Every month I get together with a group of pastors for lunch. It's a denominational thing - these are men and women who pastor Covenant Churches in the South Puget Sound area.
It's a good group of men and women. We gather around the table and share a meal, we listen to and pray for each other. We share the struggles and the joys of our lives, professional and personal. We laugh and sometimes we cry.
I see many of these same men and women at other denominational activities, and I'm always happy when I do, because I consider them friends. I have shared much of my life with these people, and they have cared for me. Many of them have shared the deep places of their journey, and allowed me to care for them. It is a true collegial relationship, based on love, respect, mutual care, and a healthy sense of our primary mission - to serve Christ's church.
Every month I get together with a different group of pastors for lunch. It's a smaller group - only about 5 of us, usually. It's the pastors who serve churches in our local community, the Key Peninsula (and we let one Gig Harbor guy in since he's a nice guy). We gather around the table and share a meal, we listen to and pray for each other. We share the struggles and joys of our lives, professional and personal. We laugh and sometimes we cry.
I see these men around town on occasion, at community events or at the grocery store, and I'm always happy when I do, because I consider them my friends. I have shared much of my life with these people, and they have cared for me.
Earlier this week, this local group of pastors headed overseas (well, across the channel) to Anderson Island and spent about 48 hours praying and playing, reading and thinking, laughing and eating, walking and staring out the window at the beauty of Puget Sound in the fall. We shared our favorite Psalms, we prayed for ourselves, our churches, our community. We each prepared a meal for the group. We worshiped and we told lame jokes. We played silly games and we talked about intricate theological disputes. We ended around the Lord's Table, one group of Jesus followers united in our purpose and position.
I realize I am blessed, and I am fortunate. In too many places (I've been in some of them) churches and their pastors are territorial and competitive, angry and bitter, judgmental and argumentative. Too many pastor refuse to fellowship with other pastors who don't hold to their particular understanding of inerrancy. Too many pastors spend their time building their own little kingdoms. One pastor told me recently that she would never dare share her personal struggles with her cluster group; if she did, the gossip and politicking would be relentless, destroying her work and calling in that community.
It is, then, such a beautiful thing to gather with fellow men and women who serve the gospel, and to experience true humility, true love for Christ and his church, true commitment to the mission above petty disputes, true hunger to share in the work of ministry together, true willingness to be open and honest, to ask for help, to share struggles, to admit temptation and defeat.
It's as if the Kingdom of God has come to earth, and as Jesus prayed, his followers are of one mind and heart. I get to live it out in the here and now, and for that, I am grateful.