Man’s Schemes and God’s Invitation – One Couple’s Journey

I’m going to let you read over my shoulder again, this time through a recent email exchange over a couple of months with a couple in Canada. Their story represents what so many go through in this incredible process of moving outside the confines of religion and connecting again with the freshness of relationship with Jesus that they had before. They express so well the challenges and questions that many face in this process. They wanted their story to encourage others and when you see what their hearts hunger for at the end, I’m sure it will. I realize the choices God is asking you to make might be very different, but learning to follow him freely is critical to us growing in his life:

We’re in a real transition right now. Our pastor has asked us to become members and has offered us ministry positions. At first the thought of it all excited us, and we must admit we were flattered and felt important. With still many questions and doubts we agreed believing this must be God’s will for us, certainly He would want us to be in ministry, wouldn’t He?

Well, we are not becoming members in fact we believe that God may be calling us out of that place all together. As you may guess our Pastor is not happy and fully intends to hold us to our word and what he thinks God wants for us! We did agree to becoming members and it was implied that we would accept those ministry positions, but now we believe that would be so wrong for us and would possibly even be a trap for us that we would have great difficulty getting out of, or maybe even destroy us. We have repented for our spoken words, we have sincerely asked for our forgiveness from those who heard us speak those words. Isn’t that enough? God has let us know, that we are forgiven, fully pardoned. Doesn’t God’s word overrule all others?

My response: No one who knows God and how he works would ever ask you NOT to follow your heart as you seek him. This man sounds like a real manipulator and has no power to hold you to a commitment you have since reconsidered. While we should never treat our word lightly, when we have made a commitment we realize to be in error, we are free to retract it and follow what God has put on your heart. Not taking a ministry position is like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It only takes one vote not two. If it is not on your heart, follow God wherever he leads you.

I believe we may have made those decisions out of our deep desire to fit in and to be accepted. Isn’t typical that if we do not go along with what others want we no longer fit in and are no longer accepted? All of the sudden friends have a strange distance. Maybe that’s because they were never genuine friendships to begin with? Was it always about the ministry and building it rather than loving people? Why is our Pastor so disappointed? Someone even said that he was devastated? What? We didn’t die, we just don’t agree with the plans that he has for us.

My response: You have to realize that most religious institutions are about fitting in and going along. That’s what gains approval. Conversely, people who don’t do what they are told are often ‘punished’ by distance and exclusion. People will accuse them of being independent and rebellious. That’s what makes environments like this so destructive. Friendships only work as long as people are committed to the same task. It is really very sad. And your pastor’s ‘devastation’ is just another tool to manipulate you, like a young child pouting when they don’t get their way. Don’t think you have to satiate that attitude.

We hope that we will accept and love those we may leave behind, but the question is will they do the same for us? Will they even think even for a moment that there is something wrong with their system or will we just be written off as drifters, unsubmitted, uncommitted, or will they say, “ah, we don’t need them any way”? They would be absolutely right to think that they don’t need us! In fact, who they need is God! That is maybe the biggest part of the problem! We seem to depend on man and our man-made systems rather than to depend on the living God, our Provider, Deliverer, Redeemer, Source, Inspiration, Healer, Friend, Compass, Guide, Counselor, King, Our Father! That is who I need. Lord grant us the courage and faith to say, “Though none go with me still I will follow, I have stood alone, everyone abandoned me, but I was not alone for You stood with me, You strengthened and comforted me!

My response: You’re right! Others may exclude you, but that might also change in the future. Sometimes the people, who most punish us for getting out, are secretly hoping we’ll find life and grace outside. It is likely they are miserable too, but feel they have to stay in there. Don’t feel you have to convince or prove anything to anyone. Just do quietly and gracefully what God has asked you to do, keeping your heart open to all, but never forcing yourself on them. In time you will come to know who your real friends are there, and what others God might bring into your life.

It has been about two weeks since we informed the pastor and some other friends that we would no longer be attending their fellowship. It wasn’t well received. In fact some people think that we are deeply deceived. But to us it feels like a real load off! It just feels right! About a year ago we really believed that God was calling us out but we were disobedient! We buckled to pressure from our pastor. He was so strong that we wondered if we were hearing God. We talked to another pastor who didn’t know us, or our pastor, and he even said we should submit to our pastor and stay. Wow! We thought we were wrong so we stayed another year. During that year the quiet persistence of God did not go away, we could find no peace in staying no matter how hard we tried to press in, no matter what attractive ministry positions were given us.

So, here we are and I must admit that it’s a little scary, but we are in no hurry to seek out a new place to go. We are really grateful for the kind words of one friend who advised us to take our time and reacquaint ourselves with God. That confirmed what we were already sensing. We desperately need to get reacquainted with Him again, the business of ministry and programs seems to have stolen something from us. Lately I have just been singing out to God “I miss you!”

I would like to encourage others to follow their hearts! Others may not agree or understand but it’s only in His will that we are free! Thank God for His forgiveness of our mistakes and that He gave us another opportunity for freedom. God is very, very patient with us, but if we don’t listen, after a time our hearts could become hardened to His voice and our opportunity missed.

We are so grateful to have been able to have access to your web sites. It all came at a time when we were struggling with the decision that we have found very little support or understanding. You are a breath of fresh air!

And the moral of the story is simple: Follow the Lamb wherever he leads you. If he asks you to stay where you are, stay! If he is calling you out to know him in a deeper way, then go. But do not do what you do to gain the approval of friends or those who think themselves leaders, which will only lead to confusion and emptiness. Jesus can be trusted! That’s the great truth religion must obscure. You need us! You must follow us! You will whither up and die without us. Not true. Jesus can be trusted. He can gather his flock and lead them to safe pasture. (Ezekiel 34).

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14 Comments
  1. Jean September 6, 2005 at 11:40 am

    To the Canadian couple:

    Your pastor was ‘devastated’ because he was looking out for his own agenda. Here he had found a mature couple who would make his organization look good; maybe there isn’t a ready replacement so he feels stuck. Trouble is, increasingly the ones like you who are listening to God’s direction are getting ‘out of the box’… Pastors like this one are left with ambitious people willing to play the game to be recognized, and the cycle continues. The people in ministry positions who are doing the teaching are perpetuating the reliance on the church franchise and not on God (why do you think the other pastor you consulted gave you the advice to submit? He could do no other–it’s where his vested interest lies).

  2. Jean September 6, 2005 at 2:40 pm

    To the Canadian couple:

    Your pastor was ‘devastated’ because he was looking out for his own agenda. Here he had found a mature couple who would make his organization look good; maybe there isn’t a ready replacement so he feels stuck. Trouble is, increasingly the ones like you who are listening to God’s direction are getting ‘out of the box’… Pastors like this one are left with ambitious people willing to play the game to be recognized, and the cycle continues. The people in ministry positions who are doing the teaching are perpetuating the reliance on the church franchise and not on God (why do you think the other pastor you consulted gave you the advice to submit? He could do no other–it’s where his vested interest lies).

  3. J September 6, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Amen to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. J September 6, 2005 at 10:30 pm

    Amen to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Brett (South Africa) September 8, 2005 at 11:20 pm

    Man, what a story, I felt as if I was reading a little of my our own story. My wife and I also fitted some or other profile and it is as if a career path is layed out for you by whatever leader (deacon, elder, lead elder, church planter, heaven). From their perspective I understand that they are desperate to get good people to help them. My perspective now is that I will go and do whatever the Father tells me to do (sounds familiar, yep what Jesus said). Sadly this is misunderstood a lot. To the Canadian couple, thanks for sharing your story, I was encouraged to see others rather wanting to follow the Father than what other people think is good for us. Be encouraged as well, there are many in similar situations chosing the liberty of the Spirit. Be blessed. Brett

  6. Brett (South Africa) September 9, 2005 at 2:20 am

    Man, what a story, I felt as if I was reading a little of my our own story. My wife and I also fitted some or other profile and it is as if a career path is layed out for you by whatever leader (deacon, elder, lead elder, church planter, heaven). From their perspective I understand that they are desperate to get good people to help them. My perspective now is that I will go and do whatever the Father tells me to do (sounds familiar, yep what Jesus said). Sadly this is misunderstood a lot. To the Canadian couple, thanks for sharing your story, I was encouraged to see others rather wanting to follow the Father than what other people think is good for us. Be encouraged as well, there are many in similar situations chosing the liberty of the Spirit. Be blessed. Brett

  7. Jim September 10, 2005 at 8:25 pm

    Man it never ceases to amaze me that when I check in on Wayne and whats going on, he hits the pulse of what is happening in my life. The Lord is awesome. Same deal with me, 10 years of laboring with a group and the Lord led my wife and me in a different direction a couple of months ago. I know that others are hurt, confused and strongly disagree, but the freedom I have experienced and the doors the Lord has opened since….. I can’t even form words. Years of looking forward to a vision and promise are happening rapidly with little or no prompting from me. I am sad that the others aren’t on this journey with me. We all looked for this for so long. I still love them dearly and know that God will bring it all around in his timing. But I am glad that we followed our hearts. Thanks Wayne for posting this and thanks to the Canadian couple for sharing. God really does love us.

  8. Jim September 10, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    Man it never ceases to amaze me that when I check in on Wayne and whats going on, he hits the pulse of what is happening in my life. The Lord is awesome. Same deal with me, 10 years of laboring with a group and the Lord led my wife and me in a different direction a couple of months ago. I know that others are hurt, confused and strongly disagree, but the freedom I have experienced and the doors the Lord has opened since….. I can’t even form words. Years of looking forward to a vision and promise are happening rapidly with little or no prompting from me. I am sad that the others aren’t on this journey with me. We all looked for this for so long. I still love them dearly and know that God will bring it all around in his timing. But I am glad that we followed our hearts. Thanks Wayne for posting this and thanks to the Canadian couple for sharing. God really does love us.

  9. Kevin September 12, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    I’m sorry to hear their pastor acted like that. Obviously this is not the first time it has ever happened and it does seem to be written about frequently. What type of denomination do they belong to or theology do they have that they think they can control people like that?

    To narrow the brush a bit though… there are plenty of pastors in churches that would not have responded in that way at all.

    My wife and I were going to lead the small group ministry in the church we were at, over 1000 people. We had "committed" to it in the same way. After sensing the Lord’s leading in a different direction, and letting the pastor and elders know, we followed the Lord with their blessing and encouragement.

    Has anyone else had a "pleasant" experience in leaving the IC?

  10. Kevin September 12, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    I’m sorry to hear their pastor acted like that. Obviously this is not the first time it has ever happened and it does seem to be written about frequently. What type of denomination do they belong to or theology do they have that they think they can control people like that?

    To narrow the brush a bit though… there are plenty of pastors in churches that would not have responded in that way at all.

    My wife and I were going to lead the small group ministry in the church we were at, over 1000 people. We had "committed" to it in the same way. After sensing the Lord’s leading in a different direction, and letting the pastor and elders know, we followed the Lord with their blessing and encouragement.

    Has anyone else had a "pleasant" experience in leaving the IC?

  11. The Canadian couple September 13, 2005 at 5:59 am

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement! This feels like a new form of fellowship! ( new to us anyway)

    Being able to share a little bit of our story has been like good medicine that is helping us to heal!

    Our intention has never been to bash anyone or any denomination, only to share our story in hopes of gaining some clarity and to hopefully encourage others to follow God rather than man. Things are becoming more clear everyday! Thank you all for being a part of that!

    As for our former Pastor, we grieve for him. The only reason he was so hard on us is because he is so desperate. With a small congregation and few volunteers, work is never ending, rest almost never comes and frustration is ever present!

  12. The Canadian couple September 13, 2005 at 8:59 am

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement! This feels like a new form of fellowship! ( new to us anyway)

    Being able to share a little bit of our story has been like good medicine that is helping us to heal!

    Our intention has never been to bash anyone or any denomination, only to share our story in hopes of gaining some clarity and to hopefully encourage others to follow God rather than man. Things are becoming more clear everyday! Thank you all for being a part of that!

    As for our former Pastor, we grieve for him. The only reason he was so hard on us is because he is so desperate. With a small congregation and few volunteers, work is never ending, rest almost never comes and frustration is ever present!

  13. Kelly September 17, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    The Canadian couple wrote:

    "As for our former Pastor, we grieve for him. The only reason he was so hard on us is because he is so desperate. With a small congregation and few volunteers, work is never ending, rest almost never comes and frustration is ever present!"

    I pray that his ‘devastation and desperation’ are genuine and that his condition will not be assuaged by anything he or others would do or attempt to do, but, instead that his condition will drive him into Him.

  14. Kelly September 17, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    The Canadian couple wrote:

    "As for our former Pastor, we grieve for him. The only reason he was so hard on us is because he is so desperate. With a small congregation and few volunteers, work is never ending, rest almost never comes and frustration is ever present!"

    I pray that his ‘devastation and desperation’ are genuine and that his condition will not be assuaged by anything he or others would do or attempt to do, but, instead that his condition will drive him into Him.

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