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.
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.
If you enjoyed the article, please vote for the site at Top Prepper Websites.
Copyright – Content on Ed That Matters (unless the work of a Third-Party) may be reproduced in part or whole with attribution through a link to www.edthatmatters.com. If you are interested in a Third Party article, please contact the author for permission.