By Ross Engel –
When Paul first approached me to be a part of The Jagged Word, his initial request was simply for me to run a campaign that would raise money for seminarians to enjoy a drink with their friends and buy them a book or two to help them prepare for ministry. I was excited to be invited into The Jagged Word family and to have a greater share in this brotherhood. Now, the Bell Ringer fund is a rather simple task. I show up at the two seminaries once a year, try to meet as many of the students as I can, enjoy a few drinks, get to know a few of the guys, and then pick a deserving young man to be the beneficiary of the Bell Ringer fund. (By the way, you can still donate to the Bell Ringer Fund for young Gabe! I’m hoping to raise $500 for this great future pastor!)
I’ve grown to enjoy this simple task because it affords me the chance to meet the future pastors of our Church. Establishing a line of communication with them and forming a bond with them has been a blessing. They have received respectable amounts of money to enjoy drinks with their friends and have purchased some solid pastoral books. They have a sort of adopted “big brother” as I do try to keep some open lines of communication with these young brothers in the ministry.
The time spent learning at the seminary is vital. The academics and theological study are impressive and absolutely necessary for the pastoral office. While in seminary and ministry in general, there is also great value and importance to engender the camaraderie of classmates and friends. When I was in seminary, I had a close group of friends. They called us “the four horsemen. “ We were practically inseparable. We took classes together, sat together in chapel, and we spent many a Friday night either playing PlayStation or watching movies over a cold BEvERage. We helped each other out, supported each other, and held each other accountable. Three out of the four of us still maintain regular contact; we can depend on each other and can call anytime. I am blessed even now to call them my brothers.
After seminary, this pastoral and theological brotherhood expands into the parish ministry. Every pastor has those few close friends from seminary that they call brother and can rely upon, but as they serve in congregations and churches across the globe, they develop and even add a few more brothers to the fold. I consider my fellow authors here at The Jagged Word my brothers. I have a former lifting partner that I consider my brother. I also have gained some brothers from the churches that I have been blessed to serve in ministry. The brotherhood isn’t huge, but these are men whom I know that I can count on and who rightly know that they can count on me.
We rightly say that, in Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. We have the same heavenly Father and the same bond through the waters of Baptism, so it is certainly acceptable to call our fellow Christians and, if you’re a pastor, your fellow pastors, your “brothers.” But I think it is safe to say that not every “brother in Christ” is my “brother” or is part of the “brotherhood.”
Before anyone gets upset or offended, hear me out. Being a part of the “brotherhood” or being “my brother” requires commitment. It is not just lip service! If I call you brother, this is a loaded word, not my impersonation of Hulk Hogan!
The author Jack Donovan recently wrote, “A man who calls every man a brother is a brother to no man.” He follows that rather profound statement with a series of questions:
“If you say that brotherhood matters to you, why is your brotherhood so cheap?
Why is it given so freely?
Do you ask nothing in return for your brotherhood?
What does your brotherhood offer?”
To be a part of a “brotherhood” implies obligation and responsibility to each other. Being a brother means standing by another person (your brother). Sometimes you have to stand by them when you don’t really want to. Sometimes you have to do the painful thing for the benefit of your brother, but you do it out of love. Sometimes you have to take a lump yourself because you understand your brother. Brothers in a brotherhood stand by each other and sometimes may have to rescue another brother from danger!
“And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” –Jude 22-23
Donovan closes out his essay on the brotherhood with this strong definition of a brother.
“The only man who I call brother who I am not formally oathed to has been my friend for about ten years, and I know that he would do anything to help me if I needed it. I would do anything to help him, too. I trust him with my life. However, because I respect the gravity of that commitment, being a good brother also means carrying my own weight and taking enough responsibility for my own actions that I don’t need to call for that lifeline very often. When I call him for help, it’s either because I think he’ll enjoy doing what I need a hand with, or because I really need help. That’s what brotherhood means to me. My brotherhood comes with strings attached. Actually, they’re more like chains. My brotherhood means that we’re in this together all the way to the end of our lives or our friendship. We only get out dead or dead to each other.”
In Christ, we are indeed a family of believers. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. In the midst of this holy family of believers, we also are blessed to have those whom we are part of a brotherhood (I’m sure there is also a sisterhood, but the intricacies of that are well outside my area of expertise). May we ever rejoice and value the blessings of the brotherhood and true brothers, who will hold us accountable and smack us across the back of the head if necessary, and who are willing to suffer and fight and die alongside of us as we go through life. I have my brothers. I hope you do too!