As the year came to a close, Dave Lomas (Pastor of Reality SF) sat down with Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman on ChurchPulse Weekly to discuss the role of friendships in ministry, how he’s rethinking preaching and the challenges of discipling in a hybrid church model.
On Friendships in Ministry
According to Barna data, when it comes to pastors’ friendships, pastors say their closest friends include pastors in another city / town (58%), pastors of other churches in their city / town (31%) and people in their church (44%).
Lomas echoes this experience, saying, “Really it’s been friendships that have gotten me through the last two years, especially friendships with pastors. The commiseration that happens is so invaluable […] to be able to be as honest as you need to be with them and still be loved.”
One of these groups of pastors Lomas mentions is a circle of friends he’s been gathering with for the past eight years. He shares, “The idea of it was that we all lead similar churches in similar places globally, so how do we commit ourselves to each other to serve Christ faithfully over a long period of time?”
Lomas reflects, “If we want to make it to our 70’s and still be doing this faithfully, we have to make sure that we’re around people that will act as communal guardrails for us, to keep us theologically faithful, faithful to the ministry and faithful to our vocation.”
Lomas offers encouragement to leaders who are looking to build these types of friendships with other pastors. “You need to have a starting point together. If you have a starting point together, you guys are all asking the same questions. You’re trying to figure it out together, and that in itself is like a glue that binds you together.” He continues, “Collaboration is really, really key. You have to be able and willing to mutually learn from each other.”
On New Preaching Models
Data from 2020 show that two in five pastors (43%) strongly agree their identity as a pastor is deeply tied to their preaching / teaching. As many churches wrestle to figure out what church models could and should look like in a new era, pastors are also facing new questions about what preaching will look like.
When thinking about his approach to preaching, Lomas used to focus primarily on speaking to the city (considering those who were not yet in the room, a technique he accredits to Tim Keller), but he has started to notice a shift in his focus to those who are within his own church.
“I’m teaching them to be resilient during this time and I’m encouraging them,” Lomas says. “I shifted from teaching to the entire city to teaching just the slice of the city that was at our church.”
He shares, “Before, the way that I would structure a sermon would be around reading articles […] keeping my ear to the ground for what’s coming up out of the city and then taking this topic or text to ask, ‘What do people assume about this text, and how in the world can I insert the Kingdom of God in this text to work?’”
Now his approach has shifted. He says, “People are hurting, and they need the comfort that comes from the Kingdom of God […] I’m trying to teach them with that lens to go, “How do you live in the Kingdom of God in such a way in turbulent times that you can say this and be with God in this way?”
About the Research
The research for this study consisted of an online study conducted September 16-October 8, 2020 with 408 U.S. Protestant pastors. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 4.8 percent at the 95-percent confidence level.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2022