Aftermath – Vocation Side

Part 1
Part 2

I was writing through a couple of months ago and for some reason never finished it. While it’s true that the subtitle for these posts could be – “My Therapy Sessions,” that’s only part of the reason of writing it out. A couple of years ago I started this blog for purely selfish purposes. Keep the fam up to date, have some fun, nothing too serious. Fast forward 2 years and I’ve got friends, mentors, peers, and mentees in ministry all over the globe. I’ve learned much from fellow pastors being vulnerable about their junk. The least I can do is get vulnerable with mine.

For every action there is an equal and opposite action. I’m not talking about physics either.

Grace had a major power struggle 6 months before I arrived. One of the teaching pastors believed he ought to be the Directional Leader, the elders thought differently. The break up was ugly, immature, and public. Friendships were blown up and a church was almost killed on the altar of selfish pride and stylistic issues. That’s the problem with stylistic issues in the south – they often get elevated to the “biblical” level.

The elders were implementing a complete DNA change in the church. Worship style, preaching style, and ministry style was all changing. Classic case of a church saying they want to change but when it comes time to actually write the check somebody balks. And there is no way around the expensiveness of change – and I’m not talking about dollars and cents. Add to this mix a pastor who thinks he should be the lead dog and you’ve got yourself a good old fashioned church split.

After the carnage (and 6 months before I arrived on the scene), there was a lot of soul searching, a lot of questions, and the hope they could assemble a staff that was unified and liked each other. The first big test was hiring a student pastor who matched the DNA of the Directional Pastor.

Two elders were leading the youth pastor search. Actually, one elder and one Teaching/Executive Pastor who was going to be an elder. I spent the most time with these men, asked them the most questions, and had the most interaction with them. It made sense. They were going to be the new student pastor’s supervisors. One was the Equipping Pastor (paid staff) and the other was the lay elder over student ministry. The pastor was in the process of becoming an elder and would be affirmed by the time I arrived.

In the interview process, Amy and I consistently slowed the process down to make sure we weren’t walking into the backwash of the Titanic. We asked all the right questions – was the team unified now? How did they know? Anyone around the leadership table having second thoughts? Are you all on board now? What major changes needed to happen? What was the health of student ministry and what was health to them?

The elders were brutally honest and fair. The staff guys were humble and open. Everything looked and felt good.

Then we actually arrived. Weekly meetings with my supervisors – the Equipping Pastor and Elder – were the norm. On one hand, I hated them. They were boring, I felt like I had two cement bricks tied around my neck. On the other hand, when all hell broke lose (see first two parts) they knew what was going on and to a man – they not only supported me, but went to bat for me.

A breakfast meeting with them on week 3 would change this. He starts telling me this football story – which is ironic seeing how he never played football – but it went something like this…

“You know Grant when you have a team that has had a ton of hard times but finally has the right pieces but just can’t seem to get over the top, sometimes you need to change the head coach for the final push. A new face, a new set of eyes is exactly the thing that is needed.”

I sat with a bagel halfway inside my mouth. The reason I remember that detail so well is that I couldn’t respond to his next question to me.

“You know what I’m talking about?”

“No. I’m not. What are you trying to say?”

He gave me more examples from sports.

I finally asked “This doesn’t sound like we are really talking about sports. Pretend for a moment that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer and I have no idea of what you are talking about.”

“We don’t think Mark should be the Directional Leader at Grace.”

“We? Who is ‘we’?”

“The elders.”

“All of them? Really?”

“Well, not all of them.” (Long pause.) “The teaching pastor and I do.”

“You’d think that little detail would have popped up in the interview process, wouldn’t you?”

He continued to point out all the mistakes and problems. As the only “degreed” guy on staff, my opinion had weight with the board. I just sat there nodding my head. I don’t remember much else of the meeting.

I do remember getting back to the office, closing my office door behind me, and just staring out my window. I felt betrayed, alone, and stupid. I wondered out loud with Amy how in the heck did I make this kind of colossal goof.

“Maybe we didn’t” was all she said.

The good news was that my faith was growing up. In my immaturity I looked at stress and hardship as evidence of being out of God’s will. Scripture says the opposite. The bad news was it was going to get very combustive in the office.

As the teaching pastor knocked on my door, he asked how my meeting went this morning.

“Interesting” was all I could mutter. The Elders met the next morning at 6 AM. As much as I hated meetings, hated the early morning, and especially hated early morning meetings – I decided I’d show up just to get some clarification.

13 thoughts on “Aftermath – Vocation Side

  1. and…

    I guess some of know the “Rest of the Story” as Paul Harvey says, but I want to know how that meeting went. Just curious.

  2. Wow, I never knew any of this went on… I guess I kinda disappeared from the world when I moved to TUrkey… We can’t wait to see y’all in a couple weeks!

  3. As a parent of a student you influenced greatly, I can guarantee you that as Amy said “Maybe you didn’t” make a goof. Your impact on my son was great. You were the reason we did not look for a youth group elsewhere. I remember telling you that one Sunday after Church just after you arrrived and I still feel that way even after you left. We as adults striving for spirtual maturity can find relationships and journey with Jesus with minimal supports. Youth in the current world need to learn these skills, plus how to grow and recognize God and Satan when they show up. There can not be simple devotions and pizza, but leaders who challenge them to look outside their “box” at how they should live life as a reflection of God. We may be the only “face of Jesus” someone sees. Are we to reflect a social club or a servant heart who cares deeply about others in this lost world. There MUST be spritual strong leaders surrounding them and walking with them to teach these truths.

  4. Denise – thank you for the kind words.

    Thanks for the gamble you took with Evan.

    I assure you our impact on Evan was one of a supporting role.

  5. So do all pastors go through a similar experience where you go, “Really, God? This is where you meant for me to land?” We sure went through that process in San Jose. I have to agree with Denise and Amy, though. It was no mistake! You DRAGGED us through the last year at Grace, and in the end, God was glorified in our marriage! True friends like ya’ll come along seldom! Thank you, God, for putting Grant and Amy in our lives. We have been and continue to be blessed by your friendship – and your wine!!!

  6. I’m wary of pastors who have NOT gone through it.

    There are some things God can only teach and reveal in the desert.

    We’ve been blessed as well…by both! :)

  7. …while the visible church was sidetrack with meetings and managing the institution, meanwhile, the invisible church was undetered and moving like the wind, establishing beacheads in the kingdom of the God…

  8. Clay:
    Yes, Clay, I am a heartless bastard!

    Grant, I am sorry this all happened. These kinds of things have happened in every office I have ever worked in, to a greater or lesser degree. Should we expect any thing different from the institutional church? Wouldn’t it be nice? But let’s not delude ourselves. As some important spiritual person once said, the birds tend to nest in the trees, the goats get in with the sheep, and the weeds grow along side of the wheat.

    There is a parrellel story, it just many not be as sexy.

    Sorry to rain on the parade. Like I said, I am a heartless bastard!

  9. You know…I’m sorry that we got that major league distracted. I’m sorry we all got hurt.

    But I wouldn’t trade the lessons learned.

    It set the stage for later decisions – like letting a mystical bunch of life group leaders run free with a bunch of students because what they were trying to do was experience and be a part of the church invisible.

    If I hadn’t gone through that train wreck, I’d be more apt to “manage” the ministry instead of just letting trusting the Spirit more.

    Still learning though…

  10. I guess I’m still hopeful that it will one day be different in the institutional church, hopeful that it IS different here at Pinecrest and many other churches around the world. The leaders have to continually walk arm in arm, challenging each other, holding each other accountable, seeking God’s will together and slapping their own wills down! If I didn’t believe it could be different, I’d just quit trying!! There are a few good men still standing!

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