Preparing to make the leap
The time is quickly approaching for my departure from professional ministry after devoting thirty-five years of my life inside the institutional church (IC). Several of my friends have tried leaving; in fact, a dear friend of mine broke the news today that he’s accepted a part-time pastoral position at a small Southern Baptist church. Another friend returned from the mission field and couldn’t find meaningful employment to support his family, so a medium-sized church came along looking for a guy with a DMin and years of preaching experience. They offered him a nice salary and benefits package. He accepted the position, but I know it’s not what he really wanted to do. Although I can’t wait to get out, I do feel that some preparation may be necessary. Actually these are things I’m avoiding like the plague.
- I’m not burning any bridges! Not with friends who remain in vocational ministry or those who simply attend an institutional church. If they can passionately pursue their relationship with Jesus and other believers in that context, then who am I to persuade them to leave? Or treat them any differently?
- I’m not sharpening my axe! Personally, I suspect the IC will always be with us. I refuse to go on a crusade against the institution and try to single-handedly dismantle the system. If people approach me and ask why I quit attending church meetings at the local Baptist church, then I will tell them honestly. But I have no intentions of ripping into pastors, church leaders, and members for attending an IC if that’s where they feel they need to be.
- I’m not planting a house church! To me, most house churches are simply a miniature version of their larger cousin on the corner of 4th and Main. Most people have great difficulties with the multiplication process, so most house churches end up renting larger space and, the next thing you know, they eventually erect a building of their own. Many house churches follow a pattern of worship (aka “liturgy”) and emphasize “preaching” to the point that I see very little difference other than the square footage.
My hope is simply to live alongside other believers in a way that makes Jesus known to those who don’t know Him. I want to share His life with others around me without feeling compelled to ask, “So where do you go to church?” And my primary aim will be to encourage other believers in the faith, looking for ways to stimulate them in their love for Christ and their neighbor, as well as to join them in doing good for those around us, in the name of Jesus Christ.