Sunday, December 25, 2016

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming…

Two Sundays ago, I put in my one month’s notice to step down as head pastor of the church that my wife and I started out of our house in October of 2012. But this was not me merely stepping down as head pastor of one church to move on to be head pastor of another church, this was me stepping down as a head pastor.

To answer your first question: No, I did not have an affair. And to answer your second question: No, I have neither left the faith nor the ministry. So let me take you back a few years to give you a better understanding of what’s going on.

When 2012 began, I had been in full-time, vocational ministry for 8 years and was currently a worship leader and college-age small group leader at a Baptist church here in Houston. Also, I had been exposed to the writings of the early Christians for a couple of years and God had been doing a deep transformation in my spiritual worldview as a result.

My pastor, who had faithfully served the church for about a decade, announced he felt called to move down south to serve at a different church. So once he left, the people immediately asked me to preach each Sunday until they could find an interim pastor. I love teaching the Scriptures, so it seemed like a great opportunity. Soon, the people voted for me to be interim pastor.

Evidently, my wife asked me if that was something I really wanted to do. I loved teaching, she said, but did I really love the pastoring side of being a head pastor? Well, this is clearly an example one of why husbands should listen to their wives, because I don’t remember a single word of that conversation. I did, however, pay attention to the overwhelming support of the people, and jumped right into the interim job.

During the time I was preaching every week, folks often came up to me to tell me that I would make a good pastor one day. And after a few months, the people decided to vote about me becoming the head pastor of the church. A week before the vote happened, different people came up to me at various times, asking me what I would do if I was not voted in. I hadn’t really thought or prayed about it, but I replied, “I guess I’ll just have church at my house the next week.” Looking back, it was a pretty arrogant statement.

Anyway, though I had tremendous support from the church body when I began as the interim pastor, by the time of the vote, a significant portion of that support had dried up. The spiritual worldview of the early Christians had shifted my thinking away from several traditions of that church, and it was evident in the messages I gave. To become the head pastor, 75% of the people needed to vote ‘yes’; I lost by five votes.

The next Sunday, around twenty people showed up at my house, and we had church.

Things kind of evolved over time. We installed Elders, Deacons, wrote By-laws and a mission statement. My house was our meeting place for a couple of years, then we moved into a school, and finally transitioned back into meeting in houses.

Then, God broke in.

On a Wednesday night a couple of months ago, we decided to do more of a Q&A format instead of our regular verse-by-verse Bible study. That night, some important church issues came up that caused me a significant amount of concern. Basically, I felt that we were not unified around the mission of the church, and much of that had to do with the way I had led the church from the beginning.

I explained my thoughts to the leaders the next Saturday, and how through prayer, I felt that God wanted us to re-launch the church. But this time, we would do it the right way: with intense prayer. We would spend the next month, on both Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, calling on God for the entirety of the services to unify us around His purpose for the church. And if He wanted certain people to leave who did not fit His vision, then we wanted His will to be done.

God answers prayers

That month was incredible. I absolutely looked forward to getting down on my knees each service and calling on the Lord with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Spending that month in prayer has ignited a deeper love for prayer and reading the Scriptures. Like Francis Chan once said, “My love for prayer was an answer to prayer.”

Another answer to prayer began to develop the last week of the month. For some reason, I decided to take a five-fold ministry spiritual gift inventory. These basic Church leadership gifts are based out of Ephesians 4:11-13 where Paul writes, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Listed from strongest to weakest, my results were these: Teacher, prophet, evangelist, apostle, and pastor. That doesn’t seem like very good news for a house church pastor. Over the next few days, I spoke with a couple of other Christians who have known me very well for a lengthy period of time, and they tactfully confirmed that though God has blessed me as a teacher of the Scriptures, the pastoral side of head pastoring is not a strong suit of mine.

I spent a lot of time praying outside during the next few days, asking God what in the world I am supposed to do. And there one afternoon as I was looking up at the pecan trees, He seemed to whisper, “Go to the land that I will show you.”

Those words did not bring me a tremendous amount of comfort. Go. Leave. And by the way, I’m not telling you where, or even what you’ll be doing. For now, the first step is just to go.

I’m not going to lie. I’m disappointed and I’m scared. I’m disappointed in myself that I wasn’t more prayerful from the beginning, and therefore was not the kind of leader that so many people I have pastored needed. I’m scared because even though I have a part-time job as a courier, vocational ministry has basically been all that I’ve known for the last 12 years.

However, I'm also hopeful. There is always hope when we are following God in faith. 

I have no idea where God is ultimately going with this, but I know I have to serve Him. Whether that’s through writing, speaking, one-on-one discipling or just the random opportunities that He brings throughout our days, I have to help people experience the gospel of Jesus Christ. So please pray for me and for my family. Pray that I will fearlessly declare the gospel like I should. And pray that I will live a life worthy of the calling that I have received. 

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