For those who think we who see Jesus moving in incredible ways beyond the traditional congregational model must have had a ‘really bad church experience’, read this. I got this email last week from someone who is struggling with the system in the midst of great success within it. I disguised a few of the details so as not to give him away. Except for the pay, this is how I felt even when I was trying hard to make that model workâ€”
My life is full and wonderful. I have everything I have ever wanted. I have the job that I have always wanted. I am an associate pastor in a Midwest mega-church. I oversee all education, small groups, women’s and men’s ministry, and new member involvement. This particular church is ranked among the 50 most influential churches in America by the recent rating gurus. In my particular denomination I have reached the pinnacle for my calling (since I don’t want to be a Sr. pastor). I make more money than I ever thought possible in ministry and I’m not yet 35 years old.
To professional ministers or clergy in the institutional church, I have it all…seemingly unlimited resources, prestige, state of the art facilities, big numbers, etc. There is only one problem: I don’t see church the way I used to see church. God has shown me that we have the “church” that we built and not necessarily the church Jesus builds (not that there isn’t a little overlap if you know what I mean).
I am having huge issues of conscience and I need to talk to someone. I have tried to broach the subject with others only to be told that I am crazy for even thinking these things.
I spoke with this brother last week and appreciate fully the dilemma he is in. He loves what he does and enjoys the financial security, but in seeing what the system does to people he is now caught between the lives he can touch there and what else God might ask him to do. My heart goes out to him, but am confident that God will make the way clear.
I love it when people start to respect their conscience even beyond their perception of self-interest. The system of religious obligation doesn’t just chew up those it exploits or abuses; it chews up most those who find themselves successful in it.
When this kind of revelation comes, I encourage people to embrace it, not to retreat to the comfort of their own self-interest. Even if you don’t know what to do yet, holding the tension of a conflicted conscience in the presence of Jesus will allow him to keep transforming you. Embrace the unsettledness instead of pushing it away in fear and you will come to know whether Jesus wants you to remain, still loving those who are there, or whether he has a freer path ahead for you.