I don’t know exactly what an armor-bearer does, but I do know I can’t pastor effectively without one next to me.
An armor-bearer’s most obvious responsibility, as suggested by the title, is helping a warrior carry their weapons into a battle. Although there are a handful of armor-bearers in the Bible, there’s no consistent or clear job description.
Long before David was a king, he was an armor-bearer for King Saul.
When David came to Saul and entered his service, Saul loved him very much, and David became his armor-bearer (1 Samuel 16:21).
Saul’s son Jonathan also had an armor-bearer who was obviously a cut above the others (couldn’t resist!). He helped Jonathan win an important and miraculous battle against the Philistines, which changed the course of the war. That nameless armor-bearer wouldn’t let Jonathan fight alone or leave his side, regardless of the obvious dangers.
Every pastor needs an armor-bearer of sorts. This note I received from a pastor illustrates my point vividly:
Mark, After 34 years in the paid ministry, I’m trying to leave it. I’m interviewing with several companies for a non church related job… I’m waiting for an answer after a final interview for a job at a hospital I’d really like. In the meantime, my wife and I are really getting discouraged. The lack of friends for over 25 years has really taken a toll on us…we both said to each other tonight we don’t even know how to have friends or initiate friendships anymore. The ministry takes far more than it gives back, that’s for sure. I’m ready to be done. Soon.
Who’s your armor-bearer? Who walks onto the front-lines of battle with you as you lead yourself, family, and ministry?
This post is not at all intended to make you feel guilty. Lifeway is serious about helping pastors win at home and church. We’re serious about helping you get and staying healthy so that someday you’ll have a strong finish.
Here’s my main message today: Do. Not. Attempt. To. Do. Ministry. Alone.
Yeah, I know that was annoying, but I’m waving a giant warning flag in front of those of you who are currently pastoring unflanked and unsupported. You’re exposing yourself, your family, and your ministry to unnecessary danger.
My bold prediction is that every pastor reading this post, regardless of your title on an org chart, has people in your ministry who would be eager to befriend and help you if you gave them half a chance. Isolation is one of the devil’s favorite schemes for pastors and church leaders—and he’s very good at it. God is not intimidated, so neither should we be.
God will not leave us alone, but neither will the devil. So don’t give into the temptation to fight alone. Jesus and the Church—the army of God—aren’t in retreat mode.
I’m not saying you should randomly trust all of your church members. The apostle Paul was being an armor-bearer to Timothy when he warned him about Hymenaeus, Alexander, Phygelus, Philetus, and Alexander the coppersmith. Paul had Timothy’s back.
If you don’t trust any of your church members, then please find another church or another profession. The interdependent body of Christ has many members with many functions.
You and I are tasked to walk onto the front lines of a very real spiritual battle, sword in hand, and fight. Not fight each other (flesh and blood), but stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:12).
This week or this Sunday, if you walk onto the battle-line alone without an armor-bearer to help you with your spiritual armor, don’t be surprised if you get bludgeoned in another battle. Instead, ask two or three trusted members this week to consistently stand with you through prayer, encouragement, and sometimes even rebuke.