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[AUTHORITY] I Didn’t Vote for my Senior Pastor

 —  October 14, 2013 — 19 Comments

seniorpastorshirtsI didn’t vote for my senior pastor.

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.

Surely not.

“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.

So what?

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!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

 

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Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

19 responses to [AUTHORITY] I Didn’t Vote for my Senior Pastor

  1. Thanks Tony. We are curently searching for a Pastor and I am not sure what that is going to look like after working under a great man for my ten years in youth ministry. Looking forward to it but nightmare stories also hang in the back of my mind.
    Cant wait for next week.
    Greg

    • Tony Myles

      It’s difficult, to be sure. The biggest challenge I’ve found is not what everyone else thinks but my own temptation to fold my arms and think, “Let’s see what this guy has to offer.” – the temptation to become subliminally arrogant. Praying you avoid that and for your search!

  2. Ouch. I serve at church where I have been the youth pastor for twelve years. We had a major upheaval, our pastor resigned and I stayed on to help the church through a difficult time. Three years later we now have a new pastor and I have been struggling to cope with his leadership and chafing at what I perceived as “bad choices” he made. I needed this devotional and the correction it brings from the Holy Spirit. THANK YOU LORD!

    • Tony Myles

      Awesome, Chris. I really appreciate the humility I hear in your comment… hoping/praying you and your new senior pastor find common ground. Maybe go through a book together?

  3. John Doe (yeah, that’s anonymous) October 15, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I am currently serving at a church with a senior pastor whom I did not vote for (I abstained from voting) and my wife actually voted against. I have been at the church for two years, the vote was a year ago. We joyfully serve together (most of the time) but it is a constant struggle to stay positive when talking with others in the church.
    No one besides my wife knows that I did not vote for him.

    Honestly, the only way that I am able to make it work is to constantly remind myself that God has a purpose in him being here, if He didn’t then he wouldn’t. If God has called him here, who am I to stand against him (even if I disagree with his leadership); and if God doesn’t want him here, He’ll get rid of him much faster and cleaner than I ever could.

    When we trust God with His church its amazing what He can do.

    • Tony Myles

      That’s the thing… there’s a difference between not liking something vs backing out of it. Appreciate your humility and anonymity here. Pray you continue to find your footing.

  4. Tony-

    Thank you SO much for the needed dose of reality, humility and conviction! I love my Lead Pastor, but we are hiring an “Executive Pastor” in the next few weeks who has next to no ministry experience. Your thoughts will hopefully help me submit to his leadership…or at least keep my mouth shut about not voting for him!!

    • Tony Myles

      Well caught – especially before that pastor comes in. Your relationship together will ripple out… stay tender to the Spirit, Paul. Awesome!

  5. Interesting comments about church leadership transition.
    I had the unique experience of working for 5 lead pastors in my first five years of ministry (not my fault, I think I’m pretty easy to work with!)
    The first pastor retired after 2 years, I moved churches after working with the new pastor 1.5 years, my new pastor resigned and went to serve the district office after 8 months, we had an interim pastor for a year and finally the lead pastor I have had the incredible opportunity and blessing of serving with the past 6 years.

    Here is a question that has shifted my perspective somewhat over the last number of years, that affects our attitudes towards our new leaders – As staff pastors, are we called to 1)our city 2)our church 3)our pastor?

    Ultimately, how you answer that question will determine your outlook and attitude toward your leader and will determine whether you can/should continue in your current position. I have come to realize that I am called to my pastor- to assist him in implementing his vision (shared in a healthy setting), pastoring the church and reaching the city.

    For all who are struggling to support your pastor and share his vision, the question isn’t whether you voted for them but ask yourself now after working with them, “Am I called to my pastor, or do I need to move on?” We run into huge theological and functional problems when we see ourselves as the guardian of the church who “keeps the pastor in check and protects the flock from impending doom”.

    Just some of my thoughts, what do you think?

    • Tony Myles

      I appreciate these questions… for me, I’ve often felt that the question of calling is one to the church or community versus the person. The passage that comes to mind is when Paul addresses the err of following people and says: “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.”

      If that’s the case, I do believe you have to stay where you’re at even if it isn’t easy if that’s what God has called you to do. Calling is never about feeling peaceful (i.e. “I have a peace about it”), but about following Jesus and experiencing the fruit of peace. I’m so glad Jesus endured the cross even when He didn’t enjoy it.

      I love what you’ve uncovered here, though. Great thoughts and question.

  6. This is a really interesting article… I currently was let go from the Church I am a Student Ministries Pastor in. I am a Hispanic American and the Church is Korean. When the Church brought me on board I made my intentions clear to see the 5 to 6 young Korean Americans in the youth be ministered to but my vision had always been multicultural as well. The Church committee agreed and 4 to 5 years later the Student ministry has grown exponentially, multi-racially, and my responsibilities along with them (Kids ministries, pre-teens, Youth, and Young Adults) which is in part what led the committee to dismiss me and my family. The Church felt it wanted to bring a Korean Pastor so that the Church would not loose it’s cultural make up.

    Please understand that I’m not bitter, I mean we are sad, but I am now struggling with a couple of things… what’s next and how do I transition honorably. I raised a team of Several Directors that were overseeing different parts of it and some of them want to leave with me because they feel that place is no longer for them.

    This leads me to the thoughts posted by Jeremy Bates. I honestly believe that the question is one of vision. If the vision remains then even if people come and go we can remain. The Bible says:

    “Write the vision, And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. Hab. 2:2

    So that is what I have been telling the Directors. I have been telling them that I know that my time there is done and I respect the committee’s decision to stay primarily Korean in their outreach and identity. Nonetheless that is not the vision or calling I have and that is the major reason we must part ways. Now, the Church will be bringing a new Korean pastor and I have told them to not make decisions based on people but namely have it based on vision and calling.

    Do ya’ll think I’m on the right track? I welcome any thoughts…

    • Tony Myles

      First off, way to pull a great Scripture out of Habakkuk. :)

      I’d offer the thought that division is one of the worst things we can do in any church. Sometimes that means we carry our cross in order for Resurrection to happen. Other times it means we speak truth appropriately so that change can occur. I can’t be the voice of the Holy Spirit in your situation, but it sounds like you’re asking questions that will take you closer to God versus away from Him. That’s awesome!

  7. Thanks for this word. So true on ‘self righteousness’ I will be the first to stand up and say I am ashamed but yes I have been there done that too. Thanks for being bold to write. I found a killer study- called letting go of bitterness- that racked me up one side and down the other! God showed my wife and I how we were full of bitterness over trivial things! Looking forward to seeing what happens next and how God interviened.

  8. Tony, what a great article! Certainly many, many staff members have encountered difficulty with the “Boss”. I so appreciate your candor, and most importantly your encouragement for those of us that lead from the second chair to follow after the “True Boss” regardless of the stuff we are facing.

  9. Anyone else breathlessly waiting for the follow-up post?

  10. LOL

    I was pretty surprised at the ending.

    The statements you highlighted at the end were the ones that had turned me off and made me really wonder about you and how you figured you should teach youth.

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