By Denzil Holman
Those two words, “The Brethren” sound so wonderful. It means that we are a part of a group that are bound and united together. We are also related to each other. We are brothers in Christ. When we were born again, we became part of this family and that is why we refer to each other as brother and sister. We feel this closeness and warmth for one another. There is a group of people that God has called into the ministry and leadership of this church. This book is about those ministers and friendships. But before we explore this subject, I first want to talk about some basic aspects of friendships
When God created man, He made us gregarious creatures. We were not created to spend our years in lives of isolation. The lonely hermit living on the side of a mountain in the wilderness is not normal. Even though there are times when we have painful experiences and would like to escape to some utopia, reality jars us from our momentary lapses of desiring to leave for a secluded mountain hideaway somewhere.
Sometimes a recluse living in squalor in a cramped inner city apartment will die leaving a large sum of money stuffed in tin cans and underneath their sagging mattress. Controlled by unreasonable fears and suspicions they lived their years quietly and all alone. These extremes are not normal for the overwhelming majority of humanity. We recognize that we need others to make our lives complete and fulfilling. Every one of us needs a supporting group of people in our lives to make us complete. We are cognizant of the fact that each of us needs others and their input into our lives so we can strive to be all that we can be.
God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Of course we know that He was referring to the marriage relationship. However, we understand that statement could include our relationships with others about us.
The basic family unit is the foundation of society. The parents are the early influences in our lives. Our parents are our first friends and we learn to depend upon them very quickly for our needs as children. Early in life our character is being molded and shaped by our relationships with our parents. It is obvious to all that the family unit is under heavy attack today by the enemy because it is the first line of defense in a society.
In many cases, other family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins influence our lives. The ties of friendship and family bind us to those around us. The glue that holds it all together is love, trust and respect for one another. As we grow up, we form friendships with others in school and around the neighborhoods. We have fond memories of boyhood pals with whom we shared many happy hours. We played, fought and sparred for dominance in our small world. We shared dreams and talked of what we would do when we grew up. Happy hours spent at the favorite swimming hole, fishing in the creek and at the neighborhood baseball field taught us living lessons about getting along with others and the need for friends. Our circle of friends and acquaintances continues to grow with time to include many others. We make friends at church, youth camp and other related activities. Eventually we mature into adulthood and begin searching for a mate to become our lifelong companion. When we get married, a new generation begins and the cycle of life repeats itself again.
On our journey through life, we develop friendships with others, which enriches our lives. There are usually some common interests that attract us to each other. For a lady it may be someone at their place of employment or a nearby neighbor who have similar interests as theirs. It could be an old friend from school days or one of the sisters in the church who have some of the same hobbies. For the man it may be an acquaintance that likes to fish that draws them together. They spend some time at a nearby lake and a friendship is born. It could be hunting, working on automobiles or any number of interests that causes them to spend some time together and a friendship begins to grow.
Friendships are unique relationships. We don’t enter into a contract to be friends. We don’t repeat vows to be friends forever and bind it with a legal license and a gold ring. During the course of a lifetime, we will have many casual friends and acquaintances but only a handful of close friends. The casual friendships may flit away like the morning dew as we move on through life. Mobile Americans live in many places during their lifetime and casual friendships fade away and are stored on the dusty shelves of memories of long ago. Those few close friends are dear to us and we keep in touch with each other even though time and circumstances may separate us. The loss of a close friend can affect us greatly. We may often grieve over them like a family member that we have lost.
As members of the Body of Christ, we have a unique relationship one with another. We are family. We are brothers and sisters. We have one heavenly Father. We are all his children who have obeyed the plan of salvation as outlined in Acts 2:38 and are living an overcoming godly life. The New Birth experience places us all in the same family whether we live in America or in a secluded village in Ethiopia far away. Isn’t it wonderful that we have such a large family? We can go to various conferences and meetings and feel close bonds to those that we meet. In a few minutes of sharing conversation and getting acquainted, we feel like we have known them for years. The church affords us wonderful opportunities to broaden our horizons in relationships. Without being in the church we would very possibly have never met one another.
It is difficult to try and explain what it is that draws people together into a friendship. We can attend a church for years and know the members by name but yet there is usually a small group of people that we consider our closer friends. We just naturally are drawn to some people more than others. As we develop friendships, we find there are character traits that bind us together. The bonds that hold friends together are love, trust, loyalty and respect for each other. It is only natural that our closest friends are members of our religious faith because we spend time together in church services and the accompanying fellowship gives us opportunities to build relationships
We have a vested interest in each other. We are going to spend eternity together in heaven if we make it there by the grace of God. I heard one man say that he planned on making it to heaven and that he had an address up there. Heaven was a reality to him and he wanted a mansion in glory. We may be next door neighbors in heaven. We want our friends to go to heaven with us in the rapture. So we are not going to try and offend our brethren and cause them to stumble. We want to look out for each other and help one another on the journey.
As I mentioned at the outset, there is a special group of people that I have written this book for and that is the ministry. I have penned these words with the sincere desire to help my fellow ministers along the way to heaven. I have talked with numerous brethren about this subject of friendship and have incorporated their thoughts along with mine in this book. The ministry is under heavy attack from various quarters today. The enemy knows that he has a short time to work so he attacks the ministry. If the ministry is lowered in the eyes of the people through their succumbing to temptation, the laity is affected also. One study that was done on the longevity of ministers of various denominations was shocking. The average lifespan was less than fifty-eight years of age. Obviously the stress factor was one of the contributing factors to health problems. These statistics tell us that ministers are overworked, frustrated and possibly lonely. They need some close ministerial friends to interact with more often.
One fellow minister told me once that the ministry is one of the more lonely professions. Another pastor told me that he feels isolated and alone even though he has a number of churches in his surrounding area. A minister spends much time alone. Because of his position as a minister, he confides in very few people. If he has fears or anxieties, he can’t share them with his congregation. He can’t let his hair down and just be one of the men. The dignity of his office requires him to be reserved. People come to him with their hopes, dreams and problems and confide in him. Besides the weight of his own family personal needs, parishioners come to him with their needs because he is their pastor. The only one whom he can go to is the Lord when he prays for his congregation and their needs. And the Lord is an ever-present help in the time of need. God answers prayer and we can go to Him in confidence and faith. I mention this subject to emphasize that a minister has a limited outlet for his concerns. He just doesn’t talk to everyone about his concerns. One well known minister made the statement that he would take a lot of private information to his grave with him.
God didn’t call angels to preach the gospel. He called men and gives them the commission to go into all of the world and to preach the gospel. The heavy responsibility rests upon the shoulders of these men and women to evangelize the world. They can’t do it all themselves and God didn’t intend for them to try to do it alone. He anoints them to declare the Word of God with power and sinners are convicted of sin and turn to God. Those believers then go forth as witnesses to tell others about Jesus. The ministry is the leadership that God has placed over His Church in the earth. The ministers teach and train the laity to be effective soul winners.
These ministers need friends just like the laity needs friends. Most of minister’s friends will be other ministers. The Lord is his greatest friend and that is always a comfort and encouragement to him. A minister’s spouse will be their companion and special friend throughout the years also. Some of the failed marriages in parsonages’ are because ministers and their wives have ceased to be good friends. A minister’s wife can be his ally and first line of defense in resisting temptation.
In writing about friendships, I don’t want to diminish the necessity of our reliance upon the Lord for our needs. Without Him we can do nothing. He is our greatest friend. He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. However, we do also need human friends that are close to us.
One well-known minister in our fellowship expressed to me that a minister can’t have too many close friends because of the personal investment we have in them. Being a good friend means that we will be unselfishly giving of ourselves to others. Close friendship requires some commitment from each party. True friends are willing to make some sacrifices for each other if necessary. Consequently most of us ministers have just a few close friends.
These fit into various categories. There is the mentor-student relationship. This is usually the older minister and the young aspiring student. Many of minister’s closer friends are in their own age group. An older minister told me many years ago that I would find that most ministers associate with others of their own age bracket because they have more common interests.
Sometimes two home missionaries will become close friends because they have so much in common and they can help bolster each other. Occasionally they will trade church services by preaching for each other, which helps in their expenses when their churches are smaller. It also gives them more opportunities to bond together as friends. There are numerous other situations that can draw two brethren together and a bond is established for the rest of their lives.
There are various nonreligious civic clubs and organizations that try to mimic the relationship that ministers have with each other. However, there are no relationships that can compare to the camaraderie of the ministry. It is more than a normal social structure or association. It is a spiritual matter. The ministry is bound together by the Holy Ghost. We are brethren.
Preachers are givers. We are in the people business and are constantly reaching out with concern and compassion for those who need us. We are ministers and shepherds to those whom God has put in our care to shepherd. Without complaining we pour ourselves out to help others. Because of the demands upon our time, sometimes we don’t get as much ministerial fellowship as we really need to get our batteries recharged and to relax awhile. Either because of a busy schedule or geographic limitations, we are isolated or separated from our brethren for extended periods of time. Our chief concerns and priorities are our personal relationship with the Lord and the local church over which we have been called to pastor. However it is dangerous for a man to isolate himself from the brethren for too long a period of time. Sometimes when a man isolates himself for weeks and months, his mind can play tricks on him and his imaginations can run rampant. In many cases a minister is working on a secular job while pastoring and his available time is limited for traveling lengthy distances to district meetings. He spends much time alone with little fellowship and it can breed self-pity and discouragement. Loneliness can be fertile ground for negative thought patterns. It is difficult for us to admit to others that we are hurting so we conceal it underneath a smile so that they won’t know. We may wonder what others would think of us if they really knew how we feel inside so our manly ego and peer pressure causes us to lock it inside. The possibility exists for serious problems if one is not careful for the flesh is weak and temptations lurk in the shadows. A minister in these situations needs friends. We need to bear one another’s burdens and reach out a hand to our brother out there alone on the front line of battle. It is amazing how a small act of kindness can do so much to foster goodwill and lift the spirits of a fellow minister and his family. We were meant to soar like the eagles and a wounded bird can’t fly. We can help apply the healing ointment of brotherly kindness so our friend can soon be lifted above the shadows of discouragement that may be gripping him like a plague.
I don’t want to give the impression that the ministry is populated by a group of weak and fearful men. Our brethren are strong soldiers of the cross. They understand what it means to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. They are not self-absorbed whiners and complainers. They do not want to be coddled and pampered. However, they do need ministerial friends and we want to reach out to one another.
Our purpose in being ministers of the gospel is to win souls for the Lord. We want to reach as many of the lost and dying as we can before Jesus Christ returns for His Church. We can accomplish so much more if we are united and move forward together as a mighty force. If the bonds of friendship and brotherly kindness are made stronger, this evangelism effort can be better accomplished. We need each other and must work together as the Body of Christ. If we will each make a conscious effort to aid our brethren and be a friend to others, we can help reach our objective better.
Just as a local church is only as strong as the basic family units that attend there, the ministry is made more effective and stronger by unity. There is tremendous power in a unified effort. Plywood is much stronger than solid wood. Laminated Beams are much stronger than solid timbers. The unity of layers of wood and glue make the difference.
Let us use the example of two neighboring pastors who are close friends and work together well. They pray one for another and support each other verbally. Their local churches also sense the unity that is between the two pastors. It makes for good interchurch relations. Instead of people wasting their efforts fussing and sparring with each other, they direct their energies in a positive direction. Those two pastors are part of a section in their district. So if this carries over into the section and the brethren from all over the section flow together in unity, they have an impact on their entire area. When a group of sections are unified, the entire district is affected and revival is widespread. This is not a Pollyanna dream that is impossible to see fulfilled. It is the will of God that we flow together in unity.
The prayer of Jesus for His disciples shortly before leaving for Gethsemane was “THAT THEY MAY BE ONE.” He wanted them to understand the power and importance of unity. The early church had tremendous revival. They affected their world so much that they were accused of turning their world upside down. It reads in the Book of Acts that they were together. We’ve quoted before in our preaching many times the words, “They were in one mind and one accord.” They were working together as a team. They understood the value of teamwork.
There is a word that we don’t like to use but it fits well when discussing the subject of unity. That word is “compromise.” We don’t even consider compromise when it comes to doctrine and holiness but in relations with each other, it is an essential part of friendship. For the sake of unity, we don’t try to force our personal convictions and views on our brother. We may discuss them and explain our positions but our respect for each other causes us to stop short of contending for our views to where we would huff our brother. We don’t want to win the discussion and argument but lose a friend over it. We want unity but not uniformity.
One of the things that God hates is a person who would sow dischord among the brethren. When dischord is spread, it breaks the flow of unity. It causes suspicion, doubt, ill feelings and confusion among the brethren. It can slow down the momentum that has been building for revival and evangelism.
We who are musicians can understand the horrible results of dischords. An out of tune musical instrument or a musician playing the wrong chords can send shivers up ones spine. Dischord is the wrong notes being played. It is disunity of the chord structure.
A book about ministerial friends must include a look at this vital subject. The basic unit of two friends multiplied many times over will make for a massive army of ministers going forth to conquer the land for Jesus Christ.
This article “The Brethren” was excerpted from the book I’ll Be Your Friend written by Denzil Holman. It may be used for study & research purposes only.