Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Thanksgiving approaches and there is a lot in life to be thankful for—my family, my church family, and my friends, for starters; all of whom I dearly love. But for a moment I want to hone in on a particular group who forms a subset of friends and eternal family: a group of pastors that I truly consider my band of brothers.
Let’s face it—most everyone in life faces difficulties and challenges, so I don’t want to glorify the challenges pastors face as bringing greater difficulty to life than what many other people face. But they are a unique set. If we devote ourselves well to our task, we find ourselves not as those barking orders from the rear but as those leading an army into a spiritual war—out front, grazed, and often wounded just like the soldiers around us (our faithful church members).
I am convinced that the best model for a church has been and always will be a plurality of leaders (pastors, elders, whatever term you want to use)—co-equals, co-servants, men devoted to loving and following Jesus, and devoted to loving and guiding their churches to love and follow Jesus. The single ministry leader is mostly the exception and by no means the rule in Scripture. Yet neither I nor many pastors I know, especially in small churches and small communities, have that.
So we have to look for the next best thing…
There is a group of men in my sister churches of my association and surrounding area, of which I would say: we’re not just devoted to Jesus, our families, and our churches; we’re also devoted to one another—that band of brothers. We come from different backgrounds, somewhat different ages, and different personalities. Some of our churches exist just a mere five or six miles apart.
Yet, we don’t see ourselves as rivals. We aren’t in this competing to build our own kingdoms. Yes, we want to succeed but we also want each other to succeed because THE KINGDOM is what matters.
We spend time with each other: eating together, sharing joys and hurts, praying for each other, and encouraging one another. If some time goes by and we can’t see one another face-to-face, we shoot emails or Facebook messages, send texts, and make phone calls. We share resources and things that have encouraged or challenged us. We are there, available around the clock, that if the phone rings and one of us is calling another then we will do our best to answer.
I’ve served in several places, but in my own experience this is the closest I have ever been to my fellow pastors. I’ve seen it one other time—a pastoral fellowship that felt like a band of brothers—and it generally resulted in longer ministry tenures and healthier churches. That is my hope for our band as well.
So this Thanksgiving season, I want to give a shout out of thanks to my friends, my brothers—my fellow pastors who encourage me and help keep me strong and focused on Jesus. I love you guys.
And I want to encourage other pastors: if you’re in a place and you don’t have a sense of strong fellowship with the pastors around you, pray for it and put in whatever effort possible to try to make it happen. It’ll be worth it.