Five suggestions to pastors who are trying to go this alone…
Ask the Lord to give you a friend or two or three.
Your heavenly Father is far more interested in your befriending other sons and daughters of the Kingdom than you are. So, ask Him for this. Then, as always when we ask the Father, wait on Him. Don’t rush it. Watch for His answer.
–Two. Ask an older pastor whom you highly respect for his thoughts on this subject. If you hear of another pastor who works on sermons with a group of peers, check into it. Ask denominational friends if they have such experience.
–Three. Try this: Pull together a half dozen of your sharpest leaders for an informal 30-minute meeting. Tell them a sermon series you are thinking about/praying about for the future and get their thoughts on various aspects of it. Either write it down or recruit someone who can write fast and will record the insights, burdens, suggestions. Then, a couple of weeks later, after you’ve done some work on the matter, assemble the same group and share with them the topics of the half-dozen sermons, once again seeking their insights and thoughts.
Promise them nothing. Even if someone told a great story and you think you might want to use it, don’t lock yourself into having to do it. You are not asking anyone to write your sermon. You’re looking for ways to make the message connect with people.
The next time you do this, choose different people. Let no one ever have a reason to claim they are writing your sermons for you.
–Four. If you have met pastors of other denominations in your town or neighborhood whom you would like to get to know better, call one or two up and ask if you can get together for a cup of coffee. Meet at a neutral place. McDonald’s is always good. Just get to know each other and see if anything comes of it. (Go with two or three questions: How long have you been at this church? Tell me about your church. What did you preach last Sunday? Where did you serve before coming here? What do you like best about this town? What is your life verse?)
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must agree with the other pastors on the finer points of theology to befriend one another. You’re not discussing doctrine; you’re looking for friends in the Lord who can appreciate the work you do and the burdens you bear.
–Five. A caution: Don’t talk to other people about your new friends, not even complimenting them. Not at first, anyway. I once quoted a pastor from the pulpit in a great story, only to have someone come up afterward horrified I would consider that man a brother. “Do you know what he believes?” I responded I was not preaching his doctrine, but sharing a story. Some people, however, can not handle the finer points of that. So a friendship with another pastor is your and the Lord’s private information for a time.
My friend Jim Nalls, longtime pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, became part of a prayer group in seminary that to this day meets annually for a few days. These men are all pastors. When I asked, he admitted that in their annual gatherings they would play a round of golf every day and go out to eat. But they talked nonstop. They prayed for each other. They had one another’s backs. I asked, “And how do the wives feel about this?”
“They didn’t understand it at first,” he admitted. “Especially when some of us were pastoring hundreds of miles apart and had to drive a long way.” But, he added, when the wives saw the difference the fellowship made in the preacher/husbands’ lives, they became supportive.
The verse for this: Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
I call that the blacksmith verse. Iron sharpening iron. In my grandfather’s blacksmith shop, I would sometimes work the bellows. There would be noise, fire and much friction as metal clanged against metal. (I have the heavy wooden mallet he used in that shop. But don’t tell my cousins!)
Sounds a lot like the fellowship meeting of two or three good friends trying to hammer out a program or a ministry.
Give it a try.
This article originally appeared here.