Today's post if from Robert Johnson
"And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Eccl.4:12). Solomon emphasizes how important relationships are to our existence. Trying to face life alone is a challenge at best, as isolation breeds doubts and can make one’s perceptions of life contrary to reality. We need others to interact with, communicate with, and have an association with to be balanced and whole.
How important is this principle for those of us who are engaged in the ministry of preaching God’s word! While working in the role of a gospel preacher is one of the greatest privileges, the demands that can be placed on gospel preachers in that role can be great, as well. The pressures of study, teaching and preaching, encouraging, sharing in the highs and lows of the congregation, and all of the other facets that come with trying to help mature and grow the body of Christ, can be daunting. While you can cultivate positive relationships with members of the local congregation, there are aspects of the work many find it difficult to understand, or to offer empathy with.
In my 43 years of preaching and teaching, I have met some of the best people one can know in the church, and I have met some of the worst people one can know in the church. You love them all, but preachers have feelings too. Sometimes your family can be criticized for non-issues by those with a grievance against you. You may find ministry demands interfering with family time, and be accused of laziness if asking for time to put things back into their proper perspective. Sermons are too long or too short. One member bragged at budget time to the church I was laboring with, “Well, the Lord will keep him humble and we’ll keep him poor!” Many of the issues the church deals with will be laid at the preacher’s feet, and too many good men find themselves leaving a work simply because they are expendable, taking the blame for what was happening before they arrived, and will continue after they’re gone.
Developing a relationship with other preachers can help keep one from having a distorted perspective about the church as whole, and individual brothers and sisters specifically. Facing similar issues, it helps to be able to have someone who knows what you’re going through, who knows the joys and hurts of ministry. We can pray together, study together, discuss ideas together, and find ourselves renewed in love for the brethren. Isolation is never the solution to our problems, but fellowship can help us see with a clearer vision. We can love our church family better, knowing we all share in the frailties of being human, helping us become more effective in taking the message preached and helping each other apply to the sometimes messy situations life brings our way.
In reading 1 and 2 Timothy, how much did Timothy need such fellowship, encouragement, and teaching from Paul? How much, in his last hours, did Paul want to share time with Timothy? Or what about John Mark? Leaving Barnabas and Paul in their first mission effort, perhaps the demands of being out of his comfort zone was too much for him. Yet Barnabas knew the value he had, and personally mentored him as they worked in Cyprus. Through this fellowship, Paul later could speak of how valuable Mark was to him. If preachers needed each other in the 1st century, that model still has value for preachers in the 21stcentury.
During the course of my ministry, I could list godly men who have had such a personal influence in my life. Many of them have passed on to their reward, but the times we spent together still is a treasure to me. Those memories still help motivate me not to give up, to still learn, still grow, and still serve. The cords of fellowship I have formed in my life with my preaching brethren still bind me to the cause of Christ, to a desire to spend whatever time I have left in life in seeking to be a blessing to the church, to brothers and sisters in Christ, to others who are engaged in the greatest of works, spreading the message of salvation to those lost and needing peace.
If, as a preacher, you are trying to go it alone, it is a mistake that can affect not only your relationship with the church, but your family, and how you respond to the world around you. Solomon also said, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). That’s how brothers in Christ, who share in the work of the gospel, should feel toward each other. May God bless your life to have those who you can count to be with you no matter what, in life and ministry, to never let go of the vision to which our Lord calls us. Be available to others. Find the positive blessings such fellowship brings. May we be bound together in the love of God and Christ, in these challenging times, to stay the course for truth, to mature others for the work of service, for us all to live the way that leads to life eternal. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:23-25).