I’m speaking about something that happened 10 years ago, but even in writing those words now I can feel the funk of that moment.
To top it off, I told him that I didn’t vote for him.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let me offer some back story.
A different senior pastor hired me to be his assistant pastor and youth ministry director. He started the church only four years before I came in, helping God grow it to more than 700 members. We served together for a year, but he eventually realized he was more wired to continue planting churches than he was to pastor a large church.
Three other staff pastors and I agreed to stay on to navigate what was ahead. I was asked to take on the lion’s share of teaching at the three weekend services, perhaps because I’d been there the longest. Still, my heart bled for student ministry. Even when asked to candidate to be the senior pastor, I turned it down. God had clarified my calling, and he had the final authority on that matter.
Maybe that’s why I really struggled with the guy who took on the job.
One of the other staff pastors quickly resigned, creating tension we didn’t plan for. The remaining two and I dug in even further, eventually enduring a year of entertaining various candidates for the role.
The search committee became exhausted. The church grew weary. The three of us barely slept.
That was when one of the other staff pastors said in a meeting, “I guess I’ll do it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We need a senior pastor. We all know that whoever comes in can fire any of us anyway, so I’ll just do it.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Surely this man had not spent time with Jesus like I had.
“You can’t ‘just’ do that,” I said. “You need to have a burning calling, like how I do for student ministry. The church doesn’t need a default guy. They need a leader.”
That was the tone of my response to him even as he moved forward. The search team was likewise surprised, but their exhaustion prompted them to proceed. By the time he was barely voted in by the church, I was brooding with self-righteousness.
It’s why I privately shared with him that I hadn’t voted for him. I likewise explained that I would do my best to not let the church know, but would instead come alongside of him as a support.
It sounded honorable to me. The only problem was he began asking me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with, such as writing his sermons or telling people I had actually voted for him.
I again resisted, always behind closed doors and only with him.
Maybe that’s why two months later he told me I was no longer needed at the church. A few days later (on my birthday, no less), I stood before the church and broadly explained, “God has let me know that my time at this church is now finished.”
Now I’d like to ask you a question.
Seriously, so what?
All of this did happen, and all of this did devastate my family. Still, reread what I just shared and see if you can pick up on the power statements I dropped to manufacture more authority to my side of things, even if it meant turning the authority over me into a shallow caricature:
- “Surely this man had not spent time with Jesus like I had.“
- “You need to have a burning calling, like how I do student ministry.”
- “…he was barely voted in…”
- “…on my birthday, no less…”
Have you ever done this?
It’s like we add just enough details to be sure we’re seen as the godly martyr who did everything right in the power struggle.
I wonder how that collides with following Jesus… the same Jesus who dares, “Deny yourself, carry your cross and follow Me.”
I’ll tell you “the rest of the story” next week. You won’t believe what happened next.
In the meantime…what are you brooding about?
Is your deal with God that you’ll only serve him if you like the authority above you?
Let’s unpack this together.
Thank you for loving students!
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