This is something I have sat on for a long time. We don’t like to talk about our struggles, challenges, and disappointments in life. We feel like we don’t want to bring others down or seem like we are ungrateful for the good things we have going in our lives.
Sometimes we wrestle within ourselves about how people will perceive us if we share our true feelings about these kinds of experiences. Maybe people will think I am weak, maybe people will think I am unjustifiably bitter. Perhaps people will think I’ve turned my back on everything I’ve believed in because I have been “wronged one too many times”.
Unfortunately we have seen situations like that affect people in all of the above ways. This is the primary reason I am sitting down writing my thoughts on this.
I (when I say I, I mean myself, my wife, and my family/kids) have been through two very unfortunate, terrible, difficult, unfair, shocking and blindsiding job losses, both in churches.
Before I get into it any further: It is of the utmost importance that everyone hear this before you decide what I am trying to say before you hear what I say (We all do it, not a judgment, I just want you to know the heart in which I am writing this tonight). Even though I have been through these undesirable situations, I want you to know that never once did I question or get mad at God during either of these occurrences. I do not blame God, I am not upset with God, I don’t by any means believe that God “left me hanging” to get put through these harsh trials and difficult situations.
In addition to this, I still completely in belief of the purpose and the need for the local church bodies and for being an active part of local church bodies. I believe it is right and biblical. I will always be actively involved as part of a local church and encourage everyone out there to continue to do this themselves.
However, I do not want to hide the reality of what I have been through because I feel like hiding the reality of my struggles and trials is not going to help anyone but I do believe that being transparent in my real life experiences can be helpful to those out there who either have experienced, may experience, or have seen people close to them experience similar, unfortunate situations. I am only going to share situations directly linked to my experience, not that of others as I don’t want to speak for them, I want to share my experiences in the hopes that it will bring healing to many of you out there.
When I was fresh out of Bible college, I got my first job as a youth pastor. I was super excited, we got to stay close to home and I got to work in a church that I was excited about leading the youth in. Things started out great. I was getting my feet wet in ministry, I discovered the great love I had not only for pointing teenagers toward Christ but also my great passion for teaching the Word of God. The church was in a placing of needing healing and it was a great opportunity, but there were lots of things that were being rediscovered and what not.
Well, long story short, there were some difficult leadership changes which eventually led to me being on an island within the staff. Youth ministry was going GREAT! I was so amazed by the many great things God was doing. We had highs and lows, bumps along the way of growth and discerning the vision for the youth ministry there but we, through submission to God, reached a place where we were watching God do great things. We had 30-40 each Wednesday night for our full youth church type style of worship services and 50-60 kids on Sunday nights for our not so “small group” worship and Bible study nights. We pulled in kids from all over the community, both from the church and outside the church. We worshiped, studied God’s Word, had lots of food and fellowship, people were committing to Christ while worshiping on the front lawn because we grew too big for the living room, it was amazing. I give all the credit to God for that time because I just was seeking to be a willing set of hands and feet. God was faithful and it was amazing to see the great work God was doing.
Then came the first hit. We were so focused and into what God was doing in the youth of our church and community but never felt embraced or valued for the role we were serving in, which was difficult, but I didn’t feel insecure in my employment stability. After all, things were going well, was never insubordinate, and went above and beyond my role of just youth pastor to serve in other areas of the church, which I was glad to do. I have always viewed my pastoral ministry as a service to the whole church, not just the youth.
Then one day I was called to a meeting where I was read a letter telling me I was fired on the spot. However, I was asked to stay on staff for a few more weeks which is incredibly difficult but I did it because I cared so deeply for the teenagers we were ministering to. When it was announced to the congregation, we had people walk up to us and tell us “congratulations, it sounds like you are in a great place”.
That hurt. People didn’t get it, they still don’t, they don’t understand why we wouldn’t and won’t go to that church anymore. I get it, I know its a difficult thing for people to understand since they don’t know all of the details. I went out with grace because I had no desire in tearing apart a church as I believe that there are people there that God plans on touching the lives of and I am thankful for the lives God has touched through that church, even though I have some great disagreements with how things went down and some concerns for how things went on there, but I didn’t want to hurt them for there were (and still are) some great faithful Christ followers serving God there and I think that is great.
It hurt though, me, my wife. Its still rough today. This was the church my wife grew up in. That comes with a lot of difficulty. We have dealt with it and are firmly rooted in Christ but nonetheless, hard. Our calling as pastors was called into question because people didn’t think we were quite “passionate enough”. While I firmly believed in my call to ministry, I was in a place where I needed to provide for my family, so while I was looking for ministry positions, I was also looking for other types of work as I needed to provide for my family.
While the next year and a few odd months was difficult, God provided greatly during that time. Our 3rd child Aubrey was born, I got a job doing IT at Timberland Bank and while we didn’t have a lot of money, God met our needs. We were involved with an awesome church under our great friend and pastor Ryan McCullough. He and his family loved on us in such great ways during this time and really encouraged us like no one else had done for a long time.
Then I had a door open for a great opportunity to be a worship pastor. I have always (and still am) had a passion for worship, specifically the musical side of the worship service. We moved our entire family to Seattle and were extremely excited for this fresh start for our family and our calling to ministry. There first 6-12 months was a natural transition, learning the culture of the church, getting settled into everything.
I had built some great relationships with people on the staff, in the church and especially those who helped serve on the worship/tech team. I am so thankful for those key people who not only ministered alongside me in the worship ministry but also were great at ministering to and caring for me, they rock!
After about the 2 year mark, I Really felt like I had reached a great place (not a plateau type thing where we didn’t need to change or anything like that) where I had really embraced the team and congregation and the team/congregation had embraced me, we were unified and moving forward together and I was so thankful to hit this spot because I finally felt like those initial growing pains (healthy ones) and relationship building had gained firm foundation to the point where we could really start to thrive and move forward as the worship ministry in the church body.
Then I was called to another surprise meeting, out of no where. In this meeting I was asked to resign effective immediately and informed that I would never lead worship there again. They assured me that this was not because of any ethical or moral issues and also said it wasn’t anything negative like me being a slacker of a pastor or anything like that. They just suddenly came to the decision that they felt I was no longer going to work out there and I was done. I was never approached, never confided in, never asked, never “warned”, never asked to change or adapt. Nothing took place that was a red flag to make me think that my job was in jeopardy. And like that, in a flash, by total surprise, it was over.
I called and informed those I was closest to, who were just as shocked as I was. I was completely perplexed, as were the people I talked with, I had so much feedback from people saying they felt that the worship ministry was the best it had ever been and that it was really going in a positive direction.
Some leadership felt otherwise though. This was, by far, the most difficult situation I have experienced in my life. I was hurt, felt betrayed, and was in disbelief of what just took place. Once again I was committed to a church body and was invested in not just the worship ministry but the overall growth and future of the church and its staff, I truly cared for the congregation and the staff. I was excited for our future there and the future of the church there. This left me looking for a job again and most likely having to relocate (which we did, moving back to our home area).
The reality: I still am confused, perplexed and have a lot of unanswered question of why this happened, why this happened again, why there was no relationship involved in this. I wasn’t pastored through this, I wasn’t given opportunities to respond, grow, adapt, change, etc… They (there words, not mine) didn’t feel like there was anything I could do to change/grow enough to make it worth trying to make it work. They felt it better to just let me go and that was it. I never really heard from most of them there in the leadership. A couple of them reached out to me but for the most part it was a quick, clean cut on their end that left me in great pain and feeling lost because our entire family had rooted itself here.
Now, back to the purpose. Why do I share this? Did I share this to add fuel to the fire of anyone who has been burned by someone in a church? ABSOLUTELY NOT. In fact, its quite opposite of that.
Not the title: Being Content in All Things … The Apostle Paul said it so well in Philippians 4:11-13
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
See, I have been through some difficult times in my life. Our marriage has been wonderful but in this 7 years so far, we have been through 2 extremely difficult job losses and as a result difficult transitions. However, here we are. Are we perfect? Far from it. Are we full of bitter hatred toward the “church”? Absolutely not. I still, perhaps more than ever, believe in the need and purpose of being part of a local body of believers.
We are very happy to be part of a local congregation here back home. In our few months of transition between losing my position at the church and moving back home, we also were part of an amazing church in the Renton area. It is a very large church but it is so evident of how much they care for not only the congregation but for all of the staff and pastors as well. They are committed to one another, through thick and through thin and are always encouraging one another in continued growth. It was really healing for Rhianna, the kids and I to be a part of this church, even though it was only for a few short months. God really revitalized a lot of things in what we were able to observe in that church and know that everyone who is a part of that church body is truly blessed.
The reason I shared this isn’t because it was easy but because I there to be a positive message out there in the midst of a lot of negativity that we witness daily in this world. I could have easily given up and turned my back on being a part of the church, but trust me when I say that this would have gained me nothing.
Its a reality of life that there are going to be highs and lows, good times and bad, times of abundance and times of little. Just like the Apostle Paul had experienced times where he had a lot and times where he was at pretty low points such as being under house arrest, and even going back to when he was seeking out Christians to oppress them as if they were the enemy. He was met by Christ and was committed to his journey of serving Christ, no matter what came his way. Paul didn’t walk away from his faith in Christ and the mission he was called to just when times got tough or when people around him
This is the same desire we have in our life. We’ve been through some rough times, but that in no way means that our ministry is over. It doesn’t mean that we have failed, it certainly doesn’t mean that God has failed. It doesn’t mean that the purpose of the church has failed. It means that we have had some unfortunate trials but this doesn’t damage my faith. Just as I committed to my beautiful wife through anything that is thrown at us, so I am committed to my relationship with Jesus Christ and faithfully serving Him wherever He may lead.
We love the church we are in and are excited to continue growing there and looking forward to the ways God is calling us to serve in and through that church body.
I want you to walk away from reading this with a positive outlook on the future you have ahead of you. Maybe you have experienced something similar, are going through a rough trial right now or know someone else who is. Remember that no matter what, God is for us. He believes in us. He has called us. He will give us strength to follow through and carry out that call He has so carefully and lovingly placed on our lives.
I shared the difficult and disappointing times of my life not to bring you down but to show you that in Christ we can do all things. We can be resilent, we can be forgiving, we can heal and move forward. I wrote a letter to the church telling them my pain but also being sure to express my forgiveness and my desire for them to grow and learn from the situation moving into the future. This doesn’t mean we are all hunky dory but it was necessary for me to do this to move on towards what God has for me and my family.
I pray that this helps you, encourages you, and strengthens you. Blessings.