by Pastor Christopher Ritter
If you walk around the halls of our church, you will occasionally notice guys wearing shirts with an interesting logo on the breast. It features a central figure being supported on each side by a friend. It recalls Exodus 17 where Aaron and Hur lifted up the arms of Moses during the battle with Amalek. As long as Moses’ staff was raised, there was victory. When his arms grew tired, faithful men supported him on each side.
This month is the sixteenth anniversary of a ministry in our church that is near and dear to my heart. The Pastor Prayer Partners (or Triple-P’s) organized in response to one pastor’s plea for men to stand with him spiritually as he sought to lead the congregation. Faithful men stepped forward and the ministry both continues and is expanding to other congregations.
It all began with a moment of vulnerability, as I understand it. A pastor was brave enough to admit that he had issues… spiritual issues for which there could only be spiritual solutions. He asked for confidentiality, which was given. As testament to this fact, I can honestly say that I do not know what the original issues were to this day. I know better than to ask.
I inherited the benefits of this ministry when I came to serve the church four years ago. We currently have around thirty men that are part of the ministry. We meet early on the Second Saturday of each month to share and pray. A schedule is organized and two men are waiting for me in the prayer room before each of our three Sunday morning services to “pray me up”. As I lead in worship, I know these brothers are interceding for me and the congregation. The men each take a day of the month to pray in a deeper way for their pastor. I often get e-mails saying, “Tomorrow is my day… What can I lift up to the Lord on your behalf?” Occasionally the men and I go on a brief retreat together.
The foundational document for the ministry is a book by John Maxwell called Partners in Prayer. It outlines some of the dismal statistics about clergy spiritual and relational health and invites men to be part of the solution.
The PPP Ministry, for me, evokes humility. It reminds me that there are some men who realize I am only human and stand with me through all that means. My prayer partners are patient. Vulnerability does not come natural to me, yet they still show up even when I don’t have some heavy personal revelation to share.
PPP has become part of the DNA of our church. When we launched into multisite ministry last year by partnering with a neighboring congregation, PPP was the first ministry we transplanted. The men there were not accustomed to being asked to pray, but twelve have committed to faithfully pray for their pastor and share in our monthly gatherings.
No, PPP is not just about male bonding. When a female associate pastor was briefly appointed to the church, I understand that a group of ladies partnered with her following the same model. But there is something abundantly healthy about the pastor being supported by the men of the church in prayer. Many other ministries have “spun off” PPP over the years like men’s retreats and helping ministries. Some in the group have answered personal calls to pastoral ministry.
Given my reserved personality, I don’t think I ever would have found it within me to start such a ministry as PPP. But I certainly feel rich having such a corps of men around me daily. My desire for the pastors who might read this is that you would find the bold meekness to show your humanity to your church. For the lay people reading this, why don’t you find your pastor in an unguarded moment and ask, “Can I pray for you?”