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’?”
“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.