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Leading the church is a demanding task. There will be times when you come home late because of the work pastoring demands. The problem is when those seasons become the norm instead of the exception, and we spend more time investing in our churches than in our families.

This temptation is easier to succumb to if we don’t center our identity in the gospel but instead in being a pastor. Now the success of our church – in its ministries, numbers, or simply how we want our congregants to view us – becomes the thing for which we live and, consequently, that which we give the bulk of our time.

It’s no secret many churches both big and small are led by unhealthy pastors who’ve made their local church a priority over and above their marriages and families. This can be especially true of church planters who work feverishly to get their local church off the ground.

But a brave pastor invests in his family. He pours into his wife, his kids. A brave pastor knows his home is the first church he pastors. That’s why one of the elder qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:4 is that “he must manage his own household well.” A healthy pastor must lead the little church (family) before he leads the big church. A brave pastor consistently fights the pull of ministry, the ache that things need to be done (by only him), and the siren’s call that tells him his identity is anchored to the “success” of his church.

Conversely, unhealthy pastors make excuses for their inattentiveness at home. They can easily guilt their spouses saying the church must have this or that from their leadership in order for things to work. They can also drop the God bomb on them: “Listen honey, this is why I’m the pastor God called to this church!” Well, who’s to argue with him when it’s put that way? To call his judgment into question is equated to lack of faith, spiritual immaturity, or flat out rebellion against God. However, let the record show this type of reasoning isn’t the sign of his spiritual greatness but his weakness, manipulation, and cowardice.

Listen men, the local church can get another pastor, but your wife has only one husband, your kids only one father.  If you’re going to cheat on someone, cheat on the idea that you have to be doing ministry/church 24/7. You don’t. Cheat on “the ministry” so you won’t cheat on your family. Make your home a priority in your schedule. Continue to date your wife. Make memories with your kids. Don’t play quality time over quantity time. Do both well. Lead your family at home so they won’t resent ministry but see it all as a blessing from God. It bears repeating. Lead your little church (family) in order to better lead your big church.

If your spouse ever says, “How come the church gets the best of you – your energy, your creativity, and your attention – but at home we get the crumbs?” You might want to consider cheating on the ministry so you can give your family what they deserve. I should know. This is what my wife said to me. And she was right. I was cheating on the wrong group.

I’ll give you one more reason not to cheat on your spouse with the church. The church is already Someone else’s Bride. That seat is filled by the Lord Christ himself (cf., Rev. 19:7-10, 2 Cor. 11:2). You play your role as pastor not Savior. Remember, your legacy as a pastor is just as defined by the family you love as the church you lead.

Brave pastors invest in their family.

I’d give it all for one good friend.”
– Howard Hughes when asked about his wealth of 4 billion dollars

At a pastors’ retreat this summer I had lunch with one of my church planter friends who wanted some counsel. Throughout the conversation he admitted to struggling personally, emotionally, and ministerially. I really felt for him because I was walking through a fairly tough year myself. Indeed, it was the reason he wanted to chat specifically with me. Early in the course of our conversation I asked, “Do you have any friends there?” Almost immediately he soberly replied, “No. I don’t have any friends here. I’m incredibly lonely.” He knew exactly what I was asking. He knew I wasn’t referring to amiable people in his neighborhood or even welcoming members of his church. He knew I asked if he had solid, deep, transparent friends around him that he could confide in, trust, and lean upon. The reason I asked about his close friendships isn’t because the lack of them was the cause of his struggles but because good friends greatly blunt the great struggles many pastors experience in ministry.

Friendships are God’s way of giving us emotional safety nets. They are really gifts of grace to us by Jesus. Proverbs 18:24 tells us, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” and Proverbs 27:17 reads, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” It’s pretty clear that we can have friends – I mean really close friends who are as close as family – friends who make us better, friends who sharpen us. I call these kinds of friends someone’s Core relationships . They are the inner circle of relationships surrounded by the outer circles of Friends then Acquaintances. The Core are those who know your soul, your secrets, your struggles. You trust they would do anything for you. These are the people you’d give your kids if something happened to you. They’re like family, “closer than a brother.”

But they are hard to come by, especially if you are a pastor. Add on, for many, the already lonely venture of planting a church and you’ve got the recipe for some serious relational challenges. While it’s hard not to sound self-serving about this, the truth is that no one knows what it’s like to sit in your seat. To feel the weight of responsibility, the unceasing pressure of the task, the demands of being “on” as pastor 24 hrs/day, and a thousand other things that come with the role.

Consequently, the temptation is to run to isolation and hide ourselves away emotionally. We put on masks affixed with smiles and utter pleasant words which lead people to think we never struggle in ministry. The idea is that our lack of transparency in the present will save us greater grief in the future. We don’t want our congregants to think wrongly of us, that we’re incompetent to the task of pastoring when the truth is pastoring is incredibly taxing on us in more ways that we can innumerate. But the illusion of isolation is you think you’re protecting yourself when, in reality, you’re making yourself more vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. The hole only gets deeper, the loneliness redoubles, and our hearts shrink inwardly from all the things we love. Even worse, some turn to medicating their situations with things like food, drink, or even porn. This is the true product of isolation.

Brave pastors are intentional at cultivating friendships.

Brave pastors find men who can understand them, meet them where they are, and schedule time with them. Often they are other guys in ministry who know the unique challenges that pastoring a church brings. (This goes true for their wives as well). In other words, they “get it” because you share the same iron of pastoring. Having these kind of Core friendships are ways we come up for air when we’ve been swimming in the depths of ministry. They help release tension by talking over coffee, spending time in prayer together, or simply having a good time with them in someplace fun. These are the guys who know your junk, your hangups, your failures and still love you. They can encourage you but also call you out when needed.

Brave pastors intentionally cultivate friendships in order to fight the temptation of isolation. I’ve tried to it. It’s saved me more times than I’d like to admit. How isolated are you? Who knows your junk? Don’t commit the sin of poor stewardship for not developing a Core. Your health, your family, and your ministry depend on it. Leverage the grace of friendships so that you might pastor for the long haul. That’s what brave pastors do.



I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself – and to all who will notice – that I am important.
– Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor

There is no question leading or planting a church is to embrace a whirlwind of people, events, and countless other things demanding your time. It’s inevitable. In my own world, especially in the early years, my week was full of counseling congregants, meetings with ministry teams, lunch dates with members, setting up chairs in the school where we were meeting, not to mention finding time for sermon prep.

Busyness not only was a given but I started to make it my normal, and not just externally but internally as well. I thought a sign of health and growth as a pastor was to live life going a 1,000 miles an hour. I believed it communicated I was on the right track, making progress, and honoring God with every second.

What I didn’t realize is that if pastors aren’t careful, doing the work of Jesus in the church can kill the work of Jesus in them. When life is a blur of activity with little to no reflection and quiet with Christ the soul withers. We  start listening to every voice but the One which ultimately matters. Leadership and ministry books are read by the dozens while the Scriptures are only opened for preparing messages. We begin to talk a lot about God to others but seldom make time for him to talk to us. I know I’ve been guilty of living this way.

There is a reason why God says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” The context finds Israel in the midst of perilous times, experiencing conflict from the nations around them. Surely it was a hurried, anxious, frenetic season. Yet, in the midst of all this craziness, God calls his people to slow down, stop striving, be still, and reflect on the truth of who he is!

I’m reminded of the words in 1 Kings 19:11-12 describing the prophet Elijah’s interaction with the God of the Universe:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

What is true is for Elijah often is true for us: God speaks not in the roar but the whisper. And if we think a hurried, anxious, frenetic life in ministry is healthy, we’ve likely succumbed to the temptation of busyness. It only appears we’re getting things done while our interior life greatly suffers. As Eugene Peterson notes, busyness gives the appearance of significance. Frankly, a bursting-at-the-seams calendar may indicate poor stewardship of our friends, our family, and even our faith. Always being busy strands us in the desert waste where God’s voice is hard to hear.

That’s why brave pastors fight the temptation of busyness by embracing slowness.

Jesus did. After a long day of ministry Jesus grabbed his disciples and told them in Mk. 6:31, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Jesus knew the value of taking a detour and finding a quiet place in the middle of the hubbub of ministry. He and his disciples were running around doing all kinds of great things for the kingdom and Jesus said, “Let’s get out of here!” He didn’t do this for his followers but himself as well. Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Mark 1:35 adds another snapshot of Christ, saying, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” If slowing down was good for the King of Glory then surely it must be good for those who follow that king.

Be brave and decide to fight the temptation of busyness. Find a distraction-free zone where you can get alone and quiet on a regular basis. Cut down your time on media and open your Bible a bit more. Periodically not only take time off but time away as well. Pastors need places to go and rhythms to embrace where they can move from the voices to the Voice, from the thousand words to the one Word.

Brave pastors embrace slowness.