Do you know the pastor of that church near you?
You know the one I mean, the church building is possibly within walking distance. Or how about the pastor of that church across town? Perhaps you know of them, maybe you met them at some event, but do you really know them?
When you do not know them, you think of them in terms of building size, congregation size, doctrinal positions or how they present themselves in the city.
There are a lot of Americans who often do not know their next door neighbors.
They can live next to them for years and never even know their names. Because of the way that so many people are constantly moving due to job changes or life changes, it is increasingly more difficult to get to know your neighbor. With our busy schedules, stopping to know your neighbor is probably not high on our list of activities to make happen on a regular basis.
Pastors seem to reflect this same phenomenon with other pastors and churches.
They all occupy the same city, are all attempting to reach the same people in their cities and are all seeking to create a sacred space within the city. Yet, because of change, because of busy schedules or whatever else comes to mind … pastors do not know each other. Not really. It is not that we hate anyone, we just don’t ever seem to have the time.
Sometimes, it is the result of attitudes, prejudices or feelings we have developed about other denominations and theological positions. So, we take a step back from other pastors and churches. We hold to our positions so deeply that we cannot allow ourselves to breach those positions by getting to know someone of the opposing position on a doctrine or denominational affiliation.
“I just can’t be around those Pentecostals,” or “I cannot fellowship with someone who is a Calvinist.” Whatever the denomination, or whatever the doctrinal position we hold dear, it can be sufficient enough to hinder us from being around other pastors. There is no clear sense of unity, and there is often internal reservations about those other churches and pastors.
No, I am not talking about some wide embrace of ecumenism where you consider everyone your brother, even if they are a part of some cult group or something. But recapturing the ideal of all of us being brothers and sisters in Christ is something that is worthwhile. Imagine taking our creeds that proclaim that there is “One Church, One Faith and One God over all” and living it out in our daily existence.
Maybe it is just me, I mean, I am the type of person who does know his neighbors. It has taken some time and some effort, but I know my immediate neighbors and we have enough of a relationship that we watch each other’s homes when one of us goes out of town.
Over the years, I have found myself pastoring churches where there are not a lot of Christian churches. For example, I am in Utah pastoring a church right now where there are not a lot of evangelical churches. So, over the years I have come to really appreciate getting to know other pastors and developing relationships with them. When you are the minority, it is always best to know who your brothers are.
That effort has brought about good fruit in my life and ministry. Consider what has been created.
1. Opportunities to stop viewing other pastors as the competition.
When you know other pastors and get to be friends, you stop viewing them as the competition and start seeing them as brothers. Relationship breaks down the barriers between you, and you discover that most of those other pastors simply have a heart for God and His people like you.
They may do some things differently, but they have the same heart.