It is not uncommon for ministry leaders to preach on community while living in isolation. While we can preach on community for everyone else, ministry leaders are often tempted to live in isolation. Why do ministry leaders often choose isolation? What pulls them away from community and away from being vulnerable with others? While there are a plethora of reasons, here are three painful reasons ministry leaders often choose isolation over community:
1. Pain of criticism
Juan struggles with going to a small group or enjoying dinner with a group of people because it seems every time they are together, critiques emerge. He remembers how many meals were tasteless because of the pain of the conversation. Instead of being able to let down his guard, he always feels he must be prepared to defend or articulate the reason for a decision or direction. He is relieved when the time is over and he can retreat to his home or office.
2. Pain of betrayal
Debra once shared a struggle with a group of friends at the church. Six months later the church’s board resurfaced it. She decided never again to allow herself to be vulnerable with people from her own church, the church where she serves and organizes community for others.
3. Pain of being overwhelmed
Every time Pete meets with a group of people, he walks away knowing of even more problems to solve or filled with more ideas to process and execute. Being with others does not edify him; it overwhelms him.
Criticism, betrayal, and being overwhelmed.
Yes, there are risks to being in relationship with others. There are reasons ministry leaders can preach about being vulnerable and receiving care but run from it in their own lives. There are real reasons ministry leaders can preach about being in a group and avoid being in one.
There are risks to community, but the risks of not being in community is greater. An isolated ministry leader is terrifying not only because of the inconsistency between sermons and reality but also because isolation often leads to disaster. Dietrich Bonhoeffer boldly declared that sin demands to have a man by himself. We must resist the temptation to live and serve in isolation. For the sake of our own souls.