I will say it again – we were created for community. No one was created for isolation. And yet, we live increasingly fragmented, isolated lives.
Our great grandparents would shudder at our definition of friendship. At its lowest level, social media has redefined friendship to mean casual awareness. I can ‘Friend’ you on Facebook although we have never met, let alone had a personal conversation. Superficial faux social media friendship contributes to a false sense of community. I am momentarily encouraged when a pastor assures me they live in community having surrounded themselves with close friends. The encouragement is momentary because I want to explore the obvious question – what is their definition of a friend?
I have a “friend” who owns a burgeoning franchise that has opened successful stores in hundreds of malls across the country. Many years ago, I found myself included in a group e-mail sent to his “Ten best friends in the entire world”. Naturally, anyone would feel flattered to be included on such a list. Here is the tragedy of my inclusion on his ‘top ten’ list; over the course of our friendship, we have enjoyed a total of three meals together, but never alone. He always brought another friend along. We have spoken on the phone less than half a dozen times. We have not had face-to-face contact in several years. Recently, during a phone conversation I gently pushed back asking him if I was really one of his ten best friends in the entire world. He passionately assured me that I was absolutely on his list. He went on to share how much I had meant to him over the past decade. I wanted to cry. If I am one of his ten best friends, he has told me that he has no real friends.
Pastors need friends. Real friends. But let me be clear: Pastors do not need “friends” who use them because it’s fun to be friends with someone in a place of authority. Pastors do not need “friends” who abandon them at the first sign of trouble. Pastors do not need “friends” who express dismay when they sin (“I thought you were above this. You’re the pastor!”). Don’t allow shallow, unintentional, judgmental “friendship” with your pastor to pass as friendship. Invest into your pastor to the point that you can truly refer to them as a friend.
Pastors need friends who will introduce them as a friend before they are introduced as a pastor. Pastors need friends who gracefully allow them unguarded moments without judgment. Pastors need friends who don’t take it personally when there are seasons of low communication.
Be a friend to your pastor. Take time each day to pray for your pastor. Write your pastor (a handwritten note is a great idea as it communicates genuine care) thanking them for their leadership, commitment and faithfulness to the Gospel.