This is the second post in my story, “On Being a Former Pastor/Somewhat Minister.” To read the first, click here.
My resignation at the church was difficult. The pastor treated it as me thinking I was better than everyone else and that I wanted to go solo. In fact, when he announced my resignation from the pulpit, he stated that, “Mike thinks he can do better without us.” It was not much different at the board meeting where my resignation was announced. Once the meeting came to order, the pastor stated that I wanted to tell the board something and he slid my resignation letter across the table. I read it out loud. My perception was that everyone was completely shocked by the announcement. “Why?” was the question everyone wanted to know. Of course, I could have told them the truth, “Pastor wants to replace me with someone who knows what they are doing.” I didn’t. I mentioned that I felt the time was right to concentrate all of my efforts on the church plant. I don’t think many of them bought it, but I have a bit of bias in play. I was told by a board member later that the board was not upset with me, but with the pastor.
***Someday I will write in detail how the pastor and I got out of sorts, but this story is about how I am now a former pastor/somewhat minister.***
Once I attended the church for the last time, I went through a deep depression. I lost about 50 pounds in three weeks while only eating cheese tortillas and Dr Pepper. I lost my community of support for fear that people might think I was trying to steal church members. Sickness became commonplace and I did not do very much of anything. I was definitely not healthy. That time period of early October to Mid-December is still very hazy for me.
Rabbit Trail: To those who have experienced divorce, that it was it felt like in the process. The people of that church were (and still are) awesome! My job was to love their teenagers and young adults and I tried. Then to no longer to be there broke my heart. You see, there is an unspoken rule about pastors and former congregations. Even more so if you were an associate pastor, and enhanced even more if you never leave the area. The rule is stay out of contact. If you must contact, be cheerful and generous and keep things light. This is to help from splitting allegiances and somewhat follows the notion of “out of sight, out of mind.” It is hard to stop loving people. If it is even possible, it would be excruciating. Even after been pressed, persecuted and struck down, I still love and care for each and every single person that was under my charge. Even the pastor who hurt me so much, I really do care about him and want the best for him (though I wouldn’t mind a little bit of his suffering first… just being honest).
One of the things when to starting a church, there is a lot of pressure to speak positively. People are more likely to help you if you talk about vision as opposed to need. Even when not facing depression, I am not a vision caster. That works both for and against me depending on the situation. Talking to individuals is one of my stronger points, but casting vision feels very selfish to me. Whenever I do cast vision, I end up ruining it by justifying everything so people know that it is okay to not be captured by the vision. Of course, this usually leads to people not buying into my “vision.” Add in my depression, and I not much of a motivational speaker.
I remember right after Christmas that year, I was meeting with someone I was trying to encourage to be apart of the leadership core for the new church. Poor guy. He sat there and watched me unleash in pain the most negative vision that is possible followed by me asking if he was interested in joining. To his credit, he asked for time to think about it. That conversation never got back on track, which is probably a good thing. Fortunately, today we are still friends.
January was still a dark place for me, but some events in our small leadership core led to hope, which will be discussed next time.
The next chapter will be how new life can come out of depression.