Have Sharp Elbows

Do you attend your local pastors’ gathering? If so, why? Let me tell you why I go, even though I’ve struggled with it over the years.

If you’ve never been to one, it usually goes like this: a group of 10 or so pastors from a particular neck of a city get together for lunch, share what’s going on in their churches, and perhaps someone speaks for a little while.

Sometimes the food is mediocre. Sometimes the fellowship isn’t much better. Over the years, however, I have seen these gatherings accomplish what no national conference does—it gets ministers to know each other. If such a gathering develops even minimal camaraderie, it helps the city.

Truth be told, I’ve broken bread with pastors who would probably rather eaten with a serial killer—for they thought me a liberal. I’ve also been at gatherings where I was patronized because of the tribe I came from—treated like a novelty of sorts…an Amish-like relic of things the church should have moved on from by now. Ten years ago, I would attend these gatherings and have my head patted, figuratively, for a couple of hours because I was the youngest present by twenty years.

I could have stopped going. I didn’t need those gatherings. I could have focused on what was right in front of me through isolationism or excluding them back. In the end, however, I would have hurt not them, but my city—and probably myself as well. In those gatherings, I learned how to help or work alongside people that didn’t like me much at the time. I learned how to care more about God’s plan for the city than my own feelings. I also learned what it’s like to be the new guy or outsider in a room full of people that are supposed to be uber-hospitable but aren’t. That’s why I now look out for the young pastor, the Hispanic or Black pastor in a sea of white faces, the pastor from the eclectic fellowship, the liberal pastor in the conservative preacher’s gathering. I was them—and still am sometimes.

If you feel out of place, or as though it’s truly a waste of time—perhaps you shouldn’t go to your local pastors gathering. I’ve just found over the years it does the city good when pastors know each other and have even minimal relationship with one another. It doesn’t have to be the local pastors gathering. You can proactively seek out relationship with those around you. But, do something.

Don’t serve as though you’re the only pastor in town. You’re not, and serving that way hurts you (it cultivates isolationist and “bubble” thinking), those around you (who could learn from and enjoy you), and your city—who will experience ministry through silos rather than a unified Body. On numerous occasions over the years, a city has been blessed by our church and others working together for the common good. On numerous occasions, the seed for the ministry breakthrough our church needed was planted at one of those gatherings.

Scott Lambert, one of mentors, says, “Have sharp elbows.” I’m glad I’ve followed his good advice. Find a gathering and pull up a chair. It’s good for your city, and it’s good for you. By God’s grace, you’re going to make a friend or two along the way.

Author: Tim Spivey

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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8 Comments

  1. Tim – Thanks for these honest and compelling reflections. Much of what you’ve written echoes my own experience with such fellowships.

    To your list, I might add pastoring a small community in the land of megachurches (we’re not too far from you, closer to downtown SD) :)

    Always appreciate your insights!

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    • Daniel, you’re so right about the small/mega church bias in gatherings like that. I’ve been on both sides of that one and know it exists. I hope we can grab lunch sometime. I’d love to get to know you and more about how God’s moving in your church.

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  2. Tim, thanks for having sharp elbows. You are making a huge difference in the world, my friend. Thanks for encouraging all of us to stay at the table…sl

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the encouragement, Scott–and all the Lamberts have meant to us over the years. Keep planting, Brother.

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