by Jack English
When I first started preaching, an older preacher told me that I should avoid making close friends in the local church. His reasoning was that doing so would run the risk of alienating the rest of the brethren. Now that I am an older preacher, I would challenge that advice as not being accurate. A preacher that doesn’t have close friends in his local church will come closer to alienating himself from the brethren.
A preacher of all people cannot have too many friends. These friends often come from different areas of our life. We may have casual friends, close friends, social friends, and preacher friends. As a preacher, some of my closest friends are even elders! Every preacher should or will know how helpful and important that can sometimes be.
Some of my friends are special interest or hobby friends. We share a love for the outdoors and often find time to hunt or fish together. We never have a lack of something to talk about and enjoy the diversion from other responsibilities our shared hobby provides. The benefits of a friend and a brother in Christ permit us to minister to one another while sharing an activity we mutually enjoy.
Some of my friends are not Christians, at least not yet. I have found the most effective method of evangelism is through relationships and friendships. As a preacher, I often have to work harder at making friends outside the church and try to involve myself in local activities, service clubs, or other projects that will facilitate that. I have been blessed through the years to convert many people who were first my friends before they became my brothers or sisters in the Lord. As a result, our friendship only deepened as we came to share more than just being friends. I soon learned that friendship evangelism without evangelism is just friendship.
My greatest blessing as a preacher, however, is the preacher friends I have made the past 45 years of ministry. There have been two preacher friends among many who have been my “Jonathans” in the faith for over forty years. We have raised our families, laughed, cried, prayed, rejoiced, and suffered together. We have encouraged each other and admonished each other when necessary. We have held each other accountable to our commitment of faith and ministry. Our love for each other truly rivals that of David and Jonathan.
I cannot emphasize enough the value of preachers having at least one or two close preacher friends. Every preacher needs a preacher. Mine are named Paul and John.
The benefits of having close preacher friends are many. These are some that come quickly to mind:
- Someone to confess your weaknesses and failures to.
- Someone to hold you accountable to your faith commitment.
- Someone to share sermon and ministry ideas.
- Someone to pray for you and you for them.
- Someone to laugh with when you feel like crying.
- Someone to cry with when you don’t feel like laughing.
- Someone to be transparent with knowing they will love you anyway.
- Someone to talk to and listen to without being the preacher.
- Someone who will encourage you when ministry becomes discouraging.
- Someone “who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
Solomon was right when he said, “ A man that has friends must himself be friendly.” Preachers who don’t have any close friends should first check their own friendliness. Someone else said, “Friends are God’s way of taking care of us.” Preachers need other preachers because, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Eccles. 4:10).
Jack English preaches for the Center Street Church of Christ in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.