Christianity Today: It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. Our days and nights are filled with calls, meetings, and interactions with people. But despite lots of people contact, we have few trusted peers. We have too many relationships and too few friends.
Many pastors don’t recognize their isolation. On the contrary, many struggle with relationship overload and feel more of a need to be by themselves when they have discretionary time. But at the same time, their experience of genuine community is limited.
Isolated leaders are a danger to themselves and their churches. I’ve identified five specific dangers:
1. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to feelings of sadness and loneliness. Friends bring joy and energy.
2. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to anxiety and stress. When our world consists entirely of church relationships and when there is conflict or anxiety in that relational system, our stress gets multiplied. Having a friend outside of that system helps us keep perspective and lowers our anxiety.
3. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to discouragement. Without the chance to talk about our frustrations and discouragements, we lose a sense of context. Sharing these with people in the church is often unwise and unhelpful, so we keep them to ourselves.
4. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to temptation. Isolation is a key factor in vulnerability to addiction and any kind of sinful habit. Friends offer accountability and support.
5. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to doing stupid things. We tend to over-react or make decisions without thinking things through. Sometimes friends can help us by asking, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
Mark Brouwer is pastor of Jacob’s Well Church Community in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
Copyright © 2014 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.