Prior to full-time ministry, I worked for several years in a Fortune 500 company. As in most companies, there were people who were highly respected experts. They were able to do their job well, advance and experience great professional success.
At the same time, many seemed to do it mostly alone. They really seemed like loners who had their way of doing things and they did it well. One thing I remember is that not only did people keep their own trade secrets close to the vest, they also frequently knocked the ladder out from others trying to climb up with them. I am not describing a unique professional environment here. Many companies and professionals thrive on this type of competition.
Interestingly, as I was coming up the ladder professionally, I was also considering whether or not full-time ministry was something that I should pursue. I would try to get time with church leaders to ask questions and get counsel. I found that my requests were largely ignored or worse—critically received. As I lived in the professional environment but was desirous of the ministry environment, I became frustrated (and embarrassed) that the church reflected an unhealthy and unbiblical business model.
Over the last decade or so, God has been very kind to lead me to multiple pastors who do not fit into this model. They don’t walk around with a saw in their satchel ready to cut out the rungs from your pastoral development. Instead, they walk with you and help you get better.
Two guys in particular bear mentioning.
The first was a senior pastor named Pat. As I came to his church, I was a probably more of a nightmare than a dream come true. Like a radiator in a dark room, I had a lot more heat than light (passion without solid content). In fact, at one point he wryly quipped, “You’re high maintenance.” But he wasn’t dissuaded. He gave me books, time, training and an opportunity. And more importantly, he gave me access to him so I could learn and grow.
The second guy was a church planter named Bob. He had just started his church and we were in the planning stages of planting Emmaus. Instead of seeing us in any way as a competitor (we are in the same city), he embraced me as a brother. He opened up his church’s playbook and gave me and my team complete access to everything they do. I met with their pastoral team on many occasions and peppered them all with questions.
What is so unique about both of these relationships is their desire to see me succeed. They both gave up what is most valuable (time, resources and so on) in order to serve me. Not only does this deviate from what you see in business, it is different from what you see in many churches.