Ministers are always taught about the importance of having close friendships, accountability, and personal devotion time in whatever ministry they find themselves. This is meant to keep the minister from running empty, from giving away all he's got and having nothing left of God at the end of the day. It's meant to keep him from going astray, having a place to ground him in his community and his work.
And those are great, important things. But there's one missing: ministry itself.
The minister have a place in his life where he is ministered to.
Accountability is a great thing. It reminds a person what their boundaries are and keeps them from going too far to the left and the right. But it's not ministry. Close friendships are amazing. It gives a person a place to belong where they don't necessarily have to perform or "work;" they can just be who they are. But it's not ministry. Personal devotion is essential. A person must constantly be turning back to God as the source of all things, being filled by the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit and grace and goodness. But even this is not ministry. Even together, these things are not enough.
Ministry is that thing that reminds us of God's deep, abiding, unquenchable love for us. It's that thing that reminds us of our belovedness. That's what we're trying to offer to those persons that God has given to us as ministers, and it's something we desperately need for ourselves, as well. We need those around us who will speak our belovedness back into our lives, that we might never forget how deeply God loves us.
A lot of persons will tell you that this is what they get from their quiet time. This is what they get from their devotionals. I certainly hope so! Every encounter that we have with the living God should remind us of how much He loves us.
At the same time, though, there's nothing that can replace what happens in a person's heart when they hear someone else speak the love of God. There's nothing quite like hearing in another human's voice who God is to His people, what God means to His people, what God thinks of His people. And specifically, what God thinks of you.
There's nothing quite like having those voices in your life that aren't afraid to speak the holy words of God, to call out what is both sacred and sanctified. To sit in the dark and the hard places with us. To hold our hand when we feel alone. To speak God's comfort into our angst. These are the kinds of things that we're doing for others all the time in our own ministries; it's absolutely vital that we have those in our lives who will do them for us.
A worship minister friend of mine once said how much he relishes the rare opportunity to just sit in the congregation somewhere and worship, without having to lead or to worry about chord changes or to think about sound system problems. That's part of it. It's also having someone who will pray for you - with you - without you having to lead the prayer. It's having someone who will read the Scriptures and draw out a message that you need to hear.
Ministers need ministered to. We need someone to do for us what we're always doing for others. The preacher needs to be preached to. The pastor needs to be pastored. The counselor needs to be counseled. The pray-er needs to be prayed for. The worshiper needs to be sung over. The server needs to be served. Those of us who spend our lives holding hands need someone to hold ours, and those of us who spend our lives standing strong need someone to stand by us. We need these things, not just because we are fragile humans in our own flesh, but because they speak something of God into our hearts that we can't get through simple friendship or accountability or quiet time.
We need these things, but they're not easy. More on this tomorrow.