Immediately after leaving the meeting with our youth pastor, I sat in my car to call my mentor, who also happened to be the former women’s ministry leader at the church. I had spent the past five months meeting with her weekly as a requisite for seminary. (She also knew about everything I was doing with the kids and had been nothing but supportive and encouraging.)
For the life of me, I couldn’t fathom why the elders would have a problem with what I was doing with these kids. I thought my mentor could offer insight, and maybe some perspective. But, like me, she was flabbergasted. She suggested going to the lead pastor to talk things over, but I was reluctant for several reasons. First, I didn’t want to be one of “those people.” You know who they are… the ones who run to the pastor at the first sign of trouble. There is a biblical prescriptive for handling conflict and I was determined to walk that out. Second, I was convinced this was a matter of miscommunication. For several reasons.
You see, a few weeks prior to all this, I actually had a meeting with our lead pastor about ministry. Every once in a while, I needed to sit down with him to check in for seminary. I actually enjoyed these conversations. (That’s a nice way of saying we geek out over theology.) During this particular conversation, we talked about the possibility of me taking a job with an organization like The Navigators. After hanging up with my mentor, I remembered that conversation.
My pastor was pushing back against me working for an organization like The Navigators because it would be easy. (I would LOVE to see him have that conversation with anyone who actually works for the organization. I’m pretty sure EASY isn’t a word they’d use.) But, his argument centered on an interesting precept. Organizations like, The Navigators, have a uniform prescription for discipleship. They have a specific way of doing things, and for the purpose of consistency, you don’t really deviate from major tenants of instruction. In short, if you don’t agree with their methodology, you wouldn’t work with them. His point: You don’t have that luxury in the church.
According to my pastor, if you have a divergent philosophy from other’s in the church (again, not about the foundational tenants of the Christian faith), you don’t have the luxury of finding a “better fit.” (Obviously, someone needs to tell that to practically everyone else in the American Church.) It’s a beautiful idea though… isn’t it? A church made up of people who believe in Jesus, but the similarities might end there. Different worship styles, different discipleship techniques, different priorities in ministry…. a place where everyone is welcome to the table. If that was true, then why was I being told that I might need to find a new church?
As Jamie and I talked this through, and as we sought the counsel of others who were privy to the situation, we all believed this was a matter of bad communication. There really couldn’t be another explanation. (But, unfortunately, there was.) We agreed that three weeks away from the normalcy of life would allow us perspective and give everyone involved time to cool down. It can also give you time to push into the Word… and get all kinds of riled up. But, we fought for peace and against the inclination to jump to assumptions.
But, given what we were about to walk into… we should have stuck with the assumptions.