“And Also with Your Spirit, Pastor”: Toward a Balanced Framework Designed to Forge, Cultivate, and Sustain Holy Friendships among Clergy

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2021

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Abstract

Over the last several decades, pastors, ministers, and other clergy have benefited fromcountless biblical, ecclesial, theological, and practical resources designed to provide church leaders with appropriate strategies for discipleship, mission work, preaching, and pastoral care. Additionally, seminaries and divinity schools have successfully trained and prepared ministry leaders to serve local churches and parachurch organizations through the biblical, Christ-centered teaching and proclamation of the reign and rule of God. Yet, numerous pastors, ministers, and other clergy suffer from various types of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual maladies that plague their health and well-being. Church leaders share these burdens; however, these burdens manifest themselves in unique and specific ways. To endure the hardships of ministry and vocationally flourish, pastors and other trained ministers must learn to create, cultivate, and sustain viable, holy friendships with the only people who can truly empathize—fellow clergy.

Utilizing numerous academic, biblical, and theological resources, this thesis exposes howdesperately necessary holy, clergy friendships are in combatting the congregational stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue that ministers tend to experience throughout the course of their ministries. Moreover, many clergy suffer from a lack of wholesome self-care, which prevents pastors from adequately and maturely facing the problems or managing the conflicts that arise in the local church and its community.

After discussing various ministry burdens, this thesis establishes that God institutes holyfriendship and intends it for God’s glory—holy friendship is a covenant blessing between God and humanity and between humanity and itself. This thesis focuses this shared blessing of holy friendships through the biblical lenses of God’s covenant with Israel, citing specific examples of covenant friendships among biblical and postbiblical saints.

After solidifying holy friendship as God’s gift to God’s self and humanity throughbiblical and postbiblical figures, the thesis moves toward a framework for helping clergy find balance in their lives and in their ministries. This occurs by acknowledging and accepting the power of reconciliation, as well as learning to embody it through the threefold mediating ministry of Jesus Christ (munus triplex). Moving from the historical and ecclesial problems that stymie the joy and well-being of pastors and their congregations, this thesis delineates the threefold mediating ministry of Jesus Christ (prophet, priest, and royalty) and offers a theological and practical framework for creating and sustaining holy friendships among clergy. As pastors and ministers begin to view themselves and their fellow clergy through the lenses of priestly vulnerability, prophetic imagination, and royal transformation, hidden yet important questions begin to surface, and clergy form vital bonds through shared suffering. This thesis attempts to create a framework for church leaders to learn how to invest in lifelong, enduring holy friendships with other clergy. These holy friendships will benefit ministry leaders as they gain interpersonal insights and encouragement, affirm their shared vocational mission, and celebrate authentic, spiritual companionship along their ministry journeys. The goal of these holy friendships among clergy is a clearer sense of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, resulting in improved, overall clergy health. As pastors, priests, and other ministers learn to cultivate and sustain holy clergy companionship they become better equipped to endure both personal and congregational hardships. Just as Elijah experienced the sustaining power of God under a desert broom tree, ministers must also be fed through intentional, vulnerable relationships that help them spiritually grow and change. As they freely draw from the reservoir of empathic friendship, Christian ministers experience the power of reconciliation in and through the Spirit of Christ in one another. Empowered by this truth, all things become possible for clergy engaged in holy friendships.

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Watson, William James (2021). “And Also with Your Spirit, Pastor”: Toward a Balanced Framework Designed to Forge, Cultivate, and Sustain Holy Friendships among Clergy. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23637.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.