The Antidote for Loneliness

The Antidote for Loneliness

by Jill Fierge

     Loneliness has been described by John Milton in Tetrachordonas as the “first thing which God’s eye named not good.” God designed us to want and need community.   Yet more people report feeling lonely today than ever. John Cacioppo, the director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (W. W. Norton & Co., 2009), has been studying loneliness for more than 20 years.  He reports studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s show 11%-20% of Americans indicated they regularly or frequently felt lonely. In 2010, a national study found the numbers now closer to 40%-45%.  In an ever-increasingly connected world, people feel more alone. Regrettably pastors are on the top end of these statistics and pastors’ wives are above the national norm at 54%.  Loneliness in pastoring may have well reached epidemic proportions, but both pastoral couples and those wishing to help pastors and their spouses can take steps to stop this trend.     

First, recognize loneliness for what it is: a tool of the devil. His sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. He does this by isolating the pastoral family and playing mind games.  A constant barrage of lies is hurled at the pastor:  no one appreciates what you do; you are forgotten; you have no friends; everyone else has their own problems: they don’t have time for you.   To combat these lies, systematically confront these statements with Scripture and prayer.  Recognize Satan’s tactics and refuse to allow him to influence your thoughts.  Take every thought captive by replacing each lie with a truth. You are a child of God. God always rewards faithfulness. He knows the way you take and you will come out as pure gold.       

Second, take time to rest and refresh. Times of mental and physical exhaustion will most likely be when one is most vulnerable to feelings of loneliness.  Simply put, when the body is exhausted it is hard to think rationally.  The harvest is great and the time is short, and pastors feel this urgency.  Often they continue to go, go, go when they may be better served to rest, rest, rest. It is okay to take a day off. Shut off the cell phone and take the family out of town for the day.  Recognize the church will be there when you return, but for now you are taking a mental and physical break.  Sometimes just the reconnecting with family is enough to recharge and eradicate the feelings of aloneness.     

Third, intentionally reach out to other ministry couples. Schedule an evening to get together once a month. Set ground rules:  no talking about individual church problems or concerns during this time.  This is a time to laugh together and strengthen the friendship bonds that have less to do with being fellow pastors and more to do with being fellow Christians. If the pastoral family can feel they are valued for who they are rather than just for what they do, they may be more likely to call their friends during lonely times because they realize they don’t have to report on how their church is doing.     

Pastors have natural connections to other ministers within a district by virtue of their occupation. Sometimes the spouse may not feel this connection, especially if he/she is unable to attend many district functions due to work obligations or family responsibilities.  The pastor can do his/her spouse a great service by intentionally cultivating a friendship with another ministry couple in which he/she believes the spouse would have a connection with the other minister’s spouse. The pastor knows his/her spouse’s personality, help him/her make those connections with another pastoral couple.   When the spouse is able to form a bond with that one close friend, it can make all the difference in alleviating his/her loneliness as well.     

Fourth, purposefully seek out an older, more experienced ministry couple to mentor the pastor and spouse. It is likely this more seasoned couple has weathered the storms of loneliness in their own ministry.  They will have invaluable advice and be a confidential sounding board.  Too often ministry couples may feel the older couple does not have time for them or they are being a nuisance.  However, by allowing the experienced elders to minister to the pastor and spouse, they are helping them feel needed as well. Loneliness can strike the older couple or the new church planter; but by working together, real companionship is forged and neither couple feels lonely.     

Finally, what can someone do to help the pastor and family so they don’t have to battle loneliness?  Frequent contact is invaluable.  A text to let them know you are praying for them, an email, or a card in the mail goes a long way. Visit them!  Drop by for service and take them out to eat.  If you are in a position, help the church planter financially attend a refreshing conference or offer your home as an inexpensive get-away for a few days.  The bottom line is intentionally making the pastor and his family feel valued will be something they can reflect on when those times of loneliness come. Additionally, the frequent contact allows you to notice times when the pastor or spouse may be especially vulnerable to loneliness.     

Loneliness for pastors and their families may be an epidemic, but there is an antidote. When the pastor takes decisive steps to prevent the lonely mindset and other ministry couples come alongside to reassure, pastors and their families can be emotionally healthy and spiritually equipped to effectively lead revival churches.

Claiming Our Promise

Claiming Our Promise

In July 2016, my wife and I were approved to start a NAM work in Harlem, GA. We started with me, my wife, and our four young children – and Promise Church was born.  We were blessed to have the full support of Pastor Mark Maddox and other local pastors in the district as well.   We were so overwhelmed with immediate donations of equipment. Service after service, people volunteered to help us with music and praise singing with their pastor’s permission.  Even with all of the physical support, it was still a big step of faith for us. 

We decided to rent a school auditorium while we searched for a more permanent place, thinking this would only take two or three months.  The rent for the auditorium was $270 per service, over $1,000 per month – a staggering amount for a fledgling congregation. We didn’t have this extra money personally, but the Lord always came through and supplied our need.  Each week, I would drive through the city of Harlem, and each time as I would drive away, the Lord would say to me, “I haven’t shown you the building yet.” 

In December, a minister friend and I stopped to look at an abandoned church right outside the city on a major highway. Upon inquiry, we found that the pastor was in very poor health, and the congregation had not been holding services there for some time.  We agreed on a lease.  With counsel from my Pastor, he encouraged me to ask if they would just donate the building to us.  He really built up my faith!   A couple of days later at our section conference, I was relating the events to another local pastor, John Ohmes, and he said to me, “We’re going to agree that you are going to get this building donated.”  He took my hand, and we began to pray and claim it by faith. 

We all know that faith without works is dead, so on January 25, 2017, my wife and I met with her parents and a few saints from our church.  I made up a wood stake and wrote on it, “Promise Church, Acts 2:38 and Ephesians 4:5.”  We anointed that stake with oil and prayed over it.  I drove it into the ground, as an act of faith and trust in the Lord.  Twenty days later on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, the property and building were ours.  Oh how He loves us!  We bought that property and existing building for one dollar!  To God be the glory!  

I would like to encourage each one of you to live in the Promises of God!  God has called you; He will provide for you!  Be encouraged; God has not forgotten you.  Keep teaching Bible Studies, keep praying, keep fasting, love God, love people, and go CLAIM YOUR PROMISE!

Pastor Jeremy and Ruth Mills

Promise Church

Harlem, GA

Beans, Bullets & Bandaids

Beans, Bullets & Bandaids

As a boy growing up, every broken branch became an M-16, every rock a grenade, and every ditch a foxhole, as I single handedly defeated the invading hordes.  With me running through the woods armed with sticks and stones and a vivid imagination, no enemy had a chance.  I was on a mission.  Eventually, I was issued real weapons and I dug real foxholes, in a very real commitment to Uncle Sam.  I discovered that an M-16 requires a lot of boring maintenance, and a foxhole requires hours of work on the business end of an "entrenching tool."  Most importantly, I discovered that no mission can be accomplished single handedly. 

As spiritual soldiers we are also on a mission.  Missions is the heartbeat of the church.  No war was ever won by holding existing territory, somebody has to establish a beachhead and take back the enemy's territory.  Those front line soldiers are our church planters, and they are spiritual heroes, but they can't do it alone.  As important as elite combat soldiers are, an army runs on it's stomach.  Soldiers on the leading edge must have supplies.  There must be a logistical operation to provide beans, bullets and bandaids to the front line troops in order to accomplish the mission. 

The word missions comes from the Latin word mittere, meaning "to send."  No soldier goes to war on his own responsibility or his own expense; they are sent.  When you support missions, you are sending soul saving soldiers.  When you give to a global missionary, or a North American missionary, you become the supply line, making it possible for them to focus on their mission- reaching souls.  You are the vital rear echelon that supplies the beans, bullets and bandaids; or the building rent, money for a keyboard, or an outreach event, or hundreds of other needs to those in the trenches.  Thank you for giving, and sending. 

A Word from the Director

A Word from the Director

The need to equip men and women who stand ready to answer the call of church planting is an ongoing challenge.  In an effort to meet that challenge, North American Missions is excited to announce a new training and resource initiative that will kick off in January 2017.  Launch is an exciting new tool for the church planter.  Each class will be taught by veteran church planters and builders. A few of the subjects that will be included are:

o   The Premier Call to Plant
o   The Great Commission of Church Planters
o   Soul Winning
o   Bible Study Principles
o   Team Building
o   Discipleship

Be on the lookout for more information on Launch coming in the July edition of the Herald.

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to connect with many of our church planters through the weekly video conference calls and look forward to continuing to connect with others.  If you have yet to be in on a conference call, please contact me at jtoney@upci.org so we can get you scheduled for one in the near future.

God bless each of you as we labor together for the cause of North American Missions.

Plowing Before the Planter

Plowing Before the Planter

September 18, 2015, Eagle Ford Texas Section launched its first Plowing Before the Planter event with church planters Robert and Audra Moody.  There were 89 in attendance and the release of faith was evident at the outpouring of worship and prayer.
 
The group went through focused training and responded in prayer.  Time was spent at the church praying for the Moodys, the city and God's will to be done in Pleasanton, Texas. Many lives were touched and transformed. The group also prayer walked throughout the city calling on God and speaking life and hope into the city.
 
The following testimonies were given:

  • Friday night while kneeling to pray at the altar, I felt the altar and floor sway.  At first I thought it was me so I stood up, but then when I knelt again I felt it.  I feel like there's sifting and change.
  • Saturday morning while praying and laying hands on the map of Atascosa County - I felt like and earthquake was happening.  The ground started moving.  I moved my hand off of the map and it quit I put my hand back on the map and my feet and body felt like it was on shaking ground.

We thank God for what was done in Pleasanton and believe for continued reports of the impact of the prayers prayed this weekend.

Esther Hunt
District Prayer Coordinator
South Texas District