I’m Mike and I’m a recovering pastor.
It’s been more than a year since I stepped out of the pastorate. One of the most haunting questions I have these days is hard to acknowledge. Will church always be hard?
I grew up as a pastor’s kid. For the most part, I have been about as comfortable in church most of my life as most people would be in a secure job. Even now, if I am invited to come and speak, I am pretty comfortable. When I am visiting someplace in another town, it’s not bad at all. But when I approach a church in my own community to consider whether it might be a new place of belonging, it’s just really, really hard. It’s hard feeling so out of place. It’s hard feeling like “the outsider.” It’s hard to comfortably engage all of the necessary conversation. It’s hard to leave my seat for the inevitable “meet & greet” (a.k.a. fruit basket turnover) that is so commonly encouraged by obviously extroverted leaders. It’s hard to listen to someone else preach without thinking, “He should add this to really help drive this point home.”
But… will it always be hard? Are my heart-wounds such that it will always be difficult? I know how much I need to have a faith family where I can belong. I know the need to be accountable to and responsible for other believers. I know how important it is to work out my faith in community. I know how crucial it is to have other godly voices speaking into my life. But… will it always be hard? I’m not afraid of hard, but I may be a little gun-shy in this particular context.
I realize that anything new can be difficult for a time. I get that the relationships I need will require some vulnerability and transparency and that these things are often challenging. But will it always be hard? Over the course of my ministry life, I have had a few opportunities to pastor a few men in my situation—suddenly out of a pastoral role for some reason. I (somewhat instinctively, I suppose) knew to tell them it was okay to slip in after it had begun or slip out during the closing prayer, if they needed to do so. I had enough awareness to try to look out for them, to try and shelter them from the onslaught of well-intended, but intrusive questions about the circumstances that brought them to this spot. I don’t think I’m needing that kind of guarding from another pastor right now. I do think I’m feeling a lot more of that difficulty firsthand than I have before. I know that I want to take the next steps in this journey with a slow, deliberate determination to follow Jesus as He leads. But… will it always be hard?
I’m Mike and I’m a recovering pastor. This is my confession.