Thursday, February 8, 2024


November 2022

I'm continuing the writing journey of processing parts of my lie and experiences. Nothing fancy, just leaving some stuff for my kids and anyone else that may find the ups and downs, the lessons learned, interesting.

I awoke this morning thinking how blessed I've been to be in church ministry, especially with the some of the incredible people I've worked alongside. It reminded me of many conversations, harrowing conversations and continue friendships. Loyalty is one of the greatest blessings a person can receive. Loyalty speaks to unconditional love in relationship. Let's face it. Many, okay...most relationships we encounter are more transactional than unconditional. IF you are performing at acceptable levels, everything remaining "normal" then we are good. But IF you deviate, waver, stumble...cause the relationship to wander outside the acceptable parameters, then I can't continue in the same manner with you.

We all do it. It's okay. Some are built to ride with you through the tough stuff. Others will fade away...or sprint as fast as they can.

When we went through our “wilderness” experience nearly ten years ago, it was loyalty that helped so much. Two people who suffered through the ordeal never waivered with me. (At least, they never let me know if they did.) Kendall and Kenny were the two most prominent in their generous support. They knew I was hurting, disillusioned, frustrated and lost. Yet, they never let go of me. They sent messages just at the right time. A link to a worship song; an encouraging word, a scripture or a simple, “I’m praying for you today, you’re on my heart. I’m here for you. I’m not letting you go.” They both are still an important part of my life and current ministry. Most importantly, they are both dear, close friends. 

 I was recently watching a news anchor who has his own show on some cable network. Earlier this year he was “unceremoniously dismissed” from his primetime show he hosted for years. I don’t remember what the circumstances were. I happened to channel surf and trip upon his opening monologue for his final Thanksgiving show. I’m so glad I did. He echoed so many of the sentiments, thoughts and emotions I have felt for many years. He was thankful for his family, friends, etc. He listed his producers and other support staff that followed him to his new gig. He was thankful for their belief in him when many others abandoned him. And he ended by thanking those who opposed him, who let him down. He thanked them for forcing some serious introspection into his own heart and life. Although he wouldn’t have chosen the way things went down…he was grateful it did go down. He was especially grateful for knowing clearly who his true friends were and those who weren’t. 

 One former board member told me, “We want to see you become a better pastor than ever.” Sort of the “this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you” line. But I think he was sincere…not sure. 

 It worked. Instead of destroying me, it focused me. It certainly gave me a spine of steel. As one buddy said to me in the midst of that particular trial, “Sometimes a bully just needs punched in the mouth.” That happened…figuratively…and the next day everything stopped. Peace. Ability to move forward ensued.

But I’m grateful for the recalibrating. I know now, through years of prayer and some incredible Christian pastoral therapy, that I’m not the sum of my ministry. As our counselor told us at Emerge Ministries, “You’ve become enmeshed. You don’t know where the ministry ends and the man begins.” I needed to learn that. I’m thankful I can shut things down now. I can stare at my child playing and enjoy it, rather than being consumed with what else needs to be done at church. I’m glad that Polly and I have discovered other things to talk about when we’re home or on vacation. Most of all, I’m deeply grateful I’ve received a much clearer and deeper understanding of my own, personal identity in Christ. And “pastor” isn’t on the birth certificate. He loves me, not based on my performance, not based on my calling. His love isn’t transactional. He doesn’t look at me and size me up due to my most recent performance. Unfortunately, too many of those sitting in the pews and in the board rooms do that…but that’s okay. 

I chuckle when I think of the ones who told me they would always be with me…but aren’t today. One buddy of mine, a former pastor who I spent many hours with me after he went through a very traumatic church experience is one such friend. He’s a great guy. When he found out we were planting The Altar, he called me and we met for lunch. He was so excited and committed his family to be part of the launch team. He donated thousands of dollars’ worth of sound equipment. He was such a blessings and encouragement. We launched a few months later…and he never has stepped into the doors of our church…never. I’ve never been upset with him. He's a great guy. We’ve drifted and we haven’t talked in a couple of years. But he’s still a great man of God and I’m thankful for his friendship. 

Another key staff member shared a room with me one year at Pastor’s School in Phoenix, AZ. We stayed up one evening talking for hours. He kept pressing on how much he loved the church and how he and his wife were “in it for the long haul.” Three months later at a breakfast meeting he informed me that they were leaving to go back home to his home state. God had other incredible plans for him and who can argue with that? He's still a dear friend. Still loyal and true. 

Understand, loyalty isn’t always a physical presence, but a spiritual one. That kind of loyalty goes much deeper, rooted in grace, love and God’s way of linking us together. 

I’ve felt much the same way that TV anchor felt. I’m so thankful for my family. My beautiful wife, my three awesome boys and their unconditional love, and patience, toward me. I’m thankful for our church and the ministry God allows me to steward. I’m thankful for the new friends God has brought. There’s such a depth and commitment and commonality amongst my current gang of pastors I have the honor of hanging with. True covenant friends. Some used to work for me. Some have moved on to other awesome things. But sweet are the ones who God keeps close to you. I’m doing my best to be as loyal and true as so many have been to me. 


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