The End of My Church As I Know It & Considerations for Christians

church

On December 28, 2014, I preached my last sermon as pastor of Assurance Church. The church has been in existence for 17 years. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one that I’m at peace with.
I started the church when I was a senior in college. I was an older college student, went back to finish, so I wasn’t in braces or anything. I had already been a youth pastor and worship leader for about 4-5 years.

At the time I started the church, my wife and I were therapeutic foster group home parents. We lived in a HUGE house owned by the agency that we worked for. The front living room was bigger than most small churches renting space. So naturally, I thought the living room would be a good place to have our first service and then grow into a bigger building later.

Since we lived in a home owned by the agency, I decided to do things properly and ask for permission to hold services in the living room. To my dismay, the director told me that I couldn’t use the home, but more than that, I couldn’t assume a pastoral position while I was a group home parent. I can’t explain in words the holy anger that rose up in me. I could totally understand saying no to using the home, but to tell me that I couldn’t be a pastor elsewhere was wrong! Other group home parents had jobs working in the real world, why couldn’t I do this? I would add that we were VERY GOOD at working with kids. We were always used as a model of how to run a home and to this date we were the couple who worked with kids the longest in the agency’s history.

I picked up the phone to give the director a piece of my mind. Before I dialed, I said a little prayer. When she answered, all I said was, “Hi ____, this is Todd. I just read your letter.” That was all I said. She started speaking after that. When it was all said and done, I was allowed to use the home for 6 months with a review of how things were going after that. After the first review, they never questioned or ever had a concern over what I did with the church.
Being into the church planting movement, I did all the things that I was “supposed to do.” I still have a big library of “church growth” books, although I think they are all crap. I just was never one to compromise THE message, be “seeker sensitive,” or play the numbers game.

After a few years and not hitting “critical mass” like the church growth books said I should have done, I prayed about closing it down. But my wife nor I had peace about closing it down then. I did find people doing “home church” online. But most of them were anti-institutional church and anti-clergy and I just didn’t agree with what they said a home church had to be! We continued on.

The home church movement continued to grow and is now very popular. Like “church growth,” you can find many books on doing “home church” and multiplying home churches, etc… They are many flavors and no home church is really going to look the same. People would tell me that I didn’t have a home church, but I disagreed. Again, there was no real definition, unless you subscribe to one of the theories or styles of doing home church.

We did have a lot of success as far as bringing people to Christ. If all the people who came through the church would have stayed, we would have had a decent sized church. However, most would get right with God and then want something more out of church like a big youth group, singles ministry, etc…

We also had success with youth. Since we had the group home, we had a built in youth group. We started holding Youth Church Services on Friday night and did that for many years. On Friday, we would have 40 middle and high school kids come to the home, eat pizza and drink soda, play video games, hang out and listen to music. We would conduct a full 1 hour service and then do another hour of playing games, eating, music, etc… We would do this every Friday for 3 hours! Kids would walk to our home in the evening, but I never felt comfortable sending them walking at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. So, we bought a used van and used that to transport kids. Many Friday nights we would make 2 runs!

It is my own kids that are the main reason why I feel led to close down the church. At this point, we don’t have a youth group. The teenage years are some of the most important and most memorable in mine and my wife’s mind. We grew up going to Fall Retreats and Summer Camp, and our current setup doesn’t really allow that. What fun would it be to go with dad?

Yes, I could link up with other churches, but that always seemed weird. The churches that I did contact would never return my emails. Could you imagine another pastor asking if his kids could attend youth with another youth group? Some people are weird, and I just imagine some Christians thinking I was going to try and “steal” people from their church. Anyway, I did try. But even if that would have worked, it wouldn’t have been the same.

My wife and I plan on finding a medium sized church with an active youth group. We have a few in mind already and plan to visit them soon. I don’t plan on getting involved in ministry for a while. Instead, I want to just sit and soak. If asked, I will guest preach. I plan to continue spreading the message of preparedness, and if I can do that in a church setting, I will do that.

I guess the above is mostly for my closure. But I do want to leave you with some Considerations for Christians and their Church.

Being a Pastor is a Thankless Job – I can see the comments now, “You are not working for the thanks of man!….” Yes, I know that. I feel I am very attuned to the Holy Spirit and I have a strong Faith. People who know me would attest to that. However, even the most spiritual among us is still human. You can pour yourself and your time into others. You can sit with them in the hospital and in living rooms for hours. They will thank you and hug you. But then the minute you say something they don’t like, something that “offends” them, they turn on you or leave the church.

I met with a guy once at a restaurant who is a part of a “home church” or fellowship in my area. Their church runs very different than ours did. I expressed to him that “ministry is hard at times.” He responded, “You see, that is the problem. It is not supposed to be hard.” I was taken back. He was so adamant and spoke with such conviction that I thought I was doing something wrong.

Later, after spending some time in prayer, I thought about the Apostles’ ministry. Can you imagine telling Paul or Peter, “ministry isn’t supposed to be hard. That whip on your back isn’t really hard Peter! That stone that just hit your head isn’t hard Paul! That shipwreck, that being left for dead, that being hungry, thirsty, cold, is all your imagination!” Ministry is hard and many times it is thankless and emotionally draining. Anybody who says it is not, has never been a pastor.

Of course, I count the spiritual blessings. I know that the Kingdom was expanded because of the work we did. But please understand this. If you are part of a church right now, take a moment to thank your pastor. Write him an old fashioned letter, give him a gift card and tell him to take his wife out to dinner, invite his family over for dinner, pray for him and stand with him if you notice he needs it.

I was very blessed to have a supportive wife and family and even foster kids. I’m very grateful for the time that THEY put into the ministry too!

If You Leave a Church – There were many times when friendships would develop with members of the church. But for whatever reason, there might be a time when they wouldn’t show up one Sunday. When someone is missing in a small church, it is very evident. You know what’s about to happen when they don’t respond to your phone call or email.

So there were times when people/families stopped coming to the church and would not even say bye or why they left. I believe that is so rude! If it was something that the pastor or another member said, then at least give the church the courtesy of letting them know what it was. At the least, send a note or letter.

Today, Christian’s have so many choices when it comes to church. It is easy to become a church hopper. When something doesn’t go your way or someone says something that cuts to close to home, they just jump ship. However, I don’t think that is spiritually healthy. God might be wanting to work on them for some reason. When Christians jump ship, they might be short circuiting what God wants to teach them.

Don’t Forget to Serve – Life is so busy that many Christians put in their time on Sunday morning and that’s it. But there is a lot that goes into running a church. Youth groups, children’s church, Sunday school, infants, cleaning the bathrooms, mowing the grass, the finances, vacuuming, cleaning, etc… You get the point. Most churches don’t bring in a lot of money. Yes, your mega-church can afford to pay someone to do all those things. But most churches are not mega-churches. Most churches in the US are small in size 1-50 people. Even a medium size church doesn’t bring in enough money to pay for everything. Churches need Christians to serve and help.

I know that some of you are saying, “my church is always asking for money”….and “why do we need to build a bigger building”…. I would agree with you. I don’t believe in building bigger buildings and I absolutely hate the long winded plea for money. But the fact remains that most churches won’t run if it wasn’t for people giving of their time to help out and serve. ….. And, this type of serving doesn’t even include evangelism. That is a whole different topic.

Conclusion
It’s important to remember that we are spiritual beings, but we live in the world. “We are in the world, but not of the world.” This world, which we experience with our 5 senses, is powerful. Prayer, reading the Bible and breaking bread with the Saints seems to always play second fiddle, or becomes the after-thought to our busy lives.

My last message was about our need to pray and be people of prayer. It is actually based on the very first sermon I preached when I opened up the church. I believe in prayer more today than ever.

One thing to remember is that before there was Abraham, before there was Moses and the Law, before there was a tabernacle or temple or Ark of the Covenant, people realized that they could call out to God, and He would hear them. “A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.” Genesis 4:26 (HCSB)

When God’s people realized they needed help, they always turned to Him. Sometimes at the first sign of need, sometimes as a last resort. But they knew that He would help. The same thing happened in the New Testament. For me, prayer is the key.

As times become more “curious,” I believe that it will require more time in prayer.

I hope that if you are reading this, you will be a person in your church fellowship that focuses on prayer and His Word and that you will be a light that shines among the brethren. Christians who need a little bit more Faith will need your support. And as a prepper, it could be that God is giving you a little bit more insight as to what is coming down the road.

Peace,
Todd

This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.

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Todd Sepulveda

I'm the owner/editor of Prepper Website, a DAILY preparedness aggregator that links to the best preparedness articles on the internet. I'm also a public school administrator and a pastor. My personal blog is Ed That Matters, where I write about preparedness and from time to time, education. Connect with me on one of my social media outlets below.

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24 thoughts on “The End of My Church As I Know It & Considerations for Christians

  1. Ron Womack

    Our prayers are with you brother. I have been pastor of small churches for 30 yrs. In that time there have been seasons when I backed away from the pulpit for sabbatical. Each time God has called me back and opened the door. Enjoy your sabbatical, I feel sure God will call you back to the frontlines after a bit of R&R.
    Blessings
    Ron

  2. farmergranny

    Thank you for sharing your heart with so many. Ministry is indeed tough and often a thankless job. I’m an educator and parents either love me or hate me, and I imagine it is the same for a servant of God. Your children’s needs are important now and you are doing what you feel God has led you to do. I pray you and your family find a church that will be mutually suitable for the church body and your family.

  3. Joe

    Hey Todd, I’m a pastor too and when I read your article it sounded like something I would write. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and I can feel so discouraged and dismayed at times, but then I remember that I’m not going through all this “stuff” for them, I’m doing it for our Lord.
    God bless you my brother. You’ll be back in the pulpit before long and as my beloved pastor use to say to me, “keep on keeping on.”

  4. Dee

    I am not a minister but know the grief of loss for something I love doing. What I have learned from it? You know that saying about when a door closed a window opens? Hey if that’s all you get, take it. BUT in my life, I have found when a door closes, HE is closing it so I can open a garage door full of more blessings. 🙂 So grieve then get back on your feet and find that door knob or opener. You will be so surprised at what’s coming your way. 🙂
    Blessings to you and yours.

  5. Kathleen O'Meal

    OMGoodness! There’s more for you and your family!
    Christians everywhere will feel force of evil trying to undo or throw roadblock before them. I believe the persecution will become much greater. My mother made an Emergency list of scriptures, wise sayings etc., under specific headings like; feeling afraid, feeling angry, need answers, feeling alone, etc.. She kept this tucked on the inside cover to her scriptures. I saw her going to these on occasion and she seemed to come away more at peace and more resolute. This is part of my SOK–start over kit. Spiritual preparedness may be the first and most important part of our preparations for whats ahead. I always go to your site Todd. You arent afraid to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Good for you BROTHER!

  6. jujubee

    Todd, you may leave the pulpit for a while but you know that doesn’t mean you’re not still a minister. Never underestimate the power of the lesson of being ‘there’ for people, especially how your children will come to learn that by your example. That is a ministry in its self, to be a dependable citizen among the chaos that we live in now. Just receiving your daily preparedness email gladdens my heart for simply the consistency and steadfastness you deliver every day! But rest and refresh, too- that is just as important as your physical wellbeing!

  7. Rev. Joel Randolph

    Thanks for the article, I enjoyed what you had to say and it needed to be said. I know first hand what its like when people leave the church for unknown reasons. They will not answer the phone or answer letters. They were with us but not of us. Had they been of us, they would still be with us. We must remain on track even if we are the last ones standing.

  8. NRP

    Todd

    Being a Buddhist (please don’t hold that against me) I know for a fact we each choose our path to follow, rather it be from the hand of god answering our prayers or the guidance of our own inner self. There is always a reason for things that happen and change our lives. Unfortunately we may never know that the reasoning or even the cause, but we must always follow our hearts.
    Best of luck to you in your new endeavor, whatever and wherever it may lead you.

    And thank you for a great blog, keep up the good work.

    NRP

  9. d vest

    in peace i say…

    your job is not done yet…
    this is a ‘breather’, enjoy it…’more to come later…’
    this point in time of the heavenly season is a time of topsy-turvey things.
    the reasons things happen are many times hidden from us…it will all become clear later…
    i firmly hear a message of ‘change is in the air’ …what is the change? who or when? these are unknown today.
    many political and financial pundits are saying many diverse things. many religious leaders are loudly pointing to many different directions.
    the whole of this that i see is that our heavenly father has a LOT of different pathways for his children to walk in the short range future…

    again i say to you ..prayerful rest…sleep soundly…read the word daily…reflect on the great things you have done… kiss your wife…go fishing and play with children….smile at everyone…tell jokes, be joyous…and remember that the christ said—my peace i leave with you —

    ( i also have filled the pulpit duties of local pastor. hospital visitation. prayed with the sick and shut-ins… i met with those in jail. .. baptisms…and conducted weekly bible study time…we saw growth in the local congregation…then… i felt the ‘release’ and i now await the ‘my recall notice’…)

    peace brother

  10. colt triarii

    Thank you for the great testimony!

    It will be exciting to see where God moves you.

    I am realizing more and more, each day, that Spiritual Preparation is the most important prep.

    There was actually a Spiritual Checklist at the back of the Air Force Pilot Survival Checklist. I have a copy. Now the Chaplains are under attack.

  11. Ken

    Be encouraged! God’s will and plan for our lives doesn’t always remain the same. There are many ‘lifetime’ ministries where a person does the same thing for decades, throughout their entire ministry. Some of these wonderful folks are in the dead center of God’s will and mighty in their ministry. There are others who are bored, stagnated, not succeeding in their ministry by any measure of success and too frightened to seek God’s will elsewhere. There are times when God just moves us along. I have friends who have, like you, gone through, or are currently in this transitional and often frustrating time. They came away wounded, perhaps angry, they came away thinking that they had already experienced the high water mark of their ministry.

    Now we already know that’s not true. We move ahead with a bank of dearly earned experience and wisdom. God closes doors just as surely as He opens them and the uniqueness that is you has a definite future and ministry. You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving so do the things that you know you need to do and move ahead decisively even if that means to just wait. God will open the right doors when the time is right.

  12. Dave W

    Keep your chin up. I serve as a worship leader, and have also gone through the highs and lows of ministry. God is patient, and I believe understands when we need a season of rest. Even Elijah who is considered one of the greatest prophets had a season of discouragement, during which God ministered to him, allowing him to rest and heal.

  13. Alan Andres

    Todd,

    Always remember that all Christians are to walk in covenant with one another. For those who would chose to walk away from that covenant means they never were in covenant.
    The Word of God states we are all to be ministers of reconciliation and that one’s calling to the five fold work of ministry does not lessen the work of those who’s calling may be that of an encourager or those who are of the ministry of helps.
    As well, I understand the disappointment of lost and broken relationships, but know that God does not give up on those whom He has called and anointed, sometimes it just requires a little readjustment to our focus.

  14. roseanne

    Thank you for the work you do with the articles and the daily e mail. I appreciate knowing you have a Christian foundation. I trust the material you recommend, especially books. (So much trash out there!) Thanks again and blessings.

  15. Billy H

    question when will these Christian churches start doing Christian things. I never read in the bible the apostles doing sunday worship,easter and xmas. rev 12:9 satan will have the whole world deceived..

  16. Janet

    Todd, just because you don’t have a church, doesn’t mean you don’t have a ministry. Your websites minister to people greatly, by helping them to prepare, spiritually, mentally and physically.

    It may not be traditional, but it is a ministry.

    God Blesses!!!

  17. TexasScout

    We have been attending a small Lutheran (ELCA) in South Texas. My wife was asked to take over as Treasurer. She had NO experience in that regard. She enlisted the help of a professional bookkeeper. Then at the annual meeting she was torn to pieces by the former Treasurer, accusing her of outright fraud. The books are given over for auditing each year and it was done a month before the annual meeting. If there had been any concern, they could have called and ask questions. Nothing was said until the meeting. We had been members there for over thirty years. Now we just don’t care anymore. Nobody stood up for her, nobody asked for help.

    Petty politics destroy a small church.

  18. Terry (pastor's wife)

    Your testimony sounds much like my husband and I and what we have gone through. If people have found Christ then “count it all joy” even if it has been painful at times. I know full well it is painful at times. It is gut wrenching at times and yet the joys triumph
    and make it worth the effort and time and prayer. If just one person spends an eternity in heaven with Christ then all your efforts have been worth it. Rest in that, take some time to recover and then seek God for your next endeavor. He will let you know when you are to retire to a life of only prayer, not to minimize prayer.

    1. Todd Sepulveda Post author

      Hi Terry,

      Thanks for your comment. Actually, this post was written a while back. A lot of things have happened and the Lord wouldn’t just leave me alone! 😉 I felt Him moving and drawing me… So I started writing a few articles for http://www.prepperchurch.com. I still felt Him drawing me, I started doing videos. Then we felt like a big change was coming. We started praying hard…even got the kids their passports, just in case He was calling us to another country.

      After a lot of prayer and seeking the Lord…AND waiting…we are back in ministry, pastoring a church in Katy, TX.

      Thanks for your encouragement.

      Peace,
      Todd

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