In the early years of my ministry, I would always go out of my way to ensure that I didn’t miss any conferences whatsoever. If there was a conference, I was there. We would take time off of work, put it on the credit card, or radically rearrange our schedules if necessary. Of course, my main purpose in attending these conferences and meetings was so that my wife and I would be present to receive whatever impartations the Lord had in store for us. It didn’t take long for me to realize that these meetings were great opportunities to meet other pastors, preachers, and ministers. As a young minister, these times with other ministers were energizing and refreshing. Making new ministry friendships was exciting, primarily because we now had communication with others who were going through, or had gone through, many of the same things we were currently experiencing.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to see that frequently those times of pre or postservice fellowship began to turn towards the topics of church size, church growth, and levels of personal blessing. As a young minister starting out, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of “comparing the ministries.” After a few years of hearing about other churches whose attendances and finances were skyrocketing, we found ourselves making the long drive home feeling aggravated and frustrated. I knew that other preachers weren’t intending to create these feelings in us, but it was obviously a byproduct of our conversations. The Lord had to remind me of the words of Paul in Second Corinthians 10:12 where he wrote, “Those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise.”
It was important that I began to grasp these truths while in the early years of my ministry. I started to see that the purpose of me attending conferences and meetings had begun to change. I was beginning to feel the pressure of competition, and it was affecting how my relationships with other ministers were developing. God doesn’t want His ministers relating to one another based upon comparisons. As a result of my feelings of ministry inadequacy, I would find myself going out of the way to try and “rub shoulders” with the ministers that were seen as “successful.” Sometimes, looking back, I can imagine the Father looking down and half smiling at my efforts to get into the right circles or get noticed by the right people. At the time, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t by my natural efforts that divine things happened, but rather by His supernatural plans. Today, it’s all too easy to see why young ministers are influenced the way that they are. The guest speakers at those conferences always seemed to have the biggest churches, the most influence, or a best-selling book. The unspoken rule many times seemed to be, “bigger is better, and success is the best.”
Holy Ghost preachers are one of the last lines of defense against the filth and evil of this final generation. Our fellowship with, and how we relate to one another, is of paramount importance, and has much to do with our ability to stay the course, keep our focus, and endure until the end. This summer, we’ll be celebrating 25 years of ministry. Looking back, I realize that many times I judged, and was judged by other preachers; not based upon what we were doing for God, but rather by how it appeared to others. Paul again admonishes us in Second Corinthians 5:16 to know no man “after the flesh.” This is an attitude and level of spiritual maturity that we must cultivate in our daily lives and ministries.
Proper fellowship with ministers of like faith must be built around such things as integrity, passion, and a deep respect for one another’s call. Today, I count among my friends a number of wonderful and passionate preachers. Some of them are wildly successful in the eyes of people, but that doesn’t move me any longer. The majority of my friends who are pastors oversee congregations of 25 to 100 people. That doesn’t bother me either, because I know that they are the backbone of the American church. I know ministers who own jets, and I know ministers who struggle to pay the mortgage. I love to fellowship and build friendships with preachers who are neither intimidated nor jealous. Those relationships are the best.
One final key of ministerial fellowship that God dealt with me about a number of years ago was to make sure that I didn’t see other ministers as an opportunity waiting to be exploited. This directly deals with our motives for building a relationship. Are we being their friend, or are we really looking for an invitation to preach in their church? Are we interested in them personally, or are we using them to introduce us to someone they know? God taught me that the truest and longest-lasting friendships are built around a sincere interest and love for one another’s hearts. A crucial part in keeping relationships pure with other ministers is to just let God be God, and let providence do it’s thing in it’s own time.
Psalm 133:1 – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”