Q&A with James Carroll
Evan: Tell us about yourself?
James: I have been married to Mikila for almost 25 years, and we have a 16 year-old daughter (Kenna) and a 13 year-old son (Jake). I serve as Lead Pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown, KY, where I have been for more than 12 years. I have served on the pastoral staff at four churches, including the planting team for a church on the western edge of the Atlanta metro area. I’m a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. I also enjoy watching and playing sports (often with my son), and I closely follow Atlanta Braves baseball and University of Kentucky basketball and football. I have authored or co-authored four books with Practical Shepherding, with which I partner regularly to encourage and equip pastors for ministry in the trenches.
Evan: What led to you writing this book with Michael Haykin and Brian Croft?
James: In short, pastoral friendship was my path to writing this book on pastoral friendship. I’ve joked with Brian for years that I’m merely riding his coattails in my writing ministry, but our relationship truly has been the key to my writing opportunities. As I understand it, Dr. Haykin raised the idea for the book to Brian following the completion of a different writing project who then shared the concept with me to ask if I’d be interested in helping. So I squeezed my way into the project, which has taken more than 3 years to develop, refine, get it to print, through my friendship with Brian.
Evan: Do you think there has been a lack of emphasis for healthy friendships among pastors? If so, why do you think that is?
James: Yes, absolutely, and several factors contribute to it. A common temptation for pastors is thinking we can relate to spiritual matters differently than other believers, which often manifests itself very subtly in ignoring important aspects of the Christian life. Friendship provides a great example of an area we would always commend to others while giving ourselves a pass. We excuse our omission by claiming that our relationships to others are unique because of our leadership role and the nature of our connection to the whole church. So we opt for something more like acquaintanceship over friendship and feel justified in making this trade. To further complicate matters, the wounds of hurt from betrayal and the pain of people moving into and out of our lives makes us gun-shy to invest in more intimate relationships. For some, this avoidance is even intentional. I was counseled by pastors in my early years of ministry to avoid close relationships with church members because of the dangers they posed. I think the tide is turning in this regard, but it has been an oversight in the recent past and is much needed area of emphasis for pastors.
Evan: What do you hope readers will get from this work?
James: My first goal is encouragement for pastors. I pray God will use this book to remind others that weakness and frailty are common to all men, and that friends are a means of grace to help us. The need for others is a sign of normalcy, not cause for embarrassment. And even more, because failure to develop friendship is an act of disobedience, I pray God will lovingly confront fellow pastors with these truths. I also hope God will use it to make churches aware of this need so that they will pray for, encourage, and help their pastors develop friendships. We always labor in this field for a harvest of spiritual fruit, and these are some specific pieces I’d like to see.
Evan: James is one of my favorite people, one of my mentors, and I have the privilege of calling him my friend. Thank you for the Q&A! To purchase a copy of Pastoral Friendship, click here.