Why Pastors Need Non-Christian Friends
I have a confession to make. The longer I worked in ministry, the fewer people I led to Christ. Actually, it happened somewhat quickly. I started spending all my time with Christians.
At one point I couldn’t identify any real friends that were in my life who didn’t go to church.
Preaching was still a fruitful evangelistic activity for me, but I didn’t like who I had become. I couldn’t even preach with true conviction and empathy about evangelistic disciple making because I wasn’t doing it.
I think my preaching became less relatable to the unchurched over time.
The truth was that my life in the Christian bubble was a choice to live in sin. And when I moved into a role that required me to preach less often, the weight of this unconfessed guilt wreaked havoc on my soul. For a season, I wasn’t very fun to be around and I didn’t fully love ministry any more. It was no one’s fault but my own.
So, when we started Thrive LA Church I just wanted to begin by being friends with as many non-Christians as possible.
I wanted to unashamedly invite others to follow Jesus in the context of unconditional friendship. I coached basketball at the park. I started a secular book club on MeetUp and eventually became a city organizer for them. I started inviting the people I met into my life for meals and board games. I wouldn’t say I’ve been awesome at it, but I’ve invited my own friends to church and I’ve been re-acquainted with the joy of praying with friends to accept Christ.
I feel like I’m living in obedience to God for the first time in a long time.
Here’s the beauty of the vision, but also the challenge: When I do those things I’m not being a pastor, I’m just being a Christian. Ephesians 4 tells us the job of church leaders: To equip the saints for the work of ministry. God calls pastors to mentor a whole church of evangelistic disciple-makers.
These two callings go together. You can’t give away something you don’t have. Spending half my time in the community and the other half training leaders to do the same has been the most fulfilling season of ministry in my entire life.
But it takes time to lead someone from skeptic to follower of Christ, and from follower of Christ to ministry leader and evangelist.
I realize now that I didn’t spend enough time at the beginning recruiting Christians to our team who were already trained and committed to personal outreach.
As I manage the growing demands of our church I can feel my commitment to personal evangelism slipping away. I’m in a new season that involves preaching every week, facilitating our leadership pipeline, meeting for weekly discipleship conversations, planning outreach festivals, etc. I feel the strain of more responsibility and relationships than I have time to develop. I need to share the load in our church with mature believers to continue living a full Christian life.
I have to do what it takes to keep modeling the mission as I lead our church.
Friend, are you a disciple that makes disciples? Are you living in obedience to the great commission? Can you name the people you are leading to Christ and the people you are imparting this lifestyle?
You can’t give away something you don’t have, but I can tell you, it’s worth finding.
This article first appeared on togetherla.net.
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