Yes, a Pastor Should Have Close Friends in His Church

Post image for Yes, a Pastor Should Have Close Friends in His Church

Yes, is my answer to Dave Miller’s question asked at SBCVoices.com, “Can a pastor have close friends in his church?”1 I’ll explain why my answer is yes that a pastor should have close friends in his church even if he feels like he cannot. Note my subtle switch answering whether a pastor can have close friends in his church with whether or not he should.

My answer is based on three premises: 1. pastors are members of the local church too, 2. pastors must be known for the congregation to know they are biblically qualified, and 3. pastors must be known so that others may imitate their life and faith.

Pastors are leaders in local churches who are also members of those local churches. There are many one another verses in Scripture that guide how believers are to treat each other. Since pastors are fellow Christian church members, the one another verses also apply to them. For example, in order to love, encourage, and build up one another Christians must know each other.

Pastors must be biblically qualified (Titus 1:5-9) to lead congregations. Congregants may only know if their pastors are qualified by knowing their pastors. Pastors must even have a good reputation among those outside the church (1 Tim. 3:7). It is easy for outsiders to make false charges against a pastor when they don’t really know the pastor. It would be much more difficult for an outsider to falsely charge a pastor to his congregation is the pastor has friends in the congregation who truly know him. A congregation that really knows their pastor will better be able to imitate their pastor’s life.

Christians are told to imitate the life and faith of their leaders (Heb. 13:7). Congregants must know more about their pastor than simply hearing him preach and teach in order to imitate his faith. If the extent of a pastor being known within a congregation is listening from the pew then maybe a good podcast can replace the pastor.

While all Christians have close Christian friends outside of their local church they most likely strive to build greater relationships inside their own congregation. I may be wrong, but I cannot imagine a pastor encouraging his congregants to build deeper relationships with those outside their congregation. If I am right, then pastors should also seek greater relationships within their own congregation.

So my answer is yes that a pastor can and should have close friends within his church. A pastor having friends within the church will make it easier for the congregation to carry out biblical relationships and commands within the church.

(Visited 127 times, 1 visits today)

tagged as in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt Svoboda September 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I agree… mostly.

Yes, a pastor should have close friends in the church. I have close friends in the church I pastor. Yet, there is always a different dynamic. I can never be “just a friend.” There is always, by biblical necessity, more dynamics in play than simply a “buddy-buddy relationship.

This is another reason why it is very important for pastors to seek relationships with godly men outside of their church, many times other pastors.

2 Zack September 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I really appreciate this blog post. I didn’t really feel qualified to weigh in on the discussion over on SBCVoices because (a) I’m not a pastor, and (b) I’ve never really considered the issue before the topic was brought up the other day. I’m still not sure I’ve fully wrapped my head around the subject, but I really enjoy reading the opinions of all these great pastors and lay leaders.

After reading and thinking about it for a few days, it seems to me that the spiritual maturity of the potential friends within the church would be a huge variable for whether the pastor could, or should, have close friends within the congregation. Ideally, I think that your position here is the right position, but, practically, I can see how many of the anecdotal problems that many pastors have cited could throw a wrench in the gears.

Having been in both types of churches—churches where the pastor stands apart from the church on a social/friendship level and churches were the pastor had close, intimate friends within the congregation—I can say personally that I have felt more trust towards pastors with friends within the church. I can’t say, however, that it was based solely, or even primarily, upon that factor. (That’s not a theological opinion; rather, it’s only based on my very limited experience in a hand full of churches.)

3 MarieP September 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Changing perspective, what about the rest of the congregation? Would you say that a Christian should have his/her closest friends from their own local church? In the early church, this was a bit of a moot point because the Christians in the city apparently were all worshiping together (as I understand it- maybe I am wrong here?). Also, how are we defining “close friends?” Those who invite you over, those who ask how you’re doing (even if it’s only on Wed. and Sun.), those who say they always pray for you? And, if someone feels they’ve been let down in this, has the particular church “failed” them? I’ve always worked under the assumption that one should try to seek the closest friends in a local church, but recently I was challenged on this assumption.

4 Mark September 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Biblically, then, as the congregants follow their pastor they too should seek relationships with godly folks outside of their church.

5 Mark September 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Zack, pragmatic arguments can be made for a pastor not having close friends within their church. Yet, we are to be people of the Book and most pastors would probably not accept pragmatic arguments for areas in which their congregation would like to side-step biblical teaching.

6 Zack September 4, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Very true.

7 Mark September 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Marie, you bring up an excellent dynamic that – I think – effects all believers at one level or another. I struggle with your questions myself.

Some thoughts. In my mind, close, closer, and closest friends are still close friends. Each in the close category are more than Sunday acquaintances. Each person is going to have a different definition of ‘close friend’. Christians should probably seek to full-fill the “one another” verses (and others) in Scripture as they pertain to relationships. Intentionally following Scripture in our relationships will most likely move acquaintances to close friendships.

Right now, my closes Christians friends, sans my wife, are outside my local church. This is so mainly because I knew these friends before joining my church and before my marriage. This doesn’t mean I don’t strive to build better relationships in my own church.

Should our closest friends be from our own congregation? I don’t know…maybe…yes. That’s a tough one, but if the local church truly is a church family, etc. then we should probably seek to have our closest relationships within our churches.

As someone who has felt let down many times by my fellow congregants, I can say that it is difficult to push ahead in the church trying to make close friends. Maybe they have failed me in some ways, but maybe I’ve also failed them in similar ways.

8 MarieP September 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Great thoughts as well! For me, as an unmarried person, it’s a different dynamic because my closest friend (humanly speaking) is not living with me 24/7. I am thankful for the closeness I have with my parents and grandparents. Though I don’t live with them (which is not what happened for the first part of church history, a whole other issue that could be profitable to discuss!), I see either my mom or dad at least every other day, and usually daily. My five closest friends are actually all from my church, and each relationship looks differently outwardly.

“As someone who has felt let down many times by my fellow congregants, I can say that it is difficult to push ahead in the church trying to make close friends. Maybe they have failed me in some ways, but maybe Iโ€™ve also failed them in similar ways.”

I was just thinking about this at lunch! I’ve too had to repent of ways I’ve not been the friend to them I’d like them to be towards me. I”Love your neighbor as yourself” is truly a high calling, considering how selfish we can be! My pastor is actually going to be teaching a ladies’ conference in Michigan the last weekend of the month, so I am looking forward to hearing the audio! I might put a bug in his ear to teach it for our own ladies’ conference as well ๐Ÿ™‚ He taught a similar series before, but it was awhile ago, and I know he’s had more insights since then. I’ll post the audio- though of course I know that male/female friendships don’t look the same in many ways.

9 Dean September 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Mark, I am in complete disagreement with your assessment. I find it ironic that voices has made much to do about the church universal and now the premise that close fellowship must come from within the local church. I am friends with my church family. We eat together, We go to ball games together. We pray together. However I will never make a member of my church one of my accountability partners. I will never share with a dear church member if me and my wife have had a knock down drag out. I will not share with a church member when I am so discouraged with our church I want to throw up. I have a circle of very close friends that I give that part of myself to. I wonder and hope out loud you can come to the end of your ministry without seeing what devastation a pastor’s close friend in the church can cause.

That close friend causes resentment among other members who are not as close even if they are the reason.
That close friend will often feel like he needs to defend you and soon becomes your mouthpiece attributing to you things you did not want known.
That close friend will often feel the temptation to share your feelings with their prayer partners who spread stuff like fire.
When you come down on the different side of an issue than that close friend they have ammunition that you have supplied them.
A close friend can be devastated by your failures when you share them. It is not fair to do this to another.

Did Moses have to drink coffee and vacation with Israel to be the man to lead them? I think not. My church is made up of my friends who I love and have given myself to help. However, there is a part of me they will never see…… tragically again! Bought experience is the best.

10 The Daily Bleat September 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

Dean,

How about a fellow elder/pastor in the church?

11 Wade Howell September 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

Friends are important, you should be a real person not just a spiritual figurehead.

12 Mark September 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Hi Dean, thanks for the comment.

Before addressing your comments I just want to note that you did not express that my premise was unbiblical. Which of my three points are unbiblical?

I understand your consequentialist conclusion. I was not arguing for easy and pragmatic, but biblical. All of those things you mention can and probably do go on among church members within a congregation. Is you answer as a pastor to have the congregation look outside itself for deep Christian friendships? If so, what is the purpose of having membership (formal or not) within a local church?

As Wade said below, “Friends are important, you should be a real person not just a spiritual figurehead.

A close friend can be devastated by one’s failures, but a biblical understanding of sin, struggle and forgiveness can enlarge that friend’s understanding of the gospel. I would also imagine healthier churches with more openness.

I do wonder if you take local church issues to those outside of your church. I have heard of church members who take personal church issues outside of the church and sometimes it becomes gossip. I am not saying that gossip is the default. I too have very personal friends outside of which I am a member.

Final note, you ain’t Moses. ๐Ÿ˜‰

13 Dean September 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Well Mark to be completely honest you have not proven anything through Scripture at all about a pastor being a close friend to church members. You draw assumptions from passages that never mention friendship at all. Titus 1:8 is the closest. I am to be hospitable and a lover of good men. Where in there is a mandate that I be “close” friends with my members. Hebrews 13:7 never mentions being a friend. YOU make that assertion not the Bible. With your logic an exercise freak could use same passage and say that pastors are to work out so the church can imitate them. My church family knows me to be a husband of one wife who loves his children and pays his bills on time and holds God’s Word in high esteem. They know I am a personal soul winner and I love my congregation and the second they need me I will drop everything to come.

You say, ” For example, in order to love, encourage, and build up one another Christians must know each other.” This statement is not correct. I have pastors who have come up to me and recognize me in my state because of some positions I have held. They only know my name but God uses them to speak encouraging words to me that change my attitude and outlook sometimes for months. I have done dozens of revivals all over the south where I still get cards and letters from individuals telling me what happen the week I was with them. We develop a relationship and call a few times a year but when they need to be encouraged they call me. Why? Certainly not because I told them I got mad on the golf course the other day and broke my driver. Finally, I know of no God called man who sees himself as a religious figure head. However a pastor’s calling is to be something far greater than a friend. Judas was friends with Jesus.

14 Dean September 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Bleat, I have had staff that I completely trusted and used as my confidants. However, I am keenly aware of the damage that can cause. I never want to put my staff in a position of dividing loyalties. As pastor we must demand loyalty from them and we must give loyalty to them. However, it can be easy to put that staff person in a difficult place by sharing too much. I love my staff too much to do that to them. I am close with my church and staff. I ate lunch with a church member today and with a prospect who is visiting our church. We laughed and had a great time. I talked about their businesses and families etc… We are friends. I just never would tell them hey brother I’m suffering from depression. I never want to imply something that is not correct so I am going to be careful. We all know that Jesus had an inner circle of three. They got to see His full glory! They got to see things about Him that seemingly no one else did. I have a circle of pastors, about 10 in all. They get to see me just as I am. About three of them get to know all that it is in my heart. The beauty of this argument is there is no answer that is right or wrong. For me, I know that I will never be close friends with my church family and I am convinced that my church family loves appreciates me very much as I do them. They are a great blessing to me and my family. Words cannot describe the love I have for my church.

15 Mark September 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Dean, at least I based my foundation in Scripture. You make pastoring sound like a pastor is just a figure head who does nice things for people from a distance while taking pats on the back.

You make it sound like my arguments have absolutely no warrants for friendships within a local congregation. Why even faithfully attend one church then? If we can “do” church and all of the brotherly love items from a distance and there is no need for deep relationships in a local body then why go?

I don’t mean to sound abrupt, but I’m commenting from my phone for now.

16 Dean September 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

Mark, you are not abrupt at all. I think our disagreement is probably over the word “close.” I am more than a figurehead and I do not believe that I made pastoring sound like that all. Maybe you adhere to the Driscoll school where pastoring is more along the lines of drinking beer and eating pizza, smoking cigars and playing poker with your buddies. Neither side can use Scripture to say how close we have to be to a person to be their friend. Almost everything I do in life is with my church family. This weekend we will get together with several families and have a game night. However, I will not tell them how much my quarterly tax payment was. I will not tell them how well my wife and I are getting along. There are personal things about me that I choose to keep close to the vest. This comes from personal experience and observing church history in America. Anyway I will bow out and let the owner of the blog and a Christian gentleman have the last word.

17 Mark September 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Dean, we may be closer than I first thought. Funny you mention Driscoll though, you and he may be closer than you think in the area of close personal friendships.

I don’t really need the last word. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for the dialogue.

18 moe October 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Mark, I have felt like a figurehead for the past three years. I am the pastor of the church and also a member. I support the church by giving and support the church through my pastoral duties. I am not asked what I think about issues that come up in business meetings or any other issues that come up outside business meetings. My folks are hard to get close to, so I’ve come to the point I don’t care any more. So Nov. 30 is my last day as pastor of the church after five years. Thank God!

19 Mark October 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Moe, I’m so sorry to hear that. Did you feel like a hired gospel gun (so to speak)? What happened when you tried to get close to people?

20 moe October 30, 2012 at 11:52 am

Mark,

When I would try to get close to people, like sheep, they would retreat back to the herd. I would like to add the church is largely a family church. It’s like they have a big secret, and no one else was to know. The burden for the church has been lifted and I feel good I don’t have that responsibility any more.

.

Previous post:

Next post: