A Faithful Pastor to Pastors (10 Year Tribute to Practical Shepherding)

 By Jeff Robinson

I hadn’t been in pastoral ministry but a few weeks until the thought occurred to me,

“I need to get in touch with Brian Croft.”

I was facing a set of circumstances I was certain would wreck my ministry and would leave me wanting to find another vocation. Turns out, I wasn’t wrong. And I was a pastor who needed a pastor.

I’ve been friends with Brian since the early days of Practical Shepherding, and I’ve watched the ministry grow exponentially. I’ve been instructed, convicted, and helped in too many ways to count by the ministry of Practical Shepherding. For me, the most delightful aspect of PS is this:

It serves as a strong, balanced, gracious, biblical pastor to pastors.

Brothers, pastors need pastors and here are 10 reasons—all of them represent valuable insights Brian Croft personally and Practical Shepherding overall have taught me through the years.

We need pastors:

1. Because our hearts need shepherding just like everyday Christians.

Too often, congregations don’t like to hear that their pastor is merely a Christian in the middle of his sanctification who has a unique calling to serve the church. Friends, your pastor is not a pope, though I suspect some members tend to view him as the high and holy pontiff. The pastor is not the sinless Son of God. He is not a spiritual superstar. And he needs other men in similar circumstances to help him with his soul as iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17).

2. Because we sometimes need wisdom outside our own intimate circle.

If a pastor isn’t careful, ministry can become an echo chamber in which he constantly hears only his own voice or those of people who surround him and are in a position of always having to affirm him and his ideas—out of fear or flattery or worse motives. This spotlights the genius of God’s design that calls for plural leadership in the church and is a primary reason elders must not be “yes men.”

I’ve seen too many Christian leaders surround themselves with men who are always affirming, always approving—sycophants—and the results are predictable.

Pastors sometimes need to seek wisdom—or a frank voice—particularly in the midst of difficult circumstances, outside his own intimate circle. He needs other men to be honest with him out of love for his church and his soul.

3. Because we have blind spots.

As the people in our pews provide a vital means of sanctification by living out the “one-anothers” of Scripture together, brother pastors help each other see areas of needed change and growth in sanctification. We typically don’t see our own sins and weaknesses very well. We need other pastor friends to help us, who love us enough to tell us the truth about less obvious leadership flaws and besetting sins.

4. Because we need others to preach the gospel to us.

“Preach the gospel to yourself daily” is advice that its both popular these days and it is necessary. However, pastors need other men to preach the gospel to them as well. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said so well, I’m always preaching to myself, but I don’t always listen to the gospel when I preach it.

5. Because even our Bible heroes had mentors.

Timothy had Paul. Mark had Barnabas. The disciples had Jesus. Every pastor needs a mentor who’s been in the foxhole longer than he has.

6. Because even our heroes from church history had mentors.

Luther had von Staupitz. Calvin had Bucer. Zwingli had Bullinger. Knox had Calvin. Sproul had Gerstner. MacArthur had his father, Jack. Every pastor needs to develop a close relationship with a man who is more experienced and wiser than himself.

7. Because ministry is difficult and the demon of discouragement is always as close to you as the day after Sunday.

At least ten thousand pastors write their letter of resignation—at least mentally—every single Monday, which is to say discouragement is as much a part of ministry as intercessory prayer. Pastor, you need a Barnabas and you need fellowship with him regularly.

8. Because someone else’s experience can be your best teacher.

Every pastor knows the feeling: He’s facing a situation that’s brand-new to him. He’s never been there or done that. But he knows another pastor friend who has. I once had a member whose marriage was falling apart, but in an odd way I had never before encountered. A close pastor friend had a member go through virtually the same odd sort of marriage implosion, and his council proved invaluable in helping me try to minister to the heartbroken man in my church.

9. Because we don’t always heed our own preaching.

Sometimes, I get tired of hearing my own voice in the pulpit. And because I have been preparing sermons week in and week out for many years, I can grow weary of taking to heart the truths I preach. I need to hear other preachers. My soul needs to be fed.

10. Because I need a sympathetic fellow pastor to remind me to take a day off.

A couple of years ago, I inadvertently spilled the beans to a fellow pastor that I didn’t have a real day off during the year. In fact, I had not taken a full day off in more than a month due to serving as a bi-vocational pastor.

His response was pretty pointed: “You need a day off, and I’m going to make sure you take it.” And he did.

I took a couple of days off and have tried to do so regularly ever since. I was surprised how much a day of rest invigorated my heart, my mind, my emotions, and even my body. Pastors need pastors to remind them that pastoral ministry is not their most fundamental calling. For further help on the pastor’s need for physical, mental, and spiritual care, see Brian Croft’s excellent book, co-written with another dear pastor friend, Jim Savastio, The Pastor’s Soul: The Call and Care of an Undershepherd (Evangelical Press).

May it please the Lord to give us all mentors and pastors and also give Practical Shepherding many more years of helping to grow healthy pastors who in turn sow the seed of God’s Word that grows up into healthy local congregations.

Jeff Robinson (PhD – SBTS) is the pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville, KY and is also the Senior Editor for The Gospel Coalition.  He is married to Lisa and they have four children.

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One comment on “A Faithful Pastor to Pastors (10 Year Tribute to Practical Shepherding)
  1. What would happen if non-pastors become aware of this?

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