The answer the perennial question, "How many thirty-something pastors can fit into a Holiday Inn room?" is five. I discovered this while visiting Baltimore last week for the national ETS Conference. Every few years I attend the event with colleagues. We share an Alma mater, small church ministry experience, and an appetite for dicey, theological issues. Needless to say, we're a pretty wild bunch.
The topic for the week centered on Inerrancy and the Word of God. I wanted to hear what scholars had to say about the theme, and if they could explain to me why the NT authors didn't quote the OT authors verbatim; or if my appreciation for The Message in any way hurt my credibility as a pastor. (They did; it doesn't.) I took copious notes, live Tweeted twice, and purchased fifteen books to add to my shelves. (The hefty discount on printed material is worth the price of admission.)
Transparently, the most important aspect of the trip was the opportunity to share burgers, beds, and ministry burdens with other pastors. We divided and conquered for the parallel sessions, but reconvened each day to eat and sleep. In our conversations, we critiqued the papers we read, swapped stories about "evangelical celebrities" we greeted, and waxed eloquently on the oral culture of the Bible we study.
And when that three minutes of conversation ended, we came to issues of the heart--family, ambition, finances, and regrets. One pastor grieved a family that just left his church. One pastor disclosed a looming legal issue. One pastor lamented the socioeconomic woes facing his church. One pastor confessed his overwhelming intensity. One pastor expressed concern for a lack of evangelism in his church and personal life.
Our disclosure was less a request for counsel, than a plea for prayer. So we did. Our final night in the Holiday Inn, we interceded for one another. The unity of the Spirit was palpable. Praying did not solve all our problems, but it did increase our intimacy...which is saying a lot, because there were five of us in a room.
Burdens bind men together. We should share them more often.