Preaching Articles
  • 70% Of Pastors Don't Have One

    By Lance Witt on Feb 2, 2021

    Replenish Ministries

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    Imagine a day in your future. You are now seventy or seventy-five, and the pace of life has slowed. You get up early in the morning and sit in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee. The house is still and silent. No one is there but you and God and your thoughts.

Imagine a day in your future. You are now seventy or seventy-five, and the pace of life has slowed. You get up early in the morning and sit in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee. The house is still and silent. No one is there but you and God and your thoughts.

On this morning, instead of thinking about the day’s activities, you begin to reflect upon the past. You see family vacations, times with your spouse, holidays spent with relatives. You have memories of ministry, both rewarding and painful. It hasn’t always been easy, and not everything turned out like you hoped, but it’s been a good life.

Today one thought especially encourages you and brings a smile to your face. You are grateful to God that you took time to develop a handful of deep friendships. You realize that on life’s balance sheet, possessing cars, houses, and toys doesn’t add up to much. But a real friendship is of high value. It’s the stuff life is made of.

The truth is those of us in ministry often don’t do the friendship thing very well. One survey among pastors found that 70 percent do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor. Henri Nouwen wrote, “Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships.” What an indictment.

I grew up around church and Christians, so I’ve always had a lot of acquaintances. My relational circle was wide but not very deep.

Somewhere along the way in my ministry training, I got it in my head that as a pastor you can’t (and shouldn’t) have close friends in your church. You don’t want to be accused of partiality by hanging out with some members more than others. And, besides, you don’t want to let people peer too closely into your life and family. They might discover you don’t have it all together.

So, for the first fifteen years of ministry I learned how to pastor and live the Christian life by keeping everyone at a safe emotional distance. I lived in denial of any deep relational needs I had. I was quite content to skim relationally and focus on building the church. Then I hit my mid-thirties.

Longings I had suppressed began to come to the surface. There was something missing, and I began to feel it. I began to have thoughts like, God made me a man before he made me a pastor. And, as a man he made me to live in community. I got to where I just didn’t care what other people thought. I knew I had to go deeper in a few relationships, no matter how it was perceived.

During this season God brought into my life a pastor friend with whom I connected easily. As trust began to develop, we both decided to pursue the friendship. I learned in this process that you never drift into deep friendship.

One of the most famous friendships in Scripture is that of David and Jonathan. At one point, Jonathan does something that feels awkward and uncomfortable for most men: “Jonathan made a special vow to be David’s friend, and he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.”  He made a “special vow.” He declared his commitment to pursue the friendship. We just don’t do that today. For most people I know in ministry and certainly for most men, this seems way too touchy-feely.

Nevertheless, if I’m going to be spiritually healthy, I’m going to need an intimate friend or two who fully know me.  I need a deep friendship with someone who isn’t impressed with me and who isn’t afraid to tell me the truth. I need a handful of people who know the junk about me, who know where I struggle, who know the skeletons in my closet, and who love and accept me anyway.

This kind of friendship doesn’t happen by accident. If you’ve got someone in your life you want to go deeper with, do what Jonathan did. Declare it! Life is too short and there is too much at stake for you to avoid this level of friendship.

In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller tells the story of Jim and Janice, who was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t live long after her diagnosis. After her funeral, a lot of family friends gathered and shared stories and memories of times with her. “I wondered,” Miller writes, “how much it costs to be rich in friends and how many years and stories and scenes it takes to make a rich life happen. You can’t build an end scene as beautiful as this by sitting on the couch.”

No you can’t. So, start now. Build a rich life by developing a few deep friendships.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection


    1.  What is the biggest barrier to you going deeper with a few friends?

    2.  What is a next step you can take to pursue a deeper friendship?

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

Talk about it...

Mh Constantine

commented on May 9, 2016

I am almost 70. Still actively serving in my host country. I truly agree with you, Lance. After 46 years of ministry I am most thankful for merciful, supportive friends. Some have been for a certain season (wilderness friends, like Jethro might have been to Moses). Others I see only rarely, but we seem to pick up as though we only talked the day before. Hope this link will work. It's Pray for My Friends, by Roninella: /watch?v=4pLtI8f3xW0

Mh Constantine

commented on May 9, 2016

Sorry, the singer is Robinella. I misspelled it.

Emmanuel Ebenezer

commented on Oct 29, 2018

I am bless through this post and am encourage, God bless you Friend, hope to see more of you in Jesus mighty name. I love you

Sharon Clark

commented on Oct 29, 2018

I believe this is so true, I been praying God would bless me with a true anointed Mentor! I connect with people but it seems to be that I'm always reaching out , I'm a servant at my church looking for God to bless me with Authentic Mentors or friends of faith!

Michael Mills

commented on Oct 29, 2018

Wow, thank you; as a pastor I find myself in this position, I too have grown up around church and Christians, and have found myself always having a lot of acquaintances. My relational circle is wide but not very deep. As I read this I can think of few people I am a bit closer to than others so with Gods help I will endeavour to work on those relationships.

Michael L. Brown

commented on Sep 2, 2019

Extremely good article! What I wouldn’t give for a close friend right now! I have quite a few acquaintances and not very many friends. I have for so lone, had a fear of allowing anyone to get too close. With God’s help I hope to change that.

Life Jones

commented on Sep 2, 2019

I agree you really do not see intimate friendships any more in the church. When one is going through there’s no one physically to turn to but God. I prayed God sent me a convenant friend and mentor. Thanks for sharing, awesome article

Mike Brenneman

commented on Sep 2, 2019

So true in my own life, Lance. Thank-you for putting it into words. I was the one staying too busy to develop close friendships. I could feel the void for 15 of the last 17 years. Two years ago, God blessed me with a close, godly friend. He considers me his mentor, but it is much more balanced than that. This man refreshes my soul and we challenge each other to grow. Looking forward to your next article!

Dele Adeleke

commented on Sep 3, 2019

Thank you for this great post. Most of us preachers will preach great sermons on Value of Friendship, and such topics like that but in the real sense we have deep Friends in the real sense of it. This is actually a wake up call. God bless you richly.

Dele Adeleke

commented on Sep 3, 2019

I meant to say, we have no deep friends in the real sense of it.

Franklin King

commented on Sep 8, 2019

Thanks Brother...I have been serving the Lord for over 48 years. I was married for 36 years, and would be at 37 years this month, but my very best friend and kindred spirit...the Love of my life, went to be with the Lord unexpectedly, in her sleep at home...without a sign this past year. In my years of ministry my best friend, and only TRUE friend was my wife. However, I know all they way back to my beginning days with the Lord, it was always implied that pastors were not close with their keep familiarity familiarity breeds contempt. That is what I had heard for so long. Now the years have passed by, and there have been very few active friends, other than my wife, and now...that she is with the Lord, I am left without. The Lord is helping me to build relationships, and some are forming...PTL, but its been a very difficult journey. Thank you so much for sharing this, as many need to hear, and we all need friends. If you have one true friend, you are rich. :-) God Bless You!

Dennis Tucker

commented on Feb 2, 2021

Wow, Thanks for the wake up call. I find myself in the situation you described. After 53 years as a senior pastor in various churches in Virginia, I now have retired, built a nice home, God has blessed me with sufficient resources to be comfortable, and I am living with my dear wife of 31 years. The Covid virus has caused us to remain at home for some time now, and I realize there is probably not a person I would call a close friend. I am 75, in relatively good health, but my wife and I find ourselves secluded and at times lonely. I think we both need to work on developing close friends with things in common to share and enrich these later years.

Asalim B. Gunda

commented on Feb 2, 2021

Thank you for the review of relationships.. NOTED

Margarito Lopez

commented on Feb 3, 2021

Pastor: Muchas gracias por la reflexión. Tiene usted razón. Yo no tengo amigos tan cercanos, y se debe al temor de involucrarse demasiado, con el riesgo de que conozcan los defectos de mi familia y los míos propios, y luego los critiquen sin piedad en lugar de apoyarnos y comprender que también necesitamos ayuda y comprensión. Pero tiene razón, empezaré a construir esas amistades que nos ayudarán siempre. Bendiciones Pastor. Dios le continúe bendiciendo.

Kent Dickerson

commented on Feb 7, 2021

This is one of the reasons Pastors and other ministers are vulnerable. When they have a spiritual struggle or something bothering them, they have no one really to share it with. I try my best to always have someone I have a spiritual review with, every week — sharing the good and bad. It's absolutely necessary.

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