The Pastoral BrotherhoodBy Jamie Hart
June 12, 2020
Rambo is a farce. He’s a fake and a phony. I would never say that to his face, but then again, I never could because he’s fiction. He’s not real.
I remember feeling enamored with Rambo when I was a kid. It was impressive to watch him take on massive armies of bad guys all by himself. He was so well-trained and so knowledgeable in his survival (and killing) skills that he didn’t need anyone else.
But he’s a fake. He’s not real. The first thing we were taught as United States Army Infantry soldiers was the importance of our squad. Our drill sergeants taught us the need of others in arms with us to be victorious. This important principle was drilled into our heads regularly. “Never go alone,” they said, over and over.
This truth was around long before the U.S. Army discovered its importance. James, the brother of Jesus, knew it when he under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). The wise King Solomon knew it. “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).
This is true of any Christian man trying to lead a victorious Christian life. And while most pastors know and teach this truth, they find it hard to live in community themselves. I’ve heard many pastors quote the axiom “It’s lonely at the top” as they experience a unique and intense aloneness. Many men fear being real and vulnerable as most congregation members don’t understand the unique pressures and temptations of the pastorate. Some, perhaps most, fear revealing their deepest struggles as doing so could cost them their jobs and livelihoods. But isolation cannot be the only recourse and if fellowship is necessary for the sheep, it’s also necessary for the shepherd.
So what’s the answer? I believe that pastor’s need a brotherhood of other pastors. We need a group of fellow shepherds who are meeting regularly and intentionally to shoulder one another’s burdens and give strength with mutual, pastoral care. We need to help each other navigate the unique difficulties of leading a flock of God’s people.
There are several benefits to a pastoral brotherhood.
Pastoral brotherhood brings camaraderie.
Friends are different than comrades. Comrades are those who are with you in the foxhole. They are the ones who share a joint mission, joint experiences, and have built a unique trust with you. You put your life in the hands of your comrades, and I can’t say that about all my friends. When a pastor develops deep relationships with other pastors, he puts around him other men who are just as passionate as he is about accomplishing the mission God has given them. There is a bond that is formed when you do life with others who are striving for the same life goals with the same passion. It’s both reassuring and motivating. Pastoral brotherhood brings camaraderie.
Pastoral brotherhood brings companionship.
When I was in the army, my battle buddy was Pvt. Hayes. Prior to enlisting, Hayes was a rabble rouser and a trouble maker. He was one of those who had the choice of either going to jail, or joining the army. However, I came from a strong church and active youth group. My background was completely different as were my convictions and life choices! Although he was my foxhole comrade, we were NOT companions. We trusted one another, but we didn’t exactly enjoy each other’s company.
With a pastoral brotherhood, you surround yourself with men who not only share your life’s mission, but who also share your deep personal convictions. They share your values and can support you as you live them out. Pastoral brotherhoods go beyond simple camaraderie. They can form deep friendships.
Pastoral brotherhood brings compassion.
No one gets the difficulties that pastors face except other pastors. If you doubt that, try explaining to someone the unique fatigue you feel after preaching on Sunday. There is a special weariness to pouring out your soul trying to passionately communicate God‘s word. But most people look at that with very little understanding. “You just talked for 35 minutes. How exhausting can that be?“ However, your brothers understand. It’s not just a fatigue after preaching, but the weariness of a long elder meeting after bearing with someone through a tragedy they’re experiencing while also carrying for your own family difficulties. They live it too and there is something encouraging and empowering when your trials are shared with others who understand.
I’m so thankful for the GCC. I was privileged to be a part of a recent cohort where we helped one another navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Each week consisted of a large Zoom gathering, then smaller breakouts with other brother pastors. It was life-giving just being in conversation with them. Outside of my fellowship, I’ve reached out regularly to other pastors in the trenches with me. They have sustained me in my lowest points and resourced me in times of need. God has blessed me giving me what I believe every pastor needs desperately…brothers.