Most brothers are not identical twins. The same is true when it comes to fellow pastors. We are a band of brothers; but, just as in family relationships, we don’t always look like or agree with one another.
We understand there is no true unity where there is not agreement on biblical doctrine. And it is our Lord’s desire that we have a testimony of spiritual unity and spiritual fruit.
But in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, it is increasingly important that fellow pastors learn to stand for truth and for the gospel rather than spending their time picking at one another over straw man issues.In a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, it is essential that Bible-believing pastors learn to stand together for truth rather than spending their time picking at one another over straw man issues. Click To Tweet
Most pastors I know agree with that statement on a surface level. But sometimes it’s easy for it to get clouded on a practical level.
In the spirit of encouraging appreciation and unity with those who love God, love His Word, and are preaching the gospel, I share the thoughts below on pastor-to pastor relationships in ministry.
1. They don’t have to be in your group to be God’s men.
There are many godly people whom God is using who don’t follow my methods or position themselves in my most-common ministry circles.
Jesus experienced this as well. But when the disciple John reported to Jesus that he had “forbad” the one doing work in God’s name without being part of “their group,” Jesus forbad him!
And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. (Luke 9:49–50)
Commentator Thomas Constable wrote, “This incident exposed an attitude of rivalry…. This was not a problem of orthodoxy; the exorcist believed in Jesus. It was rather a problem of fellowship or association; he was not one of the Twelve.”
There is a real possibility of narrow-mindedness that fails to give glory to God for what He does through those who don’t conform to our groups.
I have strong convictions about ministry philosophy and methods and have attempted to pour them into others through mentoring, teaching, and writing. But I am grateful for anyone who is faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. They don’t have to share your gifts or interests to be needed.
God gives different spiritual gifts to different Christians. We err when we align ourselves with men first rather than with Christ and His Word.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:3)
I don’t know why men change affiliations or positions they once held. But its not up to me to manage them.
Along my journey, I have written three books related to ministry positions and relationships:
- Guided by Grace was written to advocate for servant leadership in my own life and ministry circles. I saw some failures and inconsistencies in leadership methods, but I did not need to remain a victim of poor leadership influences. “I certainly didn’t need to focus on the hurts of other men toward me to create a ministry niche. Rather, I asked God to help me grow in grace and adjust my own leadership style. The result was this book written in 2000 (and updated in 2021).
- The Road Ahead was written in response to carnal divisions, unbalanced practices, and graceless relationships within and between independent Baptist churches. It lays out ten steps to authentic, biblical ministry that is directed by faith, grace, and truth.
- Keep the Faith was written to encourage pastors to take a strong stand for truth while understanding current ministry trends and intensely reaching forward with the gospel in fruitful ministry.
Each of these books found strong praise and some criticism, yet I wrote them to encourage fellow pastors to take a strong stand for truth in a gracious way and to appreciate others who don’t share their stand.
3. They don’t have to be well known to be appreciated.
God wants us to love the brethren without agenda or consideration of their potential for being a blessing in our lives.
Throughout the gospels, we see the disciples vying with each other over status and greatness. In fact, this was their very discussion directly before they rebuked the man who cast out devils in Jesus’ name. (That context reveals the pride that is so often in our desire to put down those who are not in our circles.)
In this instance, Jesus rebuked their self-filled thoughts by teaching humble service to those who could not repay them.
Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. (Luke 9:46–48)
Jesus was teaching that instead of seeking status for themselves, His disciples should give their attention to the needs of people who have no status—people like children.
When we apply this principle to pastor-to-pastor relationships, we are reminded of the thousands of faithful pastors across our land who are faithfully preaching the gospel and diligently serving as undershepherds of God’s people—but who are not known by many outside of their communities. These are men to appreciate!
Beware of getting caught up in the desire to build relationships with well-known pastors for the purpose of elevating yourself—getting invited to preach out, being recognized by your alma mater, building your “personal brand.” Look instead to build edifying relationships with pastors whom you can encourage or by whom you can be mentored. For these relationships, being well known is not a criteria.
4. You don’t need to have close fellowship with someone to appreciate them.
On the opposite side of this coin, there are some pastors we can appreciate from afar.
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: … What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15, 18)
There are many men whom you may not fellowship with closely for a variety of reasons, but for whom you can still be grateful.
I praise God for anyone who preaches the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins as the only means to salvation. There are some who preach the gospel whom I would not invite to preach in our church lest I send a confusing message regarding their philosophies or practices to our congregation. But I can still appreciate these pastors and their stand.
5. You don’t need to focus on the faults of others to grow in your own effectiveness.
We all have plenty of faults. Yet somehow we normally manage to see faults in others more easily than we see them in ourselves.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5)
Spending your ministry focusing on the faults of others is a great way to develop a critical spirit in your own life, as well as in the lives of those you lead. Focusing on your own areas of needed growth while appreciating those you might not fellowship with is a great way to develop a spirit of praise and gratitude.
6. You don’t have to know someone to pray for them.
Twice in writing to the church at Thessalonica, Paul requested prayer.
Brethren, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:25)
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
Prayer is vital to the work of the ministry. Yet, how often are we quick to criticize and slow to pray for others?Prayer is vital to the work of the ministry. Yet, how often are we quick to criticize and slow to pray for others? Click To Tweet
Over the years, I have prayed for many men whom I don’t personally know. In time, I have met and even served the Lord alongside some of these men.
Sometimes prayer and reaching out has bridged personality or misinformation gaps.
Sometimes I have prayed for men who I will probably never serve with in close proximity, but I ask the Lord for His hand on their family and ministry.
The point is that if prayer is essential to our own ministries, praying for others—within or without our immediate circle of relationships—is one of the greatest gifts we can give to fellow pastors.
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