This is a guest post by Jason Hudson, CTK Resident and Worship Music Leader at CTK Mt. Washington.
Struggle, Unity, and Coffee
You can learn a lot from war…movies. Whether the enemy is the English, the Nazis, or zombies, one thing is true: nothing unifies like a common struggle. Even unlikely companions become as close as brothers when they are in a fight for their lives. I haven’t been to war, but I have – over the past several months – grown in real and deep community with the men in my residency cohort as we have struggled against ourselves, our circumstances, and the accuser of the saints.
But struggle itself doesn’t create the kind of community I have experienced. It needs to be a common struggle against a common enemy. This is why you have to have a heartbeat to join to fight against the zombies. Sure, Walking Dead fans may protest that there can be a benefit to keeping a couple walkers chained up, but surely we can all agree that they are not truly members of the community. In the residency, however, we are united in our struggle by the gospel of Christ. Though we aren’t, on the surface, uber-diverse, no other thing could explain our gathering at Carabello Coffee bi-monthly; we don’t even all like coffee. But we all love the gospel and want to explore the unique call of God for our lives. Divisions of age, social and economic situation, political affiliation, theological conviction, and hot beverage preference melt into the background as we discuss the glories of Christ and his people.
Though we may disagree some about the precise meaning of the term and all its implications, we are unified in the gospel. But another thing has brought us together in community. Four out of four of us have truly struggled throughout the months of the CTK residency. And I’m not using struggle in a cliché or hyperbolic way. We have all asked big, serious questions about who we are in Christ and what we are called to do. We have all had to make sacrifices. We have faced temptation. In fact, I think it is safe to say that everyone who seeks to devote his life to pastoral ministry will face struggles of self-doubt, questions about calling, temptation to seek comfort, and on and on. Or the struggles may be those of self-importance and thinking too highly of one’s self. Nevertheless, the struggle is real and serious and not to be shouldered alone; we need each other. We must walk side by side with others who know the difficulties and traps that litter the road to pastoral ministry.
A few weeks ago, I received a text from member of the cohort asking for prayer. He was struggling with doubt and uncertainty about money: an attack from our common enemy. I read the text and was struck by how nearly he had described my exact mental and emotional state. He needed us to pray, but as I prayed for him I was comforted to know that I had a brother in the struggle. We shared in our suffering, and we shared in our comfort.
Isolation in this temptation and struggle, the pendulum swing of pride and self-doubt, is exactly why pastors burn out; it is why pastors so often have public and dramatic failures. And that is why I am so grateful for Christ the King and for the pastoral residency. I can only imagine with horror the crushing weight and feeling of alienation of the pastor who doesn’t live in community with others who know his struggle. Too often the road to the pulpit is full of training and ambition and devoid of companionship and the family of God. So I thank God for my pastors who desire to develop leaders in the church, and I thank him for my compatriots who have sharpened me. I am confident that we will all be better men and better servants of the gospel because of our community of struggle.