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?
Youâ€™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 â€˜mentorâ€™ you wants you to go? Isnâ€™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 â€˜give their livesâ€™ to it as much as they do. He obviously sees value in you and what you do and may even feel heâ€™s made an investment out of which he has the right to expect a return. Iâ€™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 donâ€™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. Thatâ€™s the most difficult choice in this kingdom, especially when he canâ€™t understand what God is doing in you and we care about them so much.
So, donâ€™t be too hard on your friend. Maybe you could have a conversation with him some day like, â€œListen, I know youâ€™re having a hard time with some decisions Iâ€™m making right now. I can appreciate that since Iâ€™m not as available as I used to be. Even Iâ€™m not one hundred percent sure Iâ€™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 canâ€™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!
Iâ€™m only feeding back to you off of what you said, and obviously donâ€™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…