I’ve been there—serving as a pastor seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with no staff to support me. Isolation was a practical reality. I’ve also served as a pastor in a suburban church with staff—yet I sometimes isolated myself there, too, by choice. I was there physically, but I wasn’t always there emotionally and spiritually. Here are some dangers of an isolated ministry:
1. We have no accountability built into the system. We answer to no one, which means we can lead as we wish without input. Sometimes, nobody even knows what we do during the day—which can breed laziness and misfocus.
2. No one’s asking us hard questions about our own walk with the Lord. Even we who lead need others who help us test our hearts. We are all too susceptible to misread our own soul to try to do this work on our own.
3. We have few others to share the burdens of ministry. Isolation means we carry the weight by ourselves, and that’s risky. The weight can simply become too much for one person. In fact, I developed ulcers during the first year of my ministry because I didn’t know how to handle the stress.
4. When we succeed, it’s easy to take all the glory for ourselves. Sure, we might praise the Lord publicly, but we know how important we were in the process. After all, we did all the work.
5. When we fail in ministry, we have no one to encourage us and pick us up. Failure will happen, and the time will come when we need other believers to support us. They’re tough to find, though, when we’ve chosen to be isolated leaders.
6. Eventually, isolation is just lonely. I’m highly introverted, but even I need people in my life. I do need time alone, but too much time alone misses the point of what it means to do ministry. Loneliness can captivate all of us.
7. Isolation most often leads to doing no evangelism and discipleship. How can anyone be sharing the gospel regularly and investing in others passionately when they’re on their own most of the time? You cannot do the Great Commission without relationships at some level.
8. Isolation can devolve into depression and self-pity. The other way around is true, too, but either way is not good. The more we find ourselves in isolation, the harder it is to pull ourselves up when ministry is hard.
9. We miss the fact that God never designed us to live in isolation. Indeed, He created us in such a way that it was not good for us to be alone. He made us needing others—which means our isolation is sometimes only sin.
What about you? Do you find yourself in isolation simply because of your current ministry context? Or, are you isolated because you’ve chosen to be so? In either case, let us know how the Church Answers family can pray for you today!
This article was written by Chuck Lawless and originally published at churchanswers.com on July 20. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.