Apologies to LeBron James and company, but my decision was much more difficult.
Having written the first two episodes has been really helpful for me. A lot of the anger, bitterness, and resentment I have held has been released through the writing. With that said, here is episode three.
The dark winter started to show some light in late February when I met with the credentials board regarding my possible ordination. The meeting went well and it was confirmed within a day that I was being nominated by the board for ordination. I enjoyed hearing that, especially in light of the previous year not working out.
Our little core group consisted of me, my wife, my parents and technically my daughter. We were making good friendships with those outside of the church culture. One friendship in particular was started by my wife with her co-worker because my wife was reading a graphic novel. The co-worker was of the understanding that Christians did not read graphic novels or approve of those who did. It is crazy to think that a whole friendship was started based on a comic book!
You know, even though there were some struggles with the church plant, I do not really have any bad memories. There was a frustrating experience when we tried to do a Fall Fest with another church, but it was not bad. We later inherited an awesome, young family. The guy in the family felt a call to ministry and is doing some exciting stuff in targeting those who are physically unable to attend church by reaching them through the internet. I cannot tell you how proud that makes me. Right now, he is doing amazing ministry that most pastors cannot even fathom, and I had the pleasure of hearing his first sermon in our church. Then there were the residents of a women’s shelter who were grateful for our little church cleaning toys and bathrooms for them once a month. These were good times.
Unfortunately, my wife and I came to the decision that we needed to move on. I was feeling lots of pressure, not from the church, but from inside myself that no matter how good we were doing I felt like a failure. These were the effects of scars carried by three specific, careless pastors who destroyed my life with their words. Fortunately, there were two pastors who loved me enough to encourage me that it was better to move on than to stay put. They could see that the stress was tearing me apart. My emotions fought with them for a couple hours until a peace came over the three of us. Thank you, Mike & Jim. I am forever indebted to you for that day.
I sent my resume out to about 20 districts (geographical regions) in the nation, while receiving only one response. Because of a friend, I was contacted by another district leader, but the only place they were interested in putting me was an even worse fit than Southwestern Pennsylvania was for me. The one response was from our denomination’s Southwest Oklahoma District. Through continuous e-correspondance, it looked like we would have the possibility to start a church in Moore, OK. I knew this around January 0f 2012. The soonest we would be able to move was June of 2012.
The next six months were hectic. My wife and I got rid of about 70% of all our material possessions. I am still recovering from that 17 months later. We moved in with my parents (who decided they needed to live near their only granddaughter of their only son no matter where they may move) and started saving our money for the move. I used the time off as a way to recharge, refresh, and renew myself. I had every confidence that coming back to the area I knew would yield better results (see, even I thought about results as somewhat of a factor).
We finally got out to OKC in the middle of June 2012. It was exciting to get reacquainted with the city in which I grew up. We had a few people interested in being our core group. We had lots of support from our district and district leadership as well as a local church pastor who was completely on board. We were all set… or so I thought.
In the five years I was in Pennsylvania, I grew up in a number of areas that I didn’t know could grow. I actually learned how to be a nicer person and my tolerance level for dealing with people rose significantly. But I was never in a safe enough place to make great decisions. The closest was when I was with the two pastors who encouraged me to move on. To the credit of the people in OKC, I was in a very safe place and I realized that I struggle greatly with doing pastoral ministry. I could do it, and I think I did a pretty outstanding job. The problem was that I was a square peg trying to fit within the star hole of ministry. I always struggled with things as a pastor that other pastors had few issues with, if any. I also had an easier time of things that many other pastors usually struggle.
This was very confusing.
Sadly, I struggled with this from October 2012 until I made the decision to leave pastoral ministry in February of this year. My poor wife. She had to hear about it. I feel I need to make clear the fact that things were going well. We were ahead of schedule in some areas and not behind in any. But pastoral ministry is not my best fit. This was devastating when I told my wife. I cried for about three hours nonstop. At the then age of 33, I had spent seventeen years of my life preparing to be or being a pastor. Almost a hundred thousand dollars were invested in a degree that has little use outside of the ministry field. A few more thousand invested in books and other materials. A desire to put pastoring above all other desires which led to several odd jobs that paid a few bills for a time before moving to a different one. My life rotated around being a pastor and it felt like it was all suddenly happening.
“All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss”
Lyrics from eLyrics.net