“Peace out” 4 Thoughts on Leaving a Church Community

Of all of the topics pastors have asked me to write on, this one has come up a lot lately. Now let me say: I write this blog from a very full heart and a very good place.

This month, Anne and I celebrated completing 8 years at Kfirst. We are in a great season in our church community. I’m a pastor who LOVES my job. So, in essence, this blog is not the ranting of a wounded leader but the ramblings of a pastor who loves the Church (not just Kfirst). My heart is for the Kingdom of God. I serve Christ and desire for people to find and follow Him.

But I often find myself fielding calls from a pastors about those who have left the church community they lead. A vast majority of the time, it’s a humble voice on the other end. He/she isn’t spewing hate or rage. The pastor is simple looking for introspective answers to what may have caused the disconnect and/or what personal changes may need to take place. Honestly, I love that type of heart. As the scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” – James 4:6

As I say so often to them and to those who have left a church: Sometimes there isn’t a “fit” and I’m okay with that.

It’s not a generational thing nor it is always that a bad event occurred to drive someone away. Sometimes it happens when there is a change in the church community (leadership, vision, atmosphere/style, etc).  I’m okay with all of that. It happens. We’ve experienced that here at Kfirst. I was warned by countless pastors that my transition into leadership, over the course of a few years, would solidify people in the community as well as help people feel a release. I was forewarned that it’s a part of church life as the church, as well as myself, continues to grow and gel together.

Again, leaving doesn’t have to be a terrible event. There are a number of those whom have left that I remain friends with and have even hung out with. I interact on social media with quite a few people who see that there is more the “Church” than your “church.” If your version of the body of Christ only includes those you attend a weekly gathering with, you’ve got a shallow and incorrect understanding of the Church.

Don’t get me wrong, challenging things happen. From misunderstandings and offenses to personality conflicts and burnout.  And unfortunately, sinful decisions by either leadership or attendees (or both) can drive people to deciding to leave their present church. If you expected the Church to be perfect and to act perfect, you are always going to find someone or something to be disappointed in.  But every time you leave, you can take steps of healing or perpetuate the hurt. I’m not trying to justify any hurtful action. I just want to see the Church get healthier. And I think that we ALL can do better with church transitions.

A few months back, I dealt with this from the pastoral perspective as I challenged pastors on how to respond to those leaving the church in the blog, “How Do You Deal With People Leaving the Church?” So I thought I’d approach it from the other perspective: How to leave a church and find another.

Depart in a Christ-glorifying way. 
Leaving a church doesn’t have to be dramatic and malicious.  You don’t need a “mic drop” moment to make a splash on your way out. Don’t rally people together through texts, phone calls, or small group meetings. There’s no need to blast people, pastors, or churches on social media. Every time I see this happen, my heart breaks. A thread of hate on social media feeds our own self-righteousness and prevents anyone toward moving forward in healing.

If you see the need to leave where you are at, I can understand that, but make sure you leave in the most Christ-glorifying way. You may “feel” justified in some of the above actions, but no glory goes to God from purposely leaving emotional shrapnel stuck in the hearts of those you used to worship with. I love the words of Christ, in regards to those who may have hurt or mistreated you: Love, do good, bless, and pray for them.

Don’t look for or demand “exit interviews.” Stepping away is fine. Maybe if you have “membership” at a church then I think it’s very appropriate to give the pastor a “heads up” on the new direction you are taking. Over the past 8 years, I’ve appreciated simple connections where hugs and prayers were exchanged instead of opinions and preferences; blessing and goodness was given over frustration and offense.

You bring forward what you took away.
While writing this blog, my mind went to how Israel left Egypt. It says in Exodus 12:36, that they “stripped Egypt of their wealth.” 20 chapters later, when they were tired of waiting on their leader, they took what they left Egypt with and made gods to serve.  These slaves were set free with a wealth they had never lived with. And they needed to choose how to harness it.

What you left with from the last church, you WILL bring it with you (both good and bad). It’s not a mind-blowing concept but an extremely underestimated fact. In college, the church I attended starting going into a direction that didn’t sit well with me. My dread of going to church far outweighed my passion for church. I tried getting involved, but the more the church shifted, the more I discovered that it wasn’t a “fit.” When I settled at a new church, it shocked me what I carried with me.  I realized that, when I left, I brought more with me than I realized. And I could use that to grow, or I can respond like Israel, use what I took to form an idea to follow.

When you leave a church, you leave with the good and the bad. And your decision is simple: Will you grow forward with and properly utilize experiences you received or will you serve the hurt that you walked away with? Nobody else can make that decision but you.

Don’t develop atrophy.
Sitting may feel profitable, but it’s an easy place to get stuck. Even for those who are “burnt out” on volunteering, I recommend rest, but serving is some the best therapy for a burnt out soul.

Before you react, here me out. I’m not asking for a massive commitment to leading or launching a new program. I am speaking out of positioning yourself in a place where you rest can turn to a place of atrophy.

When I went through rotator cuff surgery, I didn’t go back into massive commitments to activities. I went to physical therapy. The trauma I incurred prevented me from doing ANYTHING I did before the injury. But in PT, I did small, subtle movements.  And because of my amazing PT and the appropriate amount of time, my shoulder was restored and stronger than ever.

If anyone has faced some hurt and/or burn out, step into a simple place of serving. For example, here at Kfirst we have “First Impressions” ministry. It’s as simple as greeting at a door once a month (or ever two months). Not a huge commitment but vital ministry. And that level of serving mixed with the appropriate amount of time, can restored and strengthen a wounded soul to be stronger than ever.

Root where you land.
Fruit doesn’t come from a plant that doesn’t take root (I’m sure I’ll get a note from a botanist on that one). When you find a church community, go all in and make connections. It may take a few tries and attempts, but take the responsibility to put your roots down.

Far too often we place our “rooting” on the pastor or the congregation. While I’m not relinquishing responsibilities from the leadership and the people, the “reaching” and “connecting” must go both ways. And while the “rooting” is happening, you’ll discover ministry and relational sweet spots. For me, my volunteering and involvement didn’t come without bumps or bruises. I remember wanting to get involved in a few ministries that I loved but were overcrowded with volunteers. But you bloom where you are planted. So I planted myself with some areas of need in that church and, through serving, I found greater connection. Don’t make leaders or people chase you. Go after them and begin developing roots in your new church community.

Leaving a church is more than deciding to attend a different gathering during the week. There is a transition of heart, background, and a positioning for future Kingdom growth. And my challenge to anyone reading this would be to consider the full gambit of what this type of change brings so that you, and those around you, can see the Church become a healthier entity.

If you’re a pastor reading this, I highly recommend “How Do You Deal With People Leaving the Church?” as there proper way for YOU to deal with this.

None of this is easy. But I believe that, together, we can create a stronger Church.

Love you all.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: #KB17 week 3 “Actions of Adjustment”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

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Our current series is highlighting the shift in our giving in our Kfirst community. We continued the series with our focus upon the prophet Elijah’s interaction with a widow in 1 Kings 17. (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

It seems like we live in a culture that constantly adds onto busy lives that are already maxed out. Schedules and resources are ran at their max. So when it comes to God, far too often, we want to add God in the mix but want Him to adjust to what is comfortable to us. It’s not a lack of desire for God, but with such a crowded life, we don’t give Him room to move.

The challenge: Instead of adding God to the busy life, we start with Him and ADJUST to what his Holy Spirit is speaking and what His Word is confirming.

The word of the Lord to the widow: “Do not fear” (v. 13). She was being asked to give what little she had. She was being challenged to lay down her own needs for the sake of someone else. And on top of all of that, she saw no future for her or her son.

Yet her response was priceless.

1 – She took a step of faith trusting the word of the Lord. Faith isn’t always easy or convenient. But she took a step of faith by giving FIRST even in the face of her own personal needs. Her step of faith placed what she had in the hands of God for  Him to work a miracle.

We gave what we called the “giving equation.” And it’s simply this:

What’s in our hand [X] God’s hand = Divine opportunity

God doesn’t “add” to our giving; He multiplies it. Regardless of what we have in our hands (our time, talent, or our treasure), when we offer it to the Lord, He multiply it beyond what we can imagine.

2 – The widow didn’t add God onto what she was doing, she adjusted to what God was speaking. She stepped back from her plans and purposes in order to make room for the direction she was given. And because of that, God worked a miracle that provided for her family beyond anything she could expect or imagine.

Our ending question: What adjustment(s) do I need to make, to make room for my step of faith? What area(s) in my life do I, or should I, need to make in order give the Holy Spirit a greater opportunity to work a miracle.

This is our heart regarding launching our Kingdom Builders vision. We are willing to make adjustments in our serving and our finances in order to see God impact the community through Kfirst.

Want to be a Kingdom Builder with us? Start with the tithe. The tithe helps support the local church ministries and its missionaries impacting the world. Above the tithe is our offerings, we call it “Kingdom Builders.” And these monies enable us to extend the love of Jesus to the surrounding community.

If you’d like to give, click on the link below:

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Love you all. We’ll see you next week.

BTW: Here’s a song for your worship playlist:

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: #KB17 week 2 “Overflow”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

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Our current series is highlighting the shift in our giving in our Kfirst community. We continued the series with our focus upon Jesus “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke 6. (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

https://twitter.com/DawnHause/status/830799125000118273

Jesus taught us, out of this amazing sermon in Luke 6, one of the biggest keys to being a Kingdom Builder: Having a mind of a giver.  Giving is not just about money; giving is about mentality. And if we have a mind that understands what we’ve been blessed with by God, it makes us desire to be generous with everything.

We’ve got one of two choices. We can be a reservoir or a river.

  • A reservoir – Collects and goes nowhere.
  • A river – Receives from one body and flow into others.

Spend some time this week digesting Luke 6 line by line and watch how Jesus wants to develop the mind of giving in you. He will challenge you to:

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good to those who hate you.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Pray for those who abuse you.
  • Give beyond what people ask.
  • Don’t demand things back.
  • Give without reciprocation.
  • Show mercy to those who need it.
  • Don’t be stingy out of your judgements.

God wants to do more than fill us with His presence, He wants our lives overflow out of what he’s given us. That “overflow” is what God will use to build the Kingdom around you. And through “overflowing” lives:

  • Strangers become family when we give kindness.
  • Enemies become friends when we give forgiveness.
  • Takers become givers when we give possessions.
  • Hoarders become healers when we give financially.
  • Hurters become helpers when we give mercy.

Next steps:
  1. Live by design and not default. You were made in the image of God and, therefore, have been designed to be a giver. But out of our flesh, we seem to resort to a selfish default. Choose to be a giver.
  2. Giving hands facilitate Kingdom growth. The tighter you hold onto what you have, the less room you have to hold and give. The minute I open up my hand, I have opportunity to receive AND overflow.

Proverbs 11:24-26 The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.25 The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. 26 Curses on those who drive a hard bargain! Blessings on all who play fair and square!”

This week, let your world get larger and larger by having the mind of a giver. Look for opportunities to live as a reflection of Christ and be that giver in the places where God has placed you. Be a river…and let your life be the overflow of His generosity.

Love you all. We’ll see you next week as we continue week 3 of Kingdom Builders.

BTW: Here’s a song for your worship playlist:

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: #KB17 week 1 “Open Hands; Deep Heart”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

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Our new series is highlighting the shift in our giving in our Kfirst community. We kicked off this series with our focus upon Paul’s letter to the Philippians. (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church to both thank them for their generosity. Even when other churches backed away, this generous church stepped up and came to his aid. They knew that in supporting Paul, they’d impart into their current community and impact the known world around them.

The Philippians were KINGDOM BUILDERS.

What stirred this level of generosity? The more they gave, the deeper their hearts got. And we look our cue from this church in helping us to open our hearts and be Kingdom givers.

  1. Find contentment Christ.
    • The first step to getting ANYTHING in order is to put Jesus first. Paul discovered that priority. It helped him not to defined by what he gained or devastated by what he lost. He knew contentment is about your soul, not your stuff.
  2. Live in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
    • For every promise of God, there is corresponding acts of obedience. And when I step in obedience, I set blessings in motion that affect my life.
    • The Philippian church were candidates for the Philippians 4:19 promise because they were obedient in their giving. How do we give at Kfirst?
      • 1 – Our Tithes. 
        • These go to SUPPORT both Kfirst (local church) ministries and missionaries.
      • 2 – Kingdom Builders
        • Kingdom Builders EXPANDS missions by:
          • 1. Meeting needs in the community;
          • 2. Partnering w/ missional organizations
          • 3. Positioning Kingdom growth
  3. Trust God with what we have.
    • Regardless of what we have, we need to walk with a trust in God with it. Even when we see limitations, we should see them as in invitation for God to do the miraculous.

This week, what can you do to display the Kingdom of God in the sphere of influence that God has placed you? How can you engage in giving and generosity to the world around you?

Love you all. We’ll see you next Sunday as we continue our series, “Kingdom Builders.”

BTW: Here’s a song for your weekly playlist:

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: #MYCHURCH week 4 “Product Placement”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

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January is about “newness.” Whether we are talking about a new start, new life, new opportunities, or just new vision, a new year naturally directs our focus forward into endless possibilities.

And its every January where we celebrate the newness of what God has in store for Kfirst  community as we kickoff our annual #MYCHURCH series. (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

Yesterday, we looked ended our series with a message called, “Product Placement.” We, ourselves, have the amazing opportunity to be “product placement” in our communities of the Kingdom of God. People can, and should, see Christ in us, the hope of glory.

We spent our entire service in Colossians 1:21-29 as we answered 4 questions about Kfirst and gave simple answers:

  1. What are we doing? (v. 22-23, 28)
    • We proclaim Jesus. As much as there are a variety of ways to proclaim Christ, we believe the easiest way is to share your story.
  2. Why do we do it? (v. 28-29)
    • We love people. And our love is not based upon any conditions. God loves us with an unconditional love and we need to model that.
  3. How will we do it? (v. 23-24)
    • We (KFIRST) will work hard, rely on God, and stay humble in helping people become “steadfast and stable, not shifting” in their relationship with God. So we introduced two huge changes:
      • 1 – Discipleship Pillers
        • Prayer, Bible, Identity in Jesus, Stewardship
      • 2 – Kingdom Builders
        • We’re shifting the support for our missionaries to our general fund as we “tithe” off of it to missions. Then we’re starting a new offering fund called “Kingdom Builders” to help facilitate missional opportunities in our community.
  4. Who are we? (v. 21-23)
    • We are a church that is a part of The Church. And we walk as those reconciled, blameless, and above reproach so that others can see and experience the Kingdom of God.

This week, what can you do to display the Kingdom of God in the sphere of influence that God has placed you? Spend some time each morning asking the Holy Spirit to help you express that unconditional love to someone in your life.

Love you all. We’ll see you next Sunday as we kick off a new series, “Kingdom Builders.”

BTW: Here’s a song for your weekly playlist:

Pastor to Pastor: 4 Thoughts About Wearing Your Own Shoes

Pastoring is pressure.

In other news, water is wet and the Detroit Lions are disappointing.

There are a number of “pressure” statements that we as pastors hear. There are very few bigger pressure statements than this one:

“You have big shoes to fill.”

In almost 20 years of ministry, I’ve held 3 positions and I heard it in all of them (as I have followed some legendary youth pastors and lead pastors). In any interviews we’ve had, we were told that we could be ourselves. But through each ministry journey, we discovered the pressure of expectations that were connected to very loved pastors that preceded us. Even after 7 years of Lead Pastoring at Kfirst, people still refer to any one of the previous 3 Lead Pastors and say to me, “You have big shoes to fill.” Part of me doesn’t mind. I’m glad people appreciate my them. But early in ministry (and I’ll admit, early in this position) the added burden was stifling.

It was a previous associate pastor from our church who gave me a word that, to this day, am convinced was a direct word from the Lord. It took me a few years to comprehend it, but it was Brooks McElhenny, the brother of the pastor I followed, said to me,

“Be yourself.”

Two words that I’ve been hanging onto now for 7 years. They are two words I’ve wept over in my prayer closet after getting a nasty email or a cowardly unsigned note in my mailbox (side note: don’t EVER read unsigned notes…if someone don’t have the respect to sign the letter, the letter doesn’t get the respect of being read). They are two words that I have clung to when I am told that I’m not what people expected. Those two words have been the liberation I needed when I want to resort to imitating someone who seems to have more ministry “success” than I am having.

People connect so much success and moments to the monumental ministers in their lives. I believe we should honor them. We shouldn’t disregard their memories or their contribution to the Kingdom. But far too many present pastors are wearing the shoes of the previous pastor. Trying to live up to people’s legacies will cause you to live and die by people’s memories.

You feel you have to continue their story instead of the narrative God want’s to write.
You’ll live out their identity instead of allowing the Holy Spirit shape yours.
You’ll lose out on vision because you can’t get your eyes forward. You and the congregation keep looking back.
You can’t anticipate what God is doing next because you are trying to regain what He already did.

My word to you today: Wear your own shoes. When the previous pastor left, he wore his shoes.

Be yourself.

Being yourself doesn’t throw away what God has done. Put previous pastors in a place of honor not worship. Honor doesn’t mean shrines are built or displays are made. It doesn’t mean you must have them back at the church (though it’s not a bad idea, I’ve had Pastor Dalaba come back).  It’s how you speak of them. It is in the way you refer to them. We honor those we follow; We don’t worship them. All the glory and honor belongs to Christ and Him alone.

Being yourself  is a statement of stewardship not an excuse to never change. Be teachable and don’t stop growing. I love learning from both older and younger pastors. I want my life and ministry to continue to take shape.

Being yourself is a protection from trying to imitate others. Use other’s examples to sharpen you not so that you reflect them. God breathed into His Spirit into you to be an ambassador for Him not the preacher you idolize.

Being yourself is a guard against competition. Why? It makes you value the work of the Kingdom. And when you value the work of the Kingdom, it releases you to celebrate the work of the Kingdom in other churches. You’ll celebrate with other pastors instead of competing with them. 

I am not Pastor Pace. I am not Pastor Dalaba. I am not Pastor McElhenny. They left and so did their shoes. The shoes I wear, the role I play, and the pastor I am is who God made me and who God continuing to shape. 

Wear your own shoes. Be bold in being the minister God sent to your specific place. And when you are gone, take your shoes with you so that the next person can be themselves. 

I believe in you. I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

 

Kingdom of Generations: Notes From Today at Kfirst

Had a number of people as me if I’d share the thought from this morning from my journal:

Either I am part of making a church healthy or I am part of making a church sick…It’s my choice.

What would church look like if people outside of my generation made the same level of effort to connect with that I make?

1 – Every generation needs connection before criticism.

  • INITIATE relationship; CULTIVATE relationship
  • It is easier to be a tool of criticism than a vessel of correct behavior

2 – Every generation needs to listen before lecturing.

  • James 1:19: “slow to speak; quick to listen”

3 – Every generation needs your stories but not just your successes.

  • Have you ever shared your story? Have you ever shared your failures?

4 – Every generation needs to stray from preferences and stay on target.

  • Don’t separate yourself; Be willing to walk cross-generationally

Drawing from Rod Loy, Pastor of First Assembly North Little Rock: “David, so many of our churches struggle is we target the wrong thing. Be a church that targets the essentials”

Healthy Church slide

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinions – Probably only shared, in a healthy way, over coffee.

Traditions – Unique to our church.

Essentials – What is essential to a soul.

We need to stay on target…AND IT STARTS WITH Genesis 22:1  “Here am I”