Risking Relationships to Follow Him

Here’s another over-the-shoulder read. I got a wonderful email today and know many others with similar questions who might appreciate a bit of our dialog:

Since I have been a Christian I have followed the leadership of my pastorfriend. He has served as my mentor for over a decade, but int the last couple years our relationship has become strained. I have four kids and feel that I need to direct more of my time at home and he sees this as a segmentation of my life. Here’s what I mean… At the start of this year I served as a board member, youth leader, went to men’s group, setup for sunday mornings, sound manav coordinator guy, had to attend Learning to Lead (LTL) meetings every month as well as board meetings, youth meetings etc and at the same time we were planning a mission trip which required more meetings. And that was just church life… I also have a full time job along with continuing education courses. Things came to a head over the last Super Bowl. He wanted to have an LTL that night and I wanted to watch the game. He wanted to change the date and I said go for it, just leave Saturday’s alone. It was the only day that didn’t require me going to work or church…it was GOLD. He accused me of segregating my life and went on this big spiel that we don’t really understand what it means to follow Christ.

Now, I do disagree with him and I let him know. Things didn’t get any better at all and I ended up resigning from the board and leadership as a whole.. now I’m only doing Youth, Mens group and setup. I love this, I love how it feels, I feel free… my relationship with God is better, I have very little stress now except with my pastor still. I want to rid my self of religion, I want a close personal relationship with God – I want to draw closer to him – but I seem to have been programmed by my pastor friend here, he trained me, mentored me and now I want to change but I am still at his church and still fall under his leadership. How does a person move forward?

You’re in a very common situation, even though it can be quite disorienting. What do you do when God is leading you differently than the one who has helped ‘mentor’ you wants you to go? Isn’t it sad how easily personal friendships and even mentoring relationships are put at risk just by our desire to simplify our lives and follow Jesus? That’s what religion does to our free life in him. I would hope your friend/pastor would be excited by that and free you to do as you think God is asking you to do, but I also know that is very rare.

Pastoral types, (and remember I was one once) have a hard time seeing past their vision for the institution and thinking everyone should ‘give their lives’ to it as much as they do. He obviously sees value in you and what you do and may even feel he’s made an investment out of which he has the right to expect a return. I’ve been there with people, too, and you end up hurting the people you care most about. He seems threatened by losing your gifts in the congregation and instead of being honest about that, he turns it into an accusation against you.

Personally, I like the sounds of what Father is doing in you. It sounds like he is bringing added grace into your life and with it added space. I think one of the things that religion does is that it makes us so busy we don’t have time for him, or those closest to us. Now you have a choice: to live to him or the expectations of your friend. That’s the most difficult choice in this kingdom, especially when he can’t understand what God is doing in you and we care about them so much.

So, don’t be too hard on your friend. Maybe you could have a conversation with him some day like, “Listen, I know you’re having a hard time with some decisions I’m making right now. I can appreciate that since I’m not as available as I used to be. Even I’m not one hundred percent sure I’m right either, but as a dear friend of mine I would hope you would encourage me to follow what I sincerely believe God is asking me to do. I hope you can give me the space to do that because your continued accusations and disappointments will tear apart this relationship. I want you to be free to do what God asks of you, and I hope you can extend me the same freedom.â€

Of course that could turn into a huge conversation, but you can still love him, be gentle with him and follow-through on the things God has put on your heart. If he can free you to that the friendship will survive. If he can’t love you without controlling you, you might be wise to take some distance for a time. This is a good reminder for everyone who helps others grow in Christ. That is not a life-time assignment. Help others learn to follow him and then let them go and do it, even if they make some mistakes in the process. We all do, after all!

I’m only feeding back to you off of what you said, and obviously don’t have his side of it. But I know how threatening freedom can be to those who have a system to run and need a never-ending supply of warm bodies to fill the holes…

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2 Comments
  1. Matt September 6, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    Been in a very similar situation. I was not as active in things as you were, but still was more involved then 90% of the congregation. I moved two states to be a part of this new church start up and became very close friends with the Pastor, (whom i knew prior to moving) It was a church full of life and family atmosphere. I remember one time a client had bought basketball tickets for me for the rest of the season which was probably a 3 month time frame. He wanted to go with me. Well it happened a few of the games fell on a Wed night. After I missed a couple of services the pastor (friend) asked me where I was and I told him. He subtlely told me it’s probably best to make it to the serivce. I knew in my (religious) head he was probably right. In my heart, I would have much rather been at the game with my client. (which I thought was “spiritually irresponsible” etc etc.) As years went by the Lord through various circumstances, book readings, and stirrings of the heart led me away from the instituion and my best friends. As I tried to relay my heart, offense took place in there’s and relationships were strained tremendously. There is still relationship there but not to the level it was. And i’ve come to grips with the fact it may never be again. That is part of the journey. I remember going to a different pastor then who I am referring to and sharing with him my intent to leave this “church” and pursue what the Lord has put on my heart in a new environment. He caringly said ” I appreciate what your heart is, but I don’t think you’ll find what your looking for” Boy did i want to prove him wrong!!! :} But after about 4 years on a new journey outside of the church walls I realize he was right. I didnt find what I was looking for. I found JESUS looking for me and joining me together with other brothers and sisters pursuing the rollar coaster ride of life and forming a beautifull bride here on this earth for all of creation to see.

    That was me, as for you, only the Lord knows. I have full confidence that the drawings of your heart will lead you where you are supposed to go and what to say and what to do. It may feel crazy, may feel fun, may feel sad, but deep down you’ll know.

    by the way. As I look back the Lord would have been just fine with me having relationship with my client on a Wed night at a basketball game. I’ve become close friends with this client and seen the Lord at work through it all. (The Lord’s love at basketball game over a wed night church service???? Heck i’m all for it :} )
    a fellow brother in the Lord

  2. Matt September 6, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    Been in a very similar situation. I was not as active in things as you were, but still was more involved then 90% of the congregation. I moved two states to be a part of this new church start up and became very close friends with the Pastor, (whom i knew prior to moving) It was a church full of life and family atmosphere. I remember one time a client had bought basketball tickets for me for the rest of the season which was probably a 3 month time frame. He wanted to go with me. Well it happened a few of the games fell on a Wed night. After I missed a couple of services the pastor (friend) asked me where I was and I told him. He subtlely told me it’s probably best to make it to the serivce. I knew in my (religious) head he was probably right. In my heart, I would have much rather been at the game with my client. (which I thought was “spiritually irresponsible” etc etc.) As years went by the Lord through various circumstances, book readings, and stirrings of the heart led me away from the instituion and my best friends. As I tried to relay my heart, offense took place in there’s and relationships were strained tremendously. There is still relationship there but not to the level it was. And i’ve come to grips with the fact it may never be again. That is part of the journey. I remember going to a different pastor then who I am referring to and sharing with him my intent to leave this “church” and pursue what the Lord has put on my heart in a new environment. He caringly said ” I appreciate what your heart is, but I don’t think you’ll find what your looking for” Boy did i want to prove him wrong!!! :} But after about 4 years on a new journey outside of the church walls I realize he was right. I didnt find what I was looking for. I found JESUS looking for me and joining me together with other brothers and sisters pursuing the rollar coaster ride of life and forming a beautifull bride here on this earth for all of creation to see.

    That was me, as for you, only the Lord knows. I have full confidence that the drawings of your heart will lead you where you are supposed to go and what to say and what to do. It may feel crazy, may feel fun, may feel sad, but deep down you’ll know.

    by the way. As I look back the Lord would have been just fine with me having relationship with my client on a Wed night at a basketball game. I’ve become close friends with this client and seen the Lord at work through it all. (The Lord’s love at basketball game over a wed night church service???? Heck i’m all for it :} )
    a fellow brother in the Lord

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