Sunday, my resignation from the Belpre Church was made known.
Needless to say, it was an emotional day. In many ways, I have dreaded this decision – yet, I have also been fully confident that this decision is necessary for me. For the past five years, I have poured myself into full-time ministry with the Belpre church of Christ – working mainly with junior high and high school students and their families. I am deeply thankful for this opportunity … for, through this avenue, I have developed lasting friendships with many people. It is also true that this position has helped to clarify my passions, giving me exposure to certain opportunities which have influenced and shaped me in deep ways. My life has been blessed by the partnership of a team of people (some who have moved away, some who are still with the Belpre church) who have sacrificed their time and energy for our dream of leading students to become consumed with Jesus Christ. Together we’ve created a student ministry environment which has met students where they are, loved them unconditionally, offered grace freely and without hesitation, and led students toward greater and more beautiful things. With several volunteers which I believe are irreplaceable, I have helped lead a student conference which is dramatically different from most offerings in the church of Christ movement … serving as a conduit of large dreams, deep worship, and fresh movements of faith. I have been humbled to speak at several events and camps due to these things.
However, there have also been significant difficulties and frustrations. Working through these things has shaped and formed me into a different person … and has left me at a place where I no longer fit in with a faith heritage that I’ve been associated with for my entire life. This is not to critique or speak poorly of the Belpre Church, its’ people, or its’ leadership… nor to somehow imply that the Belpre Church is an inferior church compared to what I’m looking for. It is simply and clearly true that we just share many differences. This does not mean that we have the right to treat each other terribly, or the permission to believe bad things about each other … it simply means that we are different.
My decision to resign is deeply rooted in this realization. And so, I have faced an increasingly clear dilemma: to continue and conform to an environment I have significant differences with for the security of a paycheck … or to follow an unclear path toward something I deeply desire, believe in, and have been shaped for. For a while, I believed it might be possible to silence these feelings … that I could just focus on doing student ministry, and not worry about these larger issues. But the silencing of these feelings served only to make them louder and more convincing.
And so, I must go.
I know that many will not share, or understand this belief … and, that’s okay. God’s grace can handle our differences. I also realize that some will take my words personally, and will respond defensively … or will choose to give me the cold shoulder. Sadly, I’m accustomed to this because I’ve lived through this many times. It is very true that my beliefs and teachings have often left me isolated and chastised in the faith movement I’m associated with. Honestly, I understand where those reactions stem from. I cannot lie and do admit that these interactions have hurt me deeply … but, I am working hard to not hold grudges, to forgive, and to love and find commonalities with those who have treated me in hurtful and spiteful ways over the years. God’s grace invites this. I am also sure that I have made mistakes, and have missed opportunities to lead and to love. God’s grace allows me to let go of that burden.
This is much larger than a job change for me. And, this is bigger than my differences with a single church. This is a movement … a catalytic moment toward a new life. It’s a leaving behind of what I’ve known for 29 years, and a chasing after something which isn’t yet known. It’s a running toward freedom. It’s a journey to become who I’ve been created to be. It’s a holding onto hope during a long, dark night. It’s a sad day, yet a joyful expectation of tomorrow.
And so, I am running toward a dream. I believe deeply that God is leading me toward something …. toward partnering with somebody, somewhere to lead a movement of different Jesus followers. The concept of planting a church scares me to death, but it is also exciting and liberating. My heart yearns to be involved in a creative, responsive, compelling movement which is partnering with God to make right the wrongs of this world. I hope for a movement that establishes the realities of grace and truth amid the consequences of sin and depravity. My prayer is that I will be faithful to God’s leading … confident in His provision and protection … believing in His timing … and expecting His faithfulness. I will continue working with the Belpre church student ministry through this summer … seeing through the responsibilities to which I’ve already committed … and I will always partner with the Belpre Church through prayer and the hope of what’s possible. At this time I do not have anything lined up after August 30th. I’m scared about that part of things … but, believe that something will fall into place somehow. I have a heart for writing, speaking, and visual communication … and hope to find something which utilizes these passions while allowing me the security to plant a church which embodies more fully what I believe and hope for.
I have written this, not to stir controversy or promote negative reactions … nor to air dirty laundry or burn bridges. I’ve simply written this because I desire to be honest and open with my journey. I have written this to explain the difficulty of this decision. And, I have written this because I feel that in writing, I find peace and clarity. If you pray, I would appreciate and be deeply grateful of those prayers. May our Father gives us all a clear vision, and the faith to walk it. Thank you.