A few of you have questioned me (in a kind and friendly way) about my transition from pastoral ministry in light of what my about page on this blog used to say as well as my recent blog post, Reflections on my 40th Birthday. In both places I indicated a strong sense of calling to pastoral ministry, and other than that, I have given very little indication in conversation with folks that I planned to do anything else but pastoral ministry. Also, many people know and acknowledge how hard it is for a pastor to "do his job," yet they still don't quite understand when a pastor decides to stop pastoring.
So, I thought I would share the reasons for my decision for those who would like a closer look. This is a longer post for those who want to go a little deeper.
The most important thing for you to know is that my wife and I believe that we are doing the right thing and honoring God in our decision. We are not quitting on God. We believe that God, in his love and care for us, has brought us to this decision. And for us, this is a decision we are excited about. For some, a decision like this is made from deep discouragement, and I don't think less of those who make this type of decision at that point. They need love, care, and support. Not criticism. I am grateful though, that Katrina and I are not at that point.
Although we are not at a low point, we are at a point of ministry fatigue. For me, this has taken quite a while to realize about myself. I did not have a category for myself that allowed me to do something other that vocational pastoring. At this point, I have only been in "the ministry" for about 12 to 13 years, and I expected to have well over 30 years if not over 40 years in before I retired. Once I retired, I expected to help churches even in retirement. In my mind, there was no other legitimate option for my career path. So next, I want to explain to you how I have transitioned from this mindset.
For those of you who have known me for more than six years, you knew me during my time as a church planting pastor in California. Although I was only in California from 2012 to 2015, I started the preparation process for planting the church back in 2009. So, it was a six year process of preparing and planting the church. When we moved back from California to Indiana in 2015, I was burned out and no longer had the desire for pastoral ministry. I also had several people criticizing me for my decision. It was not a time that I felt supported and cared for. I am speaking of in general. There were a few people who were there for me during this time.
The next two years I worked a non-ministry job and throughly enjoyed it, and I did not desire to be a pastor during that time. I continued to cultivate my life-long computer programming and server maintenance skillset. When the opportunity popped up for the church I currently pastor, I was not initially interested. I'm not going to tell that story in this post, but I will say that it took three months for me to be willing to leave my non-ministry job to be a full-time pastor again.
I do not question my decision to pastor this church, and I believe I followed God's leading. However, God's purposes are more comprehensive than we will ever understand. Often as we look back on the former years of our life, we can perceive God's hand it ways we could not in the present. Our perception is far from infallible; however, as we seek to make sense of our own story in light of God's purposes, we will draw our own conclusions. As I look back on the last 4 1/2 years, I conclude that God was leading me to this church while at the same time preparing me for leaving the church and vocational pastoral ministry.
I'm not going to get into specifics on a public blog post. If some of you want to talk in private, we can do that. What I will say is that last 4 1/2 years at this church have been very difficult. I think many men at my stage of life after the last 4 1/2 years would find themselves spent; however, I do speculate that a more seasoned, older man (perhaps in his late 50s to early 60s) would have been able to fair better. I'm just speculating though, and a part of me sees how an older more seasoned man may have helped in some ways but hurt in others. Regardless, after the significant difficulty of this time, my wife and I find ourselves not only spent, but realizing that God has a future for us outside of vocational church ministry leadership. I believe God has brought us to this point because of his love and mercy for us. I believe that Jesus as our ultimate pastor sees this as the best thing for us.
I could speculate the reasons why some people have shorter stints in vocational church ministry and others have longer. In the past, I have joined the chorus of people who have criticized ones with a shorter tenure while at the same time not taking time to understand God's care for these people. As I make this transition now compared to my transition from California six years ago, I feel much more supported and cared for than I did then. And, I am grateful for that.
As I reflect on our shorter tenure of vocational church ministry, my wife and I believe that it is no longer good for me to pastor. As I entered adulthood, I had some deficits in my life from how I grew up. These deficits decreased my resiliency in the rough and tumble of pastoring. My wife did not enter adulthood with any major deficits; however, the affect of moving several times, traveling across the country 100,000 miles in two years, being a church planters wife, and then a pastors wife at a church that has drained me, has brought her to the point where it is not good for her to be a pastor's wife anymore. Statistics are everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to appreciate them. However, I'm going to share this stat with you anyway. I recently was told this stat and then I read it shortly after: Almost 80% of pastor's wife's wish their husband would get out of the ministry.
As I bring this to a close, I want to rejoice with you that my wife and I have a great marriage, and our children are generally happy. That said, I look forward to spending more time with my wife and kids. That last 4 1/2 yeas, I have been too preoccupied, and it is time to that they get more attention. Part of my service to Christ is to love and serve them.
I ponder that I may do some sort of pastoring again in the distant future and that in the meantime I will continue to serve God in his church in other non-vocational capacities. My core identity is not in vocational church ministry. It is in following Jesus Christ and obeying him. I have much to be thankful for, and I have the hope of Jesus' 2nd coming and of eternity together in the New Creation.
I am nuts about books. I read on all kinds of topics. I attempt to review each book I read for the sake of my own enrichment as well as conversation starters with others.
You never know what you will find in an attic! Usually there is a hodgepodge of things buried under dust.