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Why You Should Join (or Start!) a TGC Regional Chapter

When I moved to St. Louis eight years ago, I was looking for a ministry role. But I knew no one. I Googled “evangelical churches,” cold-called church offices, and sent my résumé to local pastors. During the three trying months that I waited for God to open a door, I met with nearly two dozen pastors from across the city. These pastors shared three things in common: they loved Christ and his church, they were burdened to reach our city with the gospel, and they didn’t know each other.

Once I was hired as an associate pastor, I quickly realized why. Church ministry is tough and time-consuming. I had two hundred congregants to get to know and shepherd. Between leading the youth group, children’s ministry, life groups, and worship team, how would I find time for relationships with fellow pastors?

Eventually, I realized you don’t find the time; you make it. A confluence of events—growing pains in my first year as a lead pastor, a feeling of isolation during the pandemic lockdowns, and the tragic death of a prominent local pastor—finally led me to take the initiative. I reached out to a local Council member of The Gospel Coalition, Dan Doriani, and soon TGC St. Louis was born.

So what is a TGC regional chapter? And why would you want to join or start one?

What Is a TGC Regional Chapter?

A TGC regional chapter is “a local group of pastors who gather regularly for prayer, fellowship, mutual encouragement, study, and mission,” says Bill Kynes, TGC’s director of regional chapters. It’s “a place for diverse yet gospel-centered pastors across ethnic, generational, and denominational lines to connect, find resources, and encourage one another.” There are currently 18 active regional chapters scattered across the continental United States, plus TGC Hawaii and two chapters in Canada.

I’ve co-led a chapter for a few years now, and it’s been an immense help to my ministry. Here are three simple reasons to join, or—if one doesn’t yet exist in your area—start a TGC regional chapter.

1. Amid ministry’s difficulties, you’ll find supportive friendships.

One pastor in our chapter is leading his church through an abuse scandal. One recently lost his wife to cancer. Still others juggle pastoral duties while they care for children with special needs, face conflict with elders, grapple with uncertainty over whether their churches will survive financially through the year’s end, or are so depressed they’re considering throwing in the towel.

The apostle Paul was no stranger to the hardships of ministry. At one point he confessed, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor. 1:8). Paul’s solution for his sorrow was to remind himself of the gospel while soliciting the encouragement and prayers of colaborers: “Comfort those who are in any affliction . . . [and] help us by prayer” (vv. 4, 11). Even as an apostle, Paul desperately relied on others’ support.

Pastors need friends. And because of the particular challenges of our vocation, pastors need friends who are fellow pastors. Even those who lead large churches will benefit from friendships outside their church and staff, men in whom they can confide and seek wisdom. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” TGC regional chapters cultivate loving friendships where brother-pastors can encourage and sustain one another when ministry adversity inevitably comes.

2. Amid today’s divisions, you’ll find gospel-centered unity.

TGC regional chapters cultivate loving friendships where brother-pastors can encourage and sustain you when ministry adversity inevitably comes.

The church is still reeling from recent fractures in the wake of the pandemic, racial unrest, and political polarization. That’s to say nothing of how divided we were before 2020.

With the rapid secularization and dechurching of our post-Christian society, we must ask afresh, Is the gospel that unites us truly bigger than the issues that divide us? Is the common ground we share beneath Christ’s cross sturdy enough to withstand our differences of opinion on vaccines, critical race theory, and Trump—not to mention baptism, glossolalia, and the rapture?

Before he went to the cross, Jesus’s final prayer for his church was “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). He stressed that the church’s unity is its witness to the unbelieving world. As pastors, we lead our people toward unity by example when we gather with like-minded (albeit not identically minded) brothers for fellowship, prayer, and partnership in a common mission to our cities.

TGC regional chapters provide a place where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free”—where our Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, EFCA, or nondenominational distinctives aren’t the main thing “for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). We still have our ecclesial and theological distinctives, but we’re able to enjoy a good Reformed catholicity.

3. Amid ministry’s busyness, you’ll find restorative respite.

Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle to pastoral fellowship is busyness. But joining—and even leading—a regional chapter need not demand hours of your time each month. While some chapters host conferences or read through books together, the only expectation of regional chapters is the commitment to gather periodically for mutual support.

We lead our people toward unity by example when we gather with like-minded brothers for fellowship, prayer, and partnership in a common mission to our cities.

We recently made a shift with TGC St. Louis, focusing our efforts less on arranging speakers, fundraising for honorariums, or catering meals, and more on connecting as pastors. By simply gathering regularly, we’re cultivating patterns of stopping our busy ministry lives to listen to and pray for one another. We meet for lunch every other month to share personal and professional prayer requests and praises. We enjoy Psalm 133:1’s blessing together: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Martin Luther famously quipped that he was too busy not to pray. I’ve learned the same is true of pastoral fellowship. I’m too busy not to make time regularly to be refreshed, sharpened, and encouraged by fellow shepherds.

Brother pastor, so are you.

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