet it is certainly a different dynamic – and different life issues being faced – than drawing close to one’s chronological peers. And discipleship ministry takes on a different appearance when you are the one needing discipling from people who have walked the road far longer than you have. :) This is one of the humbling aspects of my ministry: that these people are willing to listen to me even though there’s little I can say about the faith that they haven’t already lived out on countless occasions.

          • cb scott says

            I understand that dynamic, Chris Roberts. I was young…..a long time ago…..once.

            I also think Dave’s post is worthy of much thought, especially by guys your age and specifically in the time in which you minister in the local church. I think your “road’ will be much rougher than was mine if you remain a local church pastor. I think you will, if you are wise, learn to count your real friends on one hand outside of your family,

          • cb scott says

            BTW Chris Roberts,

            The “loose” friends remark was a joke on my part. I trust you caught that?

          • cb scott says

            Only loosely and on rare occasions when I know the strength of the recipient.

            Stay strong Christ Roberts, but laugh when you get the chance.

    • Frank says

      David,

      Please don’t misunderstand my comment on being a Lone Wolf. I’m not an isolationists and everybody that knows me knows I’m a “people-person.”

      But, I think it is more out of a commitment to others that I m a people person rather than a commitment to my own psychological makeup. Also, being submerged on a submarine with 120 guys for up to three months at a time, helps one “make friends for the sake of the mission.”

      My “Lone Wolf” comment is more of an analysis of my “default” position. I can survive well on my own.

      I do agree with your statement: this is not good if it is not one’s natural psychological make-up. On the other hand, as these posts explore, the very position we hold as pastors requires at least some degree of “wolfness” it seems to me.

      In the final analysis, being a pastor is a pretty unique and hard to grasp calling for me even after 35 years.

  6. says

    “When I was young, I had “whippersnapper’s disease” – the inability to walk away from an argument. I would argue my point to the death and never admit the other person had a point.”

    I’ll have you know that I saw the original version of the post where you put my picture next to this.

  7. Doug Hibbard says

    In all honesty, I think this is the missing component for those of us who did not do “traditional” seminary: we do not have many close friends with whom we can share our ministry lives. The closest I’ve got is a few bloggers and one of those is a Yankees fan.

    Within the church, I am hunting buddies with several folks, and have good relationships with people, but I’m not super-tight. I remember reading in article in Leadership Journal, back when it was card-stock covered rather than slick-paper, when they didn’t market it to the ‘cool’ crowd but to the developing crowd. It was a first-person account from a pastor who felt he had been too transparent with his church. His statement was that he should have heeded the old general who said “My troops can see me bleed, but they may not see me hemorrhage.”

    That’s the balance: the people in the church need to know we bleed, but there’s a line there. If that close friend in the congregation knows your struggles with depression, how is he going to react to your sermon about the Joy of the Lord? Will he count you a hypocrite? Will you shy away from preaching something that hits your friend hard about sin?

    We need to have relationships in our church that are somewhat deeper than just “Howdy preacher” but our deepest connections likely need to come from elsewhere. Which is why I think some of us keep coming back to blog networks for that interaction: it’s the safest place to get it, it seems, even if it’s not very real.

  8. Tom Bryant says

    Fortunately, I have several close friends in our church. I mean the vacation together kind of friends. There are a few men here that I could open up and tell them what I’m really thinking and they could do the same. Then I have a pastor friend with whom I have breakfast with weekly. Then comes my wife, who is by far my best friend. So I have the best of all worlds. I am extremely blessed

    I think part of the reason for this is that I have been here a long time. If a church has been through lots of pastors over a period of time, none of the people really want to get to know the pastor because he’ll be gone in a few months. Sometimes we have no one to blame for our lack of friends except the guy in the mirror.

    • cb scott says

      “Sometimes we have no one to blame for our lack of friends except the guy in the mirror.”

      Tom Bryant, I think you to be wrong bout this. Or maybe we are not defining “friend” in the same manner.

      Actually, I believe the biblical narrative will give evidence that you are wrong about the number of friends, true friends a pastor will have in his lifetime.

      • Dave Miller says

        It also depends on how you define friend.

        I have lots of friends. But how many people can I talk to when I am down, hurting, upset or frustrated?

        I have chosen at this point not to “share my heart” with people in the church very often – I have generally come to regret that when I did.

        • Tom Bryant says

          I have defined friends as someone who knows me at my worst and still hangs with me while telling me the truth as well as someone with whom i can be myself.

          CB, what Biblical narrative are we talking about? I understand that David had his issues with his friends, but apparently Jesus friendship with John was on purpose. Jesus called His followers “friends”. And His followers weren’t exactly trustworthy. Do you really feel that the reason why we have no close friends in our churches is because church members who won’t let us be ourselves?

          Have I regretted poor choices concerning who I trusted? Of course, but it isn’t just pastors who have been burned by friends. But I refuse to circle the wagons and only trust my wife and children with letting them see the real me.

          I know this might sound like BS, but it’s not. I guess I’ll just remember to be thankful for my friends in the church.

  9. says

    For the most part, I am a lurker, and do not often comment on this blog (or any other for that matter). I desire to answer your questions and comment, but my whole response would be quite long and probably misunderstood. I am a pastor, and have had/committed all the “faults”/sins in your first bulleted list, plus many more.
    I have also been a pastor in some very bad, dare I say evil churches. I have friends that were with me in those churches that have now left the organized church because the experience was so traumatizing. I have also had my words, sins, and life used against me in these churches. That said, I will simply say that my closest friends are in the church I pastor. I am deeply transparent about 99% of my life. They know my failures, and there are times where my failures are used against me.
    When I say I am transparent I mean that I share my failings and need for grace with the congregation in varying degrees or better concentric circles. Some know more than others, with the elders/leaders in the church being the most intimate with my life. As an aside, those who are closest to you (elders, pastors, staff, their families, etc.) already know those sins. You are the only one deluded into thinking that they don’t know. If you keep it quiet you are teaching them there are areas we can keep secret from others, or that we don’t have to publicly repent to sin. There is no way to teach your church to embrace the biblical call to repentance, humility and community if you as a pastor are not willing to subject yourself to these things. I am to fulfill the “one anothers” and call my church to fulfill those same things. I can only do that if I am willing to get dirty, get hurt, unfortunately hurt others and work through that hurt in repentance. It seems that we as Baptist pastors sometimes seem very catholic when we call others to confess to one another but don’t confess to them, love one another but not enough to share our lives with them, and seek to stir up others to love and good deeds, but not allow our congregations to do the same to back to us, or better with us.

    • Dave Miller says

      Your comment (and thanks for sharing) made me think of something. The closest friends I formed were in the most difficult pastorate I had. I spent four years in the fiery furnace and it was during that time that we had the closest friends.

      At my last two churches we’ve had much better experiences but much less intense friendships.

  10. Wade Phillips says

    I really don’t see this is as just a pastor issue, or even mainly a pastor issueI think it’s a man issue. I have struggled with this over the years myself, and have only in recent years been able to make about three really close, not pretending, these guys really know the very worst of me, type friendships. And I now realize how important they were, and how much I needed them all along.

    • Dave Miller says

      It is true that we all need friends like that.

      I just think, as a pastor, my friends of that nature need to be other pastors or people from other churches.

  11. Louis says

    I agree with what you have said and disagree – at the same time.

    Here are my thoughts, in no particular order.

    1. All Christians are called to disciple others. Discipleship includes good doctrinal teaching, but it is more than that. It is getting in the trenches with people. Sharing struggles. If this is a one way exchange, that will limit how deep the relationship goes.

    2. No one can be friends with everyone with the same level of intimacy. That’s true in life, and in the church.

    3. The maturity of the church, and those in the church, can have an impact on how much you share, and with whom. If your church is full of jerks and immature people, that is a challenge.

    4. All people need friends with whom they bear their sole and with whom they walk. It is not good for pastors to be isolated and to have no one to talk to. Of course use discretion, but that is true of every relationship.

    5. This is a good reason for elders. If the pastor is an elder, and serves alongside of other elders who are seeking to follow the Lord, they will help one another. My pastor is very frank with his shortcomings with the elders, and we are with each other. I am so glad for that.

    6. If a pastor is immature and has major areas of relational flaws and personal behavior issues, hiding them won’t help. Of course, we all know our areas of temptation. I know of a prominent pastor who gets so angry when he plays golf that others are really taken aback. He should probably not play golf until he learns to have more self control.

    7. If elders do not have discretion, they should not be elders.

    I hope that all pastors who read this will have some really good friends in their congregation with whom they can share and receive encouragement without it being superficial or fake.

      • cb scott says

        I do think, as I read this thread, that the definition of “friend” is the major issue here. I also believe (know) that the longer a pastor stays in a church the fewer his true friends will be if he does his job.

        It is true that we all need friends., but not as many as one might think.

        Lastly, Tom Bryant, I am not in any way talking about “circling the wagons” as you say. That would be the lifestyle of the gutless. I can assure you I am not that by any measure of the concept. Yet, how can it not be right for a man of God to consider his wife his best friend and his children closer closer than anyone else?

        • Tom Bryant says

          I am not sure where you got the idea that my wife wasn’t my closest friend. Now as to the fact that I am closer to friends after a longer time here, I’ll leave to God to determine whather I am really doing my job.

  12. says

    Dave, I’m glad you brought up this topic. Back when I was “a young whippersnapper” this was advice that older pastors gave younger pastors — don’t get too close to the people in your church. I see from the comments that most appear to basically agree with that concept, often because of their own experiences. Over the years I have come to believe this is bad advice, even if I’m not always entirely comfortable with the practical aspects of the other way. But how can we interpret these as somehow remaining aloof from our congregation — serve one another, submit to one another, bear the burdens of one another, forbear and forgive one another, comfort one another, exhort one another, confess to and pray for one another, for examples?

  13. Russ Long says

    This is a good thread. I have been reading SBC Voices and as a layman out here in WA (but with southern roots) have often times been discouraged reading posts.
    I grew up as a PK and witnessed this tug of war in different churches for my parents. In some places they had close friends, in others it seemed they had no friends at all. My limited experience would be to urge you to find that close friend if they are there. Look for a battle scarred PK, we have a lot of empathy for what we know you go through, and I know you go through more than I know.

  14. Christiane says

    retreats . . .
    sometimes when greatly burdened, a time-out is needed to be led by still waters where there is an opportunity to regain perspective and renew strength

    the congregation? they need your strength and wisdom . . . so go from time to time to a place where you can be nourished

    Our Lord Himself sought quiet retreats for prayer, so if HE needed that time, just imagine how much a stressed and burdened pastor might need such a renewal

    no place to go for retreat? . . . go camping by a lake for a few days, or go hiking in the mountains . . . spend time alone with your Best Friend

  15. John Wylie says

    Dave,
    This is a tough one for because I have gotten burned by getting too close to some of my members in the past, but at the same time, I am extremely close to many of my members now. That being said, two really great things about having some close pastor friends is that they understand where you’re coming from and they’ll be your friends for a life time regardless of what church you are pastoring.

  16. says

    A good friend of mine, who happens to be a counselor, told me that we really have to know our reasons for wanting to share some of our personal problems, struggles, or issues with someone else. If it’s just to make ourselves feel better, having “gotten it off our chest” so to speak, our first consideration should be how it affects the person we’re telling.

    Sharing our foibles or burdens, to someone else’s detriment, is precisely the wrong thing to do.

  17. dean says

    Dave, great question with no right answer. I would never tell a person not to have any close friends in the church. However, I can tell you that I never plan on having any friends in my church that I completely trust with me. I used to vacation with a few close church members. One day I heard the statement if you were not the wealthy family in church or the two families I was close to then you could not get my attention. Boy, that hurt me and I never wanted anyone in my church to feel that way. I know it was not true but it still hurt.
    I had a person in my church that I made my accountability partner. I shared info with this person about my life. I can tell you that was the worst mistake I have ever made. The person I trusted the most broke that confidence and disaster was the result. To this day I struggle with bitterness and resentment.
    A man is free to be as close to any church member as he chooses. There is a theme among guys who have done this for decades and that is that they cannot trust anyone in their church with information about themselves. We cannot be loners but that companionship must come from other ministers. I heard a very successful pastor who has been at one church for over 30 years speaking on the key to longevity. He said never be just one of the good old boys in the mind of your church family. You must be seen as a man of God. That seems pretty good advice.

      • Dean says

        Dave, I’m afraid my life is forever changed because of a close friend in the church. I want to say that Bob’s post just above is spot on. As long as my friend and I in the church spoke of issues the church faces etc … All was good. I shared a temptation(note not a sin just a temptation I was facing) this person lost all grip with reality. He was devastated I fought such temptations even saying I thought you wre above such a battle. It ruined our relationship and ended up hurting a great church. I live with that everyday of my life. I will never burden my church family with my temptations and personal issues again. The impact it had on this person was horrific. I shudder to think what would have happen if I had listed my actual transgression. I confess my faults but that is to my circle of pastors.

  18. volfan007 says

    Dave,

    Great post….and so very true. I agree with CB on this one….you hit the ole nail squarely on the ole head…and younger people should take heed to what you wrote in this fine post.

    I have many friends…..I try to be friendly to everyone in my church and around town…but, I have very, very, very few close friends, whom I would trust with many issues in my life and ministry. I do thank God for my Pastor friends, whom I can talk to about things…..

    My very best friend is my wife.

    David

    • volfan007 says

      I will say that it is a great blessing to have a Pastor friend/friends that you can talk to…..we need friends that we can talk to, and ask advice from, or just laugh with, etc…..

      I would encourage all Pastors to have at least a few, very close, Pastor friends.

      David

  19. says

    This being my second church, I felt I needed to try and be transparent. This has been a complete tragedy for me. Even my Chairman of Deacons suggested the other day that this has worked against me. The reason he did so is because when serious conflict arose in the church people used any weakness they saw against me. I am now at a point where it appears I am ineffective as a pastor where I am at. I was able to lead the church past some ingrained racial issues but along the way I have taken such a big hit that I am not sure I can recover. My transparency left me vulnerable in a vicious battle that needed to happen, and rather than help people to trust me it was a point used to exploit. I am tired and there is a lack of trust between me and my family and some of the church I do not think will ever be restored. Having friends and being transparent has been a big part of the conflict as anything else.

    • Dean says

      Mark, some deal in theoreticals – a friend will help you etc….. You are speaking of reality. I pray God will restore your joy to what it was before the conflict. The damage a close friend in the church can cause is hard to put into words when it goes south. In many churches the attitude is pastors come and go but cousin Joe or neighbor Jim has been here forever. Those close friends sometimes kill you. Depend on those pastor brothers to love on you right now. Our members are our friends but will not be my confidants.

  20. says

    This is one of the most eye-opening posts I’ve read here as a layman. I suppose I already knew much of the pastor’s dilemma, but this really brings it out into the open. I don’t blame pastors for holding some of their cards close to the vest. From the committed layman’s perspective, it used to really puzzle me why it was so hard to really get to know a pastor. I never expected a pastor to be perfect. I never held any other man responsible for my spiritual growth. I’ve always viewed the pastorate as a role in the church with different responsibilities, but not with different expectations of piety than I have for myself. I mean, we serve the same Lord, we want the same things and we are serious about the Kingdom. It seemed that it should be natural to be able to get to know your pastor, at least over time.

    I have witnessed the pain and trouble resulting from pastors trusting laymen, staff, or essentially anyone else in the church. Something “juicy” about a pastor seems to be almost impossible to hold in. Inside knowledge of the pastor is the “significance currency” of the church. My observation is that for many, if you are “in the know” you believe your importance in the church goes up. I’ve seen the unrealistic expectations and nit-pickiness of the congregation. I hear the grumbling and griping about this and that, and the constant criticism about the way things are handled.

    So, I get it. I’ve even experienced some of it as a layman myself. But I would like to say this: there are people in the church you can trust – they just may not be the ones pounding your cell phone with texts to meet for lunch or breakfast. They may not be the ones begging you to go to dinner, or to take you to lower arena tickets at the game or to let you use their lake house. My advice to any pastor, particularly at a new church, is to be cautious with those who press hard and who press quickly. You experienced pastors already know that.

    But I also want to emphasize, there are members in your church who don’t expect perfection, who love the Lord, who pray for you, who defend you and who will extend tons more grace than you may think. They are just not the ones clamoring for your attention, even though they desire to know you. They are focused on God. If you will allow these people in, you might just be surprised at what an encouragement, and at what true friends they can be to you. You won’t find them at the front of the line to get your attention. It’s always going to be risky to be vulnerable, and that’s true for anyone. I posit that the rewards are worth the risks of cautiously letting people in. It seems to me (and I think I hear you pastors saying this) that is really difficult to go it alone. It also points out to me how I need to be even more vigilant to make sure you know when I support you.

    • dean says

      SBC Layman, I thank you for your comment. I have a statement and an honest question. I never have felt it was clergy against laity. I feel it is clergy with laity for Christ. It is clergy for laity. It is laity for clergy. I love my church family. It is not us against them.

      Now there are people we can trust. Every pastor knows that is true. However they do not come with a T marked on their foreheads and the carnage that can be caused because I share my personal issues is unbelievable. How can you tell who you can trust? If your answer is discernment then I will tell you that I have very clearly discerned that it is not wise to be close friends with my church family.

      • says

        Dean, I wish I had this figured out, but I don’t. I think it comes little by little and takes time. I think there are some markers. If someone is telling you negative or private things about someone else, that’s a bad sign. I see it happen all the time. “Watch out for him because of x or y. Watch out for her, she’s prone to whatever.” I can tell you that as a layman, I want to tell a new pastor those things to help him avoid landmines, but I also realize that in doing it, I’m violating the mandates of scripture if I haven’t already dealt directly with the person I’m talking about. In fact I may be violating scripture even if I have already dealt with them directly.

        I think a pastor can float some trial confidence balloons with individuals and see what happens. My experience is that it does not take long to see when a confidence gets violated. If the person asking for my confidence is breaking someone else’s – no matter how badly I may need to know it – they don’t get my trust. If they’ll break your confidence, they’ll break mine. I think you can also see who’s willing to take hits for you when they have nothing to gain or lose. I’m also very cautious who I trust in the body, and I find that to be very sad.

        I’m even very cautious with pastors and staff until I really know them. It should come as no surprise that some pastors and staff find complete freedom to share confidential matters with each other in a “professional” sense, but you also have to know it never stays there. It always gets out and people are always hurt. I’ve heard many pastors share how you’ve been burned. Many laypeople have been burned as well.

        I think the true answer in figuring out who to trust lies in interacting with someone over time and seeing that they really walk with Christ and take him seriously. It’s not easy to discern no matter who it is. Sometimes we judge wrongly. Sometimes we judge rightly and people just mess up. Sometimes we mess up. I know the stakes are different for pastors – you can and do lose your livelihoods when you misjudge people. Worst case for me (thought not a small impact by any means) is that I walk away.

        I just long for the day when we put our petty differences and irritations aside and grant each other some grace by default. Someday we’re all going to have to face a judge who holds us accountable and we may not like his assessment. Til then, I think we have to take some trust risks, be authentic before our God and be satisfied in the knowledge that our motives are pure, no matter what happens. As long as I can look myself in the mirror and truly know that I’m as obedient as I know how to be with my God, I can live with the trouble from others (and I’ve had my share). That still doesn’t make it easy.

        Sorry for the dissertation here. I don’t pretend to have answers – just opinions and experiences. This strikes really close to home for me.

        • says

          SBC Layman, You are exactly right. The day you speak of will only come if we are able to do the hard work of taking risks and doing what we do not want to do. I think that there are two applicable ways to see this.
          The first is the best advice I have received from a fellow pastor, this: “The things that we do not want to do, the people we do not want to deal with, and the activities that we want to put off until later, are the very things to which we should run.” It is in these moments that the Spirit does his most sanctifying work.
          When a pastor avoids confrontation with a difficult person, at the root it is because that pastor is caring more about how that individual, the congregation, or any other will view him than in his full acceptance, love and position in the Father. It is then that he is trusting that individual or the church to better care for him than the hand of God. It hurts to view it this way, but this is how we apply the gospel directly to our lives, and become more like Christ as we depend on Him.
          Secondly, is a saying I share with guys I’m discipling: “You cannot disciple from the Heisman position.” It drives home two important points. You can’t stiff-arm the people you are discipling, and as the pastor that means the church. It also means you cannot disciple people from the shelf where they keep their prized possessions. Until you see each other as dirty and in need, you will not effectively point each other to the one who can meet each of your needs.

          • says

            Peavyhouse, It seems we’re on the same wavelength! I have to confess that I’ve been drawn back to this discussion again and again today. This has been an “aha” day for me. I never before comprehended that it was common pastoral wisdom in general (based on how I’m interpreting this thread) to keep church members at a distance in at least some sense. I’m not judging it – I even think I kind of understand it – but I had never before realized it. My mind has been spinning on it all day. It makes so many things make more sense to me now.

            Pastors, how can we break down this wall? There are always going to be folks you can’t trust and who may attack you, but there will also always be something missing between you and the genuine believers in your church if they don’t know you. When they don’t really know you, they won’t go fully to bat for you.

            It’s a catch 22 – you don’t know who you can trust so you keep people at arms length. People at arms length can’t quite put their finger on what the issue is, but know they’re missing something. An invisible, but real, barrier exists and when the time of trouble comes, you don’t find anyone fully in your corner. You move on, convinced that you should never again trust a church member. Church members view the next pastor with suspicion assuming he’s got something to hide too.

            I’ve witnessed and experienced this since I was a child (and that’s been a few years). The cycle continues. How do we break it?

  21. says

    One church I was at for only 8 months–the “disaster” church” for me–had a lady in it who one time at a business meeting…oh pardon me…a gripe-fest about everything meeting, “Pastors can’t have problems of their own. If they have problems they can’t help other people with their problems.” I was the only person at the table who disagreed. That was my last day, too…

    My current church is the first one I’ve pastored where I could say I have “good friends”–and one of them we just sent off a couple of months ago to become a pastor himself, so I guess he’s not at my church anymore… but there’s a couple of other people who know me as well as anyone tends to come to know me.

    Everywhere I’ve been there’s basically been an underlying feeling that conveys, “We know the pastor ain’t perfect…but he darn well better be close to it.” And part of that stems also from the congregations’ view of itself–“Whatever problems I have I’ll keep to myself, ’cause these other people don’t need to know.”

    I preach openness and accountability, so I try my best to practice it as well… but there’s a difference in the levels between, “I’m having a bad day because of this” vs. “I want to quit and go get plastered, but maybe not in that order because of…”

    I do, however, have three friends–one from college two from seminary–who know the deep-dark secrets of my soul, but the nearest one lives about 8-hours away. Phone calls and emails are great, but I do miss being able to sit down face-to-face for the deep meaningful conversations…

  22. John M. says

    Normally, I read blogs, but don’t post comments–yes, I’m one of those. But this post really struck home and asks the questions I’ve been asking lately. Generally, I’ve been of the mind that a pastor can’t and shouldn’t be close friends with those in the congregation. This has been my practice. I’m fairly open about my and my family’s lives, not in great detail, but in general. I think it’s important that people in my congregation not view me as anything other than a man like them who struggles through life, the big different being that God has called me to full-time service. But I don’t develop close relationships with people in the church. Sadly, I don’t develop close relationships with people outside the church very well, either–but that’s a different problem for a different day.

    But a few months ago, my otherwise normal child was unexpectedly diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Unless the Lord intervenes, he could live a long life, but it won’t be what most would consider a “good” and “full” life. It is of a type that has affected every single aspect of our life and ministry. I mean that literally, we’ve even had to rearrange our entire house, practically abandoning the basement and second floor. It’s obvious to my congregation that pastor and family are struggling. They see it every Sunday when they come to church and see my son. They see it in our exhausted expressions, and in the reality that there is a new sadness in our (and their) midst. Sometimes it’s hard to suppress the tears when I preach about God’s goodness (either because at the moment I’m not feeling it, or because I’m so grateful that it is true). I can’t hide from my church what is going on; and, frankly, we need their support. We need their patience as we try to adjust to a new normal. We need them to know how to pray for us. Mostly, we need them to know that God has not abandoned us, and that God still loves my son and has a plan for his life. They need to know that the pastor is struggling, yet finding strength in the only Source of strength I know; that He gives joy in the midst of sorrow. They need to know that God is there for them, too, even though their struggles may be much smaller. If I stood up every week and pretended like everything was fine, fine, just fine–well, it would be like the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone knows is there but no one acknowledges. That is dishonest.

    So, my view about relationships in the church, at least at this church and under these circumstances is changing. For such a small church, we have an exceptionally high number of couples who have lost children. We haven’t talked much about what is going on, but I can see from their expressions that they understand what we’re going through at a deeper level. We are at a remarkably good, loving, kindhearted church. My openness over the past few months could yet backfire, but I haven’t much choice! My wife and I feel strongly that this is something the Lord may use to transform an otherwise good church into an outstanding one. But, it requires a bit more openness and honesty from my wife and I than I normally would be comfortable with as a pastor.

  23. says

    Great question, and thought-provoking. Ideally, a pastor should have the benefit of fellowship within the church that he not only serves, but also belongs to. It’s possible for this to happen and does happen for some pastors. The ministry staff at my church is close and provides this for each other. Also, we have some wonderfully godly deacons who I know provide this kind of ministry to the staff.

    However, it’s unrealistic for most pastors. Most churches don’t have a large ministry staff. Most churches have regrettable tensions among the deacons. If a pastor befriends one deacon, he could easily incur the ire of that deacon’s political opponents on the deacon board thus dividing the church along those lines: over here are the people that hang with the pastor and over there are the people who hate him. So it’s usually beneficial for a pastor to have that vital fellowship we all need outside of the church he serves.

    But depending on his church, he may not want to make much of it lest he incur accusations of letting other people influence the church from outside. I’ve seen that happen before.

    No wonder many young pastors would rather plant a new church than take over a grumpy older church.

  24. Nathan Cherry says

    Thanks for this article Dave. It is nice to hear from someone more seasoned than I on this topic and know that I am not alone in my thinking. I have often thought that by keeping a safe distance, but not too far away, from people in the church that it builds respect for the times it matters most; when people are hurting and need their pastor. Is this accurate to say?

    • Dave Miller says

      Yes, actually I think you put it better than I did – and more succinctly.

      When people have a need, they need friends. But they also, at times, need a pastor. And it is not easy for me to be a pastor to my closest friends.

      You do not want to be distant or to act as if you think you are up on a pedestal above others. But maintaining some level of distance allows you to be a pastor, not just a buddy.

      • Nathan Cherry says

        Thanks again Dave. I am starting to understand the deep need pastors have for a close relationship with Jesus in order to offset the lack of close human relationships. I believe the need for pastors to be a shepherd inside their churches in greater now than ever before. Being a buddy with people is nice, but it won’t effect the kind of leadership they will inevitably need. I really appreciate your insight on this matter and your response to my question. If you have any other thoughts, or resources on this subject please feel free to share. Blessings.

        Nathan

        • Dave Miller says

          The very best friendships for pastors, I have found, is with other pastors. In Cedar Rapids we had a very close pastoral group. Sometimes we had to overlook doctrinal issues, but it was great fellowship and friendship.

          • Nathan Cherry says

            I agree. I am working to form relationships with pastors for this purpose, but it seems more difficult than one would assume. I have no doubt it would be worth the effort though.

  25. says

    Dave, I want to address a question to you since you are the originator of this post (though others may wish to reply as well). First, I must say that as a Baptist who believes in the authority of the Word of God, I find the majority of these comments exceedingly troubling. What I find troubling is that no one seems to be engaging the Word of God, but relying on settling this issue based on their own experiences? If not, am I missing it? If we believe the Bible is “the supreme standard by which all human conduct…should be tried” shouldn’t we try whether or not a pastor should have close friends in the church based on what the Bible says rather than the bad experiences we’ve had? And if we are, would you or someone please clarify how we are?

    In addition, if it is biblical for pastors to refrain from getting close to people in their church, would it also follow that 1) pastor’s wives should have have close friends in the church, and 2) that pastors should never encourage those who are their close friends to join their churches?

    Thanks. I look forward to your clarification.

    • Dave Miller says

      I’m not sure the scripture addresses the topic of whether a pastor should have close friends in the church. There are certainly principles that apply.
      We are trying to apply what we know from scripture to reality.

      I noticed that in your accusation, you also did not appeal to scripture. Do you have any scriptural advice that could instruct us on this topic?

      • John Wylie says

        Robert,

        I ask this honestly and respectfully, but could it be your Landmark views that cause you to not like the setting apart of the pastor from the people?

        • says

          John,
          I cannot speak for Robert, but I would take exception to your comment. I agree with his statement, but would have been blunter in my phraseology. I actually engaged the text of scripture in my first comment, but no one responded to that, but instead responded to my experiences. However, all that aside, I am vehemently opposed to any and all forms of Landmarkism, I believe it is close to the “h-word” (heresy), but I completely agree with Roberts comment.

          At the risk of repeating myself, but in order to address Dave’s response, you can take the entire list of “one another” passages in the bible and apply any one of them to pastors. You may say you love your congregation, but can they love you if you do not divulge your true self to them? Can they bear your burdens? Can they stir you up?

          I think you must also ask the question. Would Paul agree with your conclusions? The thrust of the epistles and the book of Acts would seem to point contrary to the notion that pastors cannot have friends in the local congregation.

          • John Wylie says

            Peavyhouse,

            I never said anywhere that it’s wrong for a pastor to have friends in the congregation. I was just wondering whether or not Robert’s Landmarkism was playing a role in his concern that’s all. If you look at my previous comment you would find that I said that I am very close to several of the members in the church I pastor.

          • Dave Miller says

            Any chance we could tone down the tone a little. This was a forum, a discussion topic. You can state your view a tad more cordially.

          • says

            Dave and all,
            I’m sorry if my tone was perceived as antagonistic or in any negative way. I was really just responding to John and Robert’s comments. I know I partially threw the H-card, but that was simply to say that although I disagree with Landmarkism, I agree with Robert’s statements. Like I said earlier I normally do not respond to blogs. The reason being that most comments go off topic and result in ad hominem attacks. I think this is a great topic to discuss and want to do so with scripture. I’d love to hear others take on the one anothers and Paul’s belief on this. Again, I beg your forgiveness if I have offended you.
            Grace,
            Matt

        • Dave Miller says

          And, Peavyhouse, one more clarification – a blog and its comments carry little obligation. I write what I believe but you are under no obligation to read it. If you do read it, you are under no obligation to comment. If you do comment, I am under no obligation to read it. If I do read it, I am under no obligation to comment.

          This is more theoretical that a personal thing here. But I get this often – people demonstrate some level of pique because no one responded to their comment.

          I never read your previous comment. Frankly, I don’t read many of the comments. Most? I’ve never counted. But I never read your previous comment.

          I just wanted to clarify that. The reason I didn’t respond is that I never read the comment. I happened to see this one and respond to it.

          • says

            No problem, Dave. I completely agree with you here on obligation. I am new to commenting on this blog, but not new to blogging. If you don’t want to discuss it that’s cool with me, and you are under no obligation to do so. ;) But… I would love to hear your response.

            I am not, nor was I, piqued. I value you, your opinions and those of others on this blog.

  26. says

    What I think, and this may solely be just me, but I believe it’s just simply up to the pastor on whether he wants to have a close-knit group within his congregation. It’s a personal matter that I think the pastor should be able to make, on his own, with God’s choosing of course.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have close friends within your church, just as long as you don’t confine yourself to that “clique.”

  27. jj says

    I agree with the point that parishioners don’t want to see the pastor’s flaws too much and I can see where that could raise difficulties for the pastor, but it doesn’t have to if he has other mutual friends on an equal power plane. As a parishioner myself, I used to have a pastor who talked about which women he found attractive on a regular basis, and it affected me negatively. He was married and I lost respect for him. I don’t think it is that parishioners expect perfection, but there is a power imbalance between pastor and parishioner, and the parishioner needs to know the pastor can be trusted with confidences in times of need without having to second guess the pastor’s human side. It is a complex leadership position and requires sensitivity. But pastors are not the only ones who deal with this. Even average people who have nothing to do with church have to be careful with their relationships. Every relationship is defined and every relationship has it’s limitations. This is just part of life. Parent / child relationships have limitations for instance. I mean – I don’t want to hear about who my mother finds attractive and who she doesn’t – there is a boundary of mutual respect in that way. A husband / wife relationship is different than two girlfriends. Family members are seen as different than doctor / patient. Counselors have responsibilities toward counslees that are different than their personal friends. This shouldn’t be such a big mystery in my opinion.

    • says

      It matters not that other people have to deal with these types of issues. Pastors are different as they are leaders of the church. And if you are not a pastor you are most likely going to struggle with understanding the issue here.

  28. says

    Dave, I appreciate your honest answer that you are not sure the scriptures address the topic. Afterward, you say that there are principles that apply. I assume you mean scriptural principles, and would certainly look forward to hearing what you think those are. I believe we are all trying to apply what we know from scripture to reality, but I still feel there was little engagement with scripture and mostly just discussions of experience. You noted that I did not appeal to scripture. I did briefly appeal to scripture in reply # 40, but there was no reason in the question in reply # 67 to appeal to scripture because I was asking you something about your position. By calling my question an accusation I take it that you may be somewhat offended by the question, which was not my intent. I will be glad to give some of my thoughts from scripture on the topic, but I will wait a bit to see what else might be said from the standpoint of biblically defining the “no close friends” position.

    John, I accept your question as honest and respectful,(though you could possibly have a skewed impression of my “landmark views”). But I believe the honest answer is “No, I do not believe there is any cause and effect relationship there.” Any Landmark teachers that I had who ever addressed this subject held basically the same idea as does Dave and the majority who responded in this thread — pastors should not get too close to their people. Views that pastors should be close to the people, if attached to any “ology” in my theology would most likely be to my bibliology and the idea of apostolic practice as normative. I would also add that “not setting apart the pastor from the people” is not a general trait of landmarkism of which I am aware.

    My concern is for accepting a general principle that pastors should not get close to their church members based on experience. Is there a scriptural reason to accept such a principle? This is not rejecting the reality that we do have bad experiences, nor the wisdom that jj mentions that we use in developing and sustaining relationships. My point of bringing this up intersects with what Joe Dupree mentions — is this just something we decide for ourselves, or is there some scriptural direction for how church members, including pastors, ought to relate to “one another”?

    • John Wylie says

      Robert,

      First what I meant is that most Landmark churches basically treat the pastor as being no different than the people. I saw where your church was once American Baptist Association, and in most ABA churches people don’t even regard the pastor as the leader. So naturally people with that flavor of Landmark views would not even see the necessity of the discussion.

      Now on the practical versus biblical discussion, the truth is that I’m not really sure where to strike the balance. Because Peaveyhouse is right you have all those passages that talk about our responsibility to one another with no distinction made concerning pastor or laity. But then you have passages that put more strict requirements on the pastor, a more strict scrutiny on the pastor, a call not to damage the ministry by our conduct and so on.

      • says

        John, while you relate what has been your experience, I would not agree that your assessment accurately reflects how most Landmark churches treat pastors. I confess to not knowing exactly what most Landmark churches do, but I have seen them from this end of the spectrum to all the way on the other where the pastor approaches more of a dictator than a leader. I suspect the general practice is somewhere in between.

        I could give you a number of anecdotes, but it matters not what most Landmark Baptists or most Southern Baptists or most any other body of Christians does. The scriptures should guide us, if they are our rule of faith and practice. So I guess I’m wondering for those who think the pastor should not get close to the people, do they think this is an area of personal choice with no scriptural guidance, or perhaps something else?

  29. jj says

    It’s true I’m not a pastor but my husband was involved in music ministry for a couple of decades and I’m a little bit familiar with what it is like to feel held to a higher standard than everyone else. It’s probably still different than the pastoral role to a degree, but I think that Mark Mitchell bringing up the differences in pastors and non-pastors is immediately telling as to why close relationships are not usually possible between the two. Pastors themselves immediately recognize the difference you see. The message I hear is – “you’re different than me you can’t understand”. You see, “close friends” are usually like-minded people, coming from a similar background or from otherwise common ground.

    I think anyone would be hard pressed to find that scriptures require pastors to refrain from being close friends with their parishioners. However Biblical guidelines do reference being “above reproach”, “not a novice” and Paul is known for saying “follow me as I follow Christ”. There is a tone that seems to suggest that Pastors should have reached a point of maturity in their walk with God where they are qualified teach, lead, and show the way for those who are newer in faith. That is generally the relationship of a pastor and parishioner, and there is usually a power imbalance which is what often impedes close relationships in the long run. The Bible does not discuss this issue specifically, but we know about it through our experiences, which most people use regularly for part of their learning what works and what doesn’t in practical life. What scripture says we should ignore what experience teaches us altogether? Still it is true, the Bible nowhere states explicitly that a pastor and parishioner cannot be allowed to be close friends. Biblical guidelines also teach us to love one another and to do what is edifying for one another. If a close relationship with a pastor and parishioner is somehow causing dissention, conflict, strife for the body then it is going against Biblical guidelines. I suspect that many people have witnessed this in various forms, which is why the subject even exists. If pastor/parishioner close relationships always brought about helpful results then there would be no controversy to discuss.

  30. says

    Dave, you asked, “Do you have any scriptural advice that could instruct us on this topic?” I’m finally getting around to this part of the post. Not sure whether anyone is still following this or not.

    Let me begin by saying that I am not advising throwing wisdom and practicality to the wind. In fact I think the Bible clearly advises us to engage these when it comes to relationships. For example, we have this advice from Proverbs:
    22:24 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
    18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
    A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

    At the same time, I don’t think the New Testament principles regarding churches and church membership give pastors a “pass” on the ways we are to relate and interact. Neither am I convinced that pastoral responsibility nor pastoral authority are inherent impediments to friendships in the church. Though we must be sure friendship does not degenerate into favoritism or respect of persons (e.g. James 2:9).

    Peavyhouse and I have both previously mentioned the “one another” passages, so I won’t dwell long here. Serve one another, submit to one another, bear the burdens of one another, forbear and forgive one another, comfort one another, exhort one another, confess to and pray for one another–these all seem to be the antithesis of maintaining a careful distance from our congregation.

    Then there is the exhortation to the church at Thessalonica to “know them who labour among you.” How shall a church fulfill this, if they are kept at arm’s length? This is not just about acquaintance, but getting to know them.

    Even scriptural directions for resolving personal problems and church discipline require a greater amount of trust that many of us are willing to give (Matthew 18 and I Cor 6, e.g.). These truths are for the pastors as well as the congregation, and there must be enough trust to go, to take others, and to spread it all out before the church. How many among us are ready to carry a legal matter, which might otherwise go to court, to the church instead? This may not be directly about friendship, but it says a lot about trust, which is the foundation to begin friendship.

    This is getting long, so I’ll close. But I hasten to add that I am not advocating this because it is what I am comfortable with. I am interested in finding where the Bible leads us. I tend to want to kept things close and to myself, not lay it out there for others. I will also add that our churches are not ideal, but often dysfunctional, which is another part of applying wisdom in our relations.

  31. M.O.E. says

    As a Pastor for thirty five years, I can honestly say, you can have friends in the church, but not close friends. We are to treat everyone with respect. We areto be friendly and kind to everyone, but the second we begin to have a close friend in the church, everyone finds out about it, soon jealously rears its ugly head.

    A Pastor has to keep personal things about himself, to himself, or else those personal things can come back to bite him. We can never say anything negative to anyone about someone else, because at some point the one you shared with will disagree with a position you have taken on some issue and “Guess what”? The cat is out of the bag.

    Friends yes, close friends no.

    • cb scott says

      Give this man a cigar. He has made the journey and has seen the hard reality.

      M.O.E., I must agree with your assessment here. It may seem rather harsh, but it is reality. It is too bad some will learn what you know, as do others who have been around for a while in pastoral ministry, the hard way. But they will learn if they stay long in pastoral ministry and the learning will leave its scars. But, I guess we all need scars to really understand. At least, it seems that way to me.

    • says

      M.O.E., I understand where you’re coming from, even though I am a couple years short of your experience (I can only clock back to 1981). But we must unite experience informed by scripture, not experience alone. In the first paragraph you are right; we certainly must deal wisely, and showing favoritism is not a wise choice. But those who will not get close to a pastor and then get jealous are exposing their own sin and not that of others. I think here it might be good that we reassess our experience and ask whether there are other flaws in our methodology rather than friendship? Our ways of doing church could be reassessed. Possibly there are some flaws there. For example, in my opinion, in our American Baptist churches the minister is often too close to a hireling than a pastor. Also, do we put too much on one man?

      As far as a pastor keeping personal things to himself, I think we agree. (I’d think that would be pretty good advice for non-pastors as well.) But perhaps I am not on board with the majority in this thread, or don’t understand their position. I don’t really think we have to have a “Catholic style” confession to have close friends, even though there are time and things we should confess one to another. There’s a little story about three ministers not keeping things to themselves and it coming back to bite them (at least two of them). We’ve probably all heard some version of it. I have a copy of that story on another computer and will post it tomorrow, Lord willing.

  32. says

    We know that we can be betrayed by those we trust. We know by scripture as well as experience.
    Psalms 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

    Does that mean we should not trust, should not have friends? Paul had friends:
    Acts 19:31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
    Acts 27:3 And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
    We will say these were just friends, not close friends? What is a close friend?

    John had friends, but not too close, I guess?
    3 John 1:14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

    Sometimes our friendships and relationships will hurt us; but sometimes one denies himself for the cause, even when loving more means being loved less:
    2 Corinthians 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

  33. says

    The pastors from the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in a certain town went on a fishing trip together. After being out awhile in the boat, the Methodist pastor pointed out that each of them had to deal with the problems of the members of their churches, but they didn’t really have anyone to talk to about their own problems. “It’s just us, out here in the middle of a lake. Why don’t we confess our faults to each other, and we’ll all feel better?”

    The other two agreed that it was a great idea. Since he thought of it, the Methodist preacher went first. “I have a problem with lust and pornography. So far I’ve been able to keep it a secret from my family and my church, but I just don’t know how to overcome it. Sometimes all I can think about is other women.”

    The Presbyterian minister said, “Me? I have a gambling problem. I like betting on the horses. I can’t quit. I’ve lost so much money at the race track that I’m having to take money from church funds to support my gambling problem.”

    The Baptist preacher hesitated, but his friends encouraged him to open up. Suddenly he blurted out, “My problem is that I’m a horrible gossip; I just can’t wait to get back into town!”

    I first heard this years ago. I’m sure it was conceived as a joke, but it illustrates that even when choosing closest friends outside the church and in the ministry, a little wisdom in called for.

  34. Pastor D says

    No close friends inside outside of the church. I’ve been betrayed too many times. Either by people who pretend to be your friend just to get “the inside scoop” or by people who get offended in some way and then blab to all who will listen. Sadly, this was not so before I became a pastor. I had several wonderful friends. I could be myself & not worry about what they thought and they felt the same about me. Those days are gone. Those friends are gone. They left me because I’m “too much of a target” and they don’t want the pressure. On a positive note – I can relate to Jesus & how He felt when His friends deserted Him.

    • Dave Miller says

      Your comment is depressing. But I have often experienced what you mention. I am sorry for what you have been through and pray God’s blessing on you.

      • Frank L. says

        Dave, and Pastor D,
        This is so common because it is part and parcel of the calling. Friends come and go whether you are a pastor or not. Friends betray and hurt whether you are a pastor or not. It just seems more common if you are a pastor because the Devil’s choice monkey wrench to throw in the works is a person who gets close to you. et tu brute?

        I am very fortunate because one of my best friends is my son-in-law. He is also an Associate Pastor. I spend much of my time with him.

        I’ve learned what Pastor D has learned and I learned it a “very hard way.”

        I don’t see “friendship” issue, though, as particularly a pastoral problem though that adds a unique twist. Life is transient and that includes relationships.

    • Christiane says

      from Psalm 27 . . . ““Your face, Lord, I will seek.””

      “11 Teach me Your way, O Lord,
      And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
      12 Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
      For false witnesses have risen against me,
      And such as breathe out violence.
      13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
      That I would see the goodness of the Lord
      In the land of the living.

      14 Wait on the Lord;
      Be of good courage,
      And He shall strengthen your heart “

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