It can be lonely to be a leader for Jesus.
Most Pastors Do Not have a Close Friend
A survey found that 70% of pastors do not have a close friend. It’s about the same for pastor’s wives and other ministry leaders.
Many leaders are lonely because they overwork. Some have relational brokenness that needs special care and they have difficulty trusting others. All leaders have to be careful with the personal things they share with the people they’re ministering to.
There is another kind of loneliness that some pastors and leaders feel: the spiritual loneliness that arises out of an uncommon devotion to Jesus. We shouldn’t be surprised about this. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
The Lonely Saint
A.W. Tozer wrote about the leader who is a lonely saint. (I’ve slightly edited his wording to include women who are ministry leaders.)
The leaders who have passed on into the divine presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand them. A certain amount of social companionship will of course be yours as you mingle with Christian persons in the regular activities of the church, but true spiritual companionship will be hard to find. But you should not expect things to be otherwise. After all, the leader is a stranger and a pilgrim… You walk with God in the garden of your own soul — and who but God can walk there with you?…
The truly spiritual leader is indeed something of an oddity. You live not for yourself but to promote the interests of Another (the Lord)… You find few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of your interest, so you’re often silent and preoccupied…
It is this very loneliness that throws you back upon God. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (David says in Psalm 27:10)… You learn in inner solitude what you could not have learned in the crowd — that Christ is All and in all, that He is made for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we possess life’s summum bonum (the supreme good from which all other good is derived)…
The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world… They have lost their pilgrim character. (The Radical Cross, p. 26-28).
Unlike typical loneliness, the spiritual loneliness that Tozer writes about is sweet because it arises out of a growing Intimacy with Jesus. To be alone with Jesus is the source of strength for the leader. He or she is “in Christ.” With Christ in the heavenly realms of God’s Kingdom we have abounding grace, wisdom, and every spiritual blessing that we — and those we minster to — need.
Walking in the lonely way of Jesus does not mean that we shouldn’t seek out Soul Friends in our community of friendships. It just means that even when we give and receive compassion and encouragement in a Christ-centered friendship there will still at times be a sense of aloneness that draws us into lonely places with Jesus, our true Soul Friend.