The Pastor as Spiritual Companion

A pastor as spiritual companion not only makes disciples, he offers spiritual direction. The intent of both ministries is to cultivate a deeper and more intimate encounter with God, an encounter that touches mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

By Kevin Dell

In his desire to connect with God, the young man finally makes his decision. He repents of an empty way of living, confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior, is immersed in baptismal waters, and entrusts his life to following Jesus. By God’s grace, he responds with faith and receives a new life, a fresh start, and a hopeful heart. Life in the kingdom begins.

He wants to know more about God. He invests time in reading the Bible. He gets more involved in the local church. His faith is new but strong. He asks questions. He finds answers. He is on a journey to discover all the riches of his new inheritance.

A pastor walks alongside him to help him understand life in the kingdom.
Knowledge and understanding of the King is paramount. Like a novice machinist needing supervision and training in his new career, this new follower of Christ needs someone to assist him in his new commitment. The pastor as spiritual companion helps this man grow in his faith and encourages him to serve God by serving others.

Some years later, the initial excitement associated with life in the kingdom has worn off. The novice is not green anymore. His knowledge has grown. His understanding has expanded. A solid foundation has been built. But staying the course has become difficult.

His current desire for an experience of God has overtaken his earlier desire for an understanding of God. The man knows God is present. He has read about it in Scripture. He recognizes God has been present in creation since the moment he said, “Let there be light.” But there is a desire for something more.

The man wants to know how God is personally present in his own life. He acquires knowledge of God while reading Matthew. How does he experience God when he is taking his son to football practice or paying his bills or shoveling snow? He needs someone to help him. The pastor as spiritual companion helps this man recognize God’s already active presence in the ordinary events of his life.

A pastor as spiritual companion not only makes disciples, he offers spiritual direction. The intent of both ministries is to cultivate a deeper and more intimate encounter with God, an encounter that touches mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

 

Making Disciples

A pastor as spiritual companion makes disciples as he teaches new followers of Christ the details of living in the kingdom. These details edify those following Christ so they can mature in their walk. As they make progress, the pastor introduces the disciples to more information for the sake of transformation. The pastor as spiritual companion begins to fulfill the Great Commission in the lives of individuals (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:28, 29).

Some who come in contact with the church seek the way of God’s love. The pastor as spiritual companion helps these people find the way. He does this by teaching them the basics of the gospel story.

Those who are growing want to go deeper in the way of God’s love. The pastor as spiritual companion helps them understand the way. He does this by teaching them what it means to love God, love others, and love self in healthy ways (Matthew 22:34-40).

After discovering and beginning to understand the way of God’s love, some are ready for what’s next. The pastor as spiritual companion teaches and trains them in the details of kingdom leading (2 Timothy 3:16). He reinforces the importance of followership. He explains and models servant leadership (Matthew 20:24-28). He works with those who have a teachable and humble heart.

Continuing on the journey, a follower of Christ may discern a call to lead. He reads God’s Word and interacts with mature Christians and discovers his gift to lead others. A pastor as spiritual companion empowers this person to lead the way.

After a follower of Christ has been trained in servant leadership and has gained experience in helping people, the pastor as spiritual companion discerns if this individual is ready to become a leader of leaders. The one who has been developed by a spiritual companion becomes a spiritual companion to another. In this way a pastor has built up a person who is willing and able to develop others in the way of God’s love (Ephesians 4:11, 12).

A follower of Christ needs a spiritual companion to walk with him through each step of the journey. Spiritual formation is a process. Discipleship is an investment in people.

 

Offering Direction

Discipleship focuses on establishing and nurturing a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Discipleship focuses on knowledge and activity. A disciple is characterized as someone who is growing in knowledge of God and serving in the kingdom.

Yet after doing this for years, a person’s spirituality can grow stale and arid. It can even lead to burnout. Something is missing. Something is not right. What is it? The follower of Christ yearns for a deeper and more intimate experience of God.

The intent of the ministry of spiritual direction is not to establish a person’s relationship with God. The intent is to enliven, perhaps awaken, a person’s relationship with God. Spiritual direction is primarily offered to people who have a recognizable relationship with God. There is a desire, however, to discern God’s presence in life and leadership situations.

A pastor as spiritual companion helps followers of Christ with awareness of God’s already active presence. A pastor helps individuals reflect on their lives in order to discover when and how God is present. Prayer and other spiritual practices can be springboards that foster awareness.

Samuel struggled to discern God’s presence. Yet the silence and solitude of the temple, as well as the company of a spiritual companion, helped him recognize God’s voice (1 Samuel 3). There are seasons in life when the direction of a spiritual companion is needed.

A pastor as spiritual companion also helps followers of Christ with alignment. Paul encouraged Timothy to keep the faith and to use the gifts God provided (2 Timothy 1:6-14; 2:1). Likewise, a pastor as spiritual companion encourages followers of Christ to respond to God’s active presence. This response is characterized by obedience to God’s call.

 

Forming and Being Formed 

Whether he is making disciples or offering direction, the pastor as spiritual companion should understand the vital role listening, praying, reading, and welcoming play in his ministry to others. The discernment needed for discipleship and direction does not come without being available to another. Relationships require time, investment, and sacrifice.

The pastor as spiritual companion must understand the importance of listening. It is significant that a pastor listens to each person’s story. People want their questions answered and their stories heard. A spiritual companion is present and attentive.

It is important for a pastor to be in a listening relationship with God. Ultimately God is the one who makes disciples and offers direction through the Holy Spirit. A pastor as spiritual companion simply helps people discover God’s truth and discern what God is already doing in their lives.

Likewise, the pastor must understand the value and significance of prayer. A pastor as spiritual companion is praying for those he is discipling and directing. He prays for and with those who are seeking his companionship. In prayer, a pastor is investing deeply in the experience, the struggle, and the journey of the people he is helping. The pastor is also encouraging people to be attentive to God in prayer.

Furthermore, the pastor as spiritual companion grounds his discipleship and direction in the Word of God. His own life is being shaped and formed by God’s Word. A spiritual companion cannot share what he does not have. The Scriptures provide answers to critical questions and insights into God’s activity.

The pastor as spiritual companion is also committed to welcoming people in their current situation. Those wanting information about God and his kingdom need to be instructed. Those wanting an experience of God need to be directed.

The pastor must remember people are at different places on their journey. With this in mind, the pastor refuses to judge. Since spiritual formation is a process, the pastor embraces each person where he is and walks with him to aid and abet his journey.

Since spiritual formation is a process, a pastor as spiritual companion must be patient. Individuals respond to discipleship and direction in different ways and at different paces. A pastor must allow individuals to struggle with the journey. Forming and being formed by a relationship with another is a demanding endeavor.

 

Yielding to God

He is growing in his love for God and his love for others as he loves himself. He is serving in the kingdom, practicing the disciplines, and examining his life for echoes of God. His life with God is maturing as he transitions from a novice to a journeyman, because someone personally invested in his growth. He gives his life to God daily, seeking an exchange of love and affection. He takes another step in rhythm with God.

 

Kevin Dell serves as senior minister with Bartonville (Illinois) Christian Church. 

You Might Also Like

Opportunity and Open Doors

Opportunity and Open Doors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *