Last week I attended the bi-annual denominational meeting for our tribe in Nashville, TN. The days were filled with business meetings as we elected officials to lead our movement, debated polity and received training and inspiration for ministry. The evenings involved gathering with approximately 12-15,000 people in worship services. I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent my local church at this gathering of one stream of the global Church.
However, if I can be honest the best part of the week was reconnecting in person with friends that I don’t get to see very often. Because we are all in ministry we don’t live near one another, and are separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Facebook gives us the ability to stay aware of what’s going on in each other’s lives. For instance I can tell you where some of my friends have vacationed this year, when their baby was born, and big events in their churches. What I can’t tell you is where they feel weak, what makes them laugh, and so many other things that don’t translate on social media. So we sat next to each other in business sessions and church services. We stayed up late playing cards and talking. We laughed until we cried, and we’ve been texting each other since we got home.
It seems that the stories of men and women leaving ministry, either by their own choice or because of indiscretions that disqualify them from ministry are more and more common. This breaks my heart and creates an intense desire in me to finish well and help my friends do so as well.
I once heard a man say
You need a group of friends around you who love you, but aren’t impressed by you.
This kind of group insures that there are people who want whats best for you and they don’t have a false sense of reality about who or what you are.
I’m thankful that I have those kinds of friends. My prayer is that I will lean into these friends and they will lean into me and in the end we’ll all be better for it.
A few months ago I saw a minister acting irresponsibly on Twitter. It was so juvenile and “unChristian” in my opinion that I said to some friends in a group text message:
I believe this shows that he doesn’t have anybody in his life who will tell him he’s being an idiot and to stop it. Just so you know, you guys always have that permission in my life.
I reaffirmed to my friends last week that they have permission to call me out when my behavior would begin to disqualify me for ministry, discredit me from preaching the Gospel or put the future of my marriage and family in jeopardy. I told my staff this week that they have that permission as well. I also told them I was taking that permission in their lives. An awkward conversation or two is well worth it to salvage my life, marriage or ministry.
Who have you given that permission to?