by Mark Van Bebber, Europe director
In Hungary—and everywhere—pastors often lead lonely, solitary lives. Often, they don’t have anyone to turn to for support and encouragement. Suicides among Hungarian pastors occur more than you might suspect; one such death happened in November 2017. According to recent research within the Hungarian Reformed Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, approximately 10% of current pastors struggle with alcoholism and while we don’t have exact figures, the number of pastors struggling with serious marriage issues is much higher still.
Recently, at a monthly pastors’ gathering I lead, we talked about the importance of groups like ours, mentoring groups. These groups are important for mutual learning and prayer, but also for the support and encouragement we receive from each other.
Mark Van Bebber (second from left) with his mentoring group
Mentoring (we could also use the word “discipleship”) is so important, because spiritual development is much more than simply learning truth. As we learn truth from God’s word, we confront our core beliefs about who we are and how we interpret the world around us. This step of “confronting” ourselves is essential if we are to put to death our flesh and act in ways that glorify God. In truth, this is much easier to do when we walk in fellowship with other believers who are committed to this same goal. The purpose of our pastor groups is to learn together and work toward applying God’s word in our lives and ministries.
During our recent conversation, someone pointed out that these same principles (problems and solutions) are true for every church member. Simply hearing a good sermon every week will not result in significant spiritual growth. We all need life-on-life ministry. Mentoring is focusing your relationship with another person to help them grow spiritually and become prepared to minister more effectively. This is why it is important to promote discipleship and mentoring in our churches and Christian organizations. This is why it is important for each of us to encourage others throughout the week to learn and apply spiritual truths.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 Engage.