The following comment was left in response to my article “The Pastor Problem”. It is one of the few that I have received of this nature but this one seems to completely find in my writing something that no one else sees. While I suspect the writer is trying to be inflammatory, there are many areas he touches on that I feel are worthy of a response and will provide you with some of my history as well. So here are his comments as they were written:
seriously, steve, whats the deal? did you get fired for porking a volunteer or something? you seem bitter and resentful with a lot of criticism and not much of a solution besides “all pastors should resign”. was there no one during your tenure in full time ministry that you reached or connected with or cared about that actually had a difference made in their life because of your contribution? perhaps your perspective has been skewed by the incompetence that you discovered about yourself when you were in full time ministry. it is wildly generalizing for you to project onto others from a place of personal dissatisfaction.
You are the only person that has seemed to have this reponse to the posting of “The Pastor Problem”. Do I really come across as bitter and resentful? I hope not. I certainly may have been either of those two things over the years, but certainly time has healed a great deal of that (or so I hope). You are correct that I offer criticism, but that criticism is generally directed at the office and title of the pastor, or the modern American church system and not at any one person.
And actually, “all pastors should resign” is a type of solution, albeit an incomplete one. But are you familiar with the concept of “hyperbole”? Sometimes it takes drastic recommendations to garner attention to a problem that needs to be discussed and not ignored. From the responses I am seeing, it seems I have struck a chord, even with you.
Yes, I have had the privilege of seeing changed lives in the course of my “full-time” ministry. I ministered to several hundred teenagers over the life of my youth ministry and countless adults also during that time. I have served alongside amazingly faithful volunteers that have sacrificed countless hours as we poured our hearts and souls out to young people. It was incredibly satisfying. This one part of ministry is what kept me in it probably past the point of where I should have stayed. I will always fondly remember the lives that I touched, but more importantly the lives that touched and changed me.
Amazingly though, it is since I left “full-time” ministry (are we ever really out of ministry), that I have come to a place of seeing my greatest impact. In my “real job” I have the privilege of going into companies here in So Cal (as a computer network and software specialist) and how satisfying it has been to enter into genuine dialogue with so many of these people.
I also have seen through this website an overwhelming response as many have resonated with our message. It is my honor to come alongside the disappointed and disillusioned people that follow our podcasts and blogs. Many of these people have left the church, are teetering on the brink of faith crisis, or are even atheists or agnostics searching for meaning and answers. Some are pastors or former pastors seeking healing from the system that they find themselves in…it has been an amazing and humbling ride since we launched this site in April of this year. In my opinion, it is a ministry far beyond what I could ever have had within the four walls of a church.
As to my competence or lack thereof in ministry…who knows. Only God can judge that one. But I did get a little frustrated at times when I felt like I was trying to please men and not God. That’s a trap we all fall into from time to time. Now through this site, I feel that I have found my voice again…and I am speaking from my heart, sharing my feelings for all to read and trying through honest reflection to make sense of it all.
Finally, as to your comment on whether or not I got fired for “porking a volunteer or something”? No I never committed such misconduct, however I served on the youth staff where the senior youth pastor (my supervisor) was let go for having an affair with one of our co-workers. I was left in charge to help clean up “the mess” and attempt to bring healing to the 300+ high school students trying to make sense of this indiscretion. It was one of the pivotal moments in my career, one where I blossomed as a leader on the outside, but was left struggling on the inside.
I became disappointed in a church system that heaps an increasing amount of pressure on leaders to “produce numbers” and have “high-profile” events. The necessity to keep “kids busy” and “parents happy” was a priority. The senior staff of the church was very interested in seeing numerical results and gauging that as a sign of a healthy ministry. All of this pressure came at the cost of my supervisor spending quality time with his family or meaningful time with his wife. His life was consumed with spending time with his youth staff (of which the co-worker he had the affair with was a part), all in the name of building a stronger ministry.
Now certainly this man and woman bear personal responisibility for their actions. But the church’s behavior that led to his burnout and affair must also be accounted for…not to mention that when he was dismissed, there were promises of restoration that were never followed through with and commitments made to both families that were never honored.
In the end, in cleaning up this mess for over a year, restoring a healthy foundation for our youth ministry and after assisting the church through this crisis, I was replaced (without cause) by another leader who was brought in from the outside because of his national reputation. Now, honestly, looking back on it, it was a good decision for the church. It was a wise “business” decision for them. But nonetheless I was left feeling a little lost in the shuffle.
Now, I was faced with my own burnout. But I kept going, not recognizing the tailspin I was in and afraid to ask for help for fear of showing weakness, I plunged ahead. I was able to find a place of restoration called Sonscape Ministries that helped my wife and I during some of the worst days of ministry pains. Ultimately, I did find a place of healing to serve my last 5 years of full-time ministry. A church full of other staff “rejects” we called ourselves. This church and its staff became a place of refuge for me and my family.
When it came time to leave there, I decided against finding another job, because I feel that being a pastor is a calling and not a career. Quite frankly, I no longer felt called anymore. The pastor that I grew up under told me wisely when he ordained me for ministry that “if there is anything else you can do besides be a pastor, you should leave the church and do it.” He was exactly right!
So, seriously Scott, that’s the deal!