on friends and pastors

A friend and I were talking the other day. I said, “Remember, you already have a pastor.” My friend hadn’t thought about that and said, “I think I’ve never had a pastor that I had any relationship or friendship with.”

I understood. And was saddened.

I’m sitting at a conference of pastors and church leaders. Our speaker this morning said,

If all we do is teach and tell people things, they aren’t disciples. We need to have relationships of trust, people who are shaped by the WAY we believe, by our life.

He talked about a conversation he had with God.

God said, “He who doesn’t love you isn’t really your disciple.”

Edwin said “So how do I make them love me?”

God said, “Why do you love me?”

Edwin said, “Because you gave your live for me.”

God said, “So give your life for them.”

Those two thoughts have been kicking around my heart: the importance of relationships and the absence of relationships. It’s the heart of the model and the action of Jesus. Have conversations, develop relationships, listen, care, heal bodies, work hard, be exhausted in the work, be emotionally involved. Then die sacrificially. Then come back and live in and through people committed to him.

I can’t do the dying instead of part. But then, I don’t have to. I don’t have to be everyone’s savior. That’s covered.  But when I heard Edwin this morning, I confess, I wept a bit. Teaching is easy. Living alongside is way harder, way more vulnerable. It involves working out answers to hard questions rather than giving hard answers to easy questions.

But I’m guessing that my friend isn’t the only one who has never had a pastor as a friend. I’m afraid that there are lots of pastors without friends.

5 thoughts on “on friends and pastors

  1. Joseph Ruiz

    Jon, thanks so much for this word. It has a very interesting application for my wife and I. We are walking alongside a life long friend who is in the final stages of cancer. She is not open to the gospel and to be honest is being quite difficult. I think your message of dying to our own wishes, conveniences and comfort so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus is after all the ultimate calling. So easy to pontificate so hard to walk.

    Thanks for the dying instead of reminder.

    Grace and Peace,


    1. Jon Swanson

      Joe, thank you for taking this to the non-pastoral side. Your comment is the illustration of how a body functioning like Kevin is saying, a couple comments down. And Kevin, I agree completely with the leading to lead to lead.

      Eugene Peterson differentiates between running a church and “curing souls”. And it is way too easy to do the running a church. I understand too well. It’s hard to be human, to be normal. And Rich, you are right, churches and pastors feed each other in a pedestal thing which can only fail.

      So I’m wanting to follow Jesus. And glad that I have a bunch of friends who are patient with me in that process.


  2. Rich Dixon

    My experience–pastors are some of the most guarded people I’ve met. They have to be so careful–or think they do–about who really knows them.

    I think of them as “professional friends.” They’re friends until the whistle blows, but then they punch the time clock and go off to their real lives. Can someone truly be your friend when being your friend is their job?

    It’s our fault. We expect you guys to be somehow different than everyone else, then wonder why you are. It produces a very isolated group of folks who are wonderful teachers but have a hard time opening up to us.


  3. Kevin

    Jesus was an acquaintance of many, a true friend to a few. Be careful not to over state the role of a pastor, there is a difference between leading a flock and being a close friend to every member. A pastor should lead a close few, who should be doing the same to others. Jesus could only handle 12 at a time, why do we think that a pastor should be able to accomplish more? If pastors were more focused on disciplining a few that also discipled a few, more of us would be lead by a friend. But what happens is the group the pastor is closest to, looks inward toward a leader who is inwardly focused. A shepherd leads the sheep toward green pastures, and away from danger by example. Pastors are too busy building churches, and not busy enough building other shepherds.


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