I still remember sitting in that office, waiting. I had a feeling that this was more than just some bad turbulence. There was something wrong. Warning lights and alarms were sounding in my head. Brace for impact.
My senior pastor, friend (complicated), and mentor said these words: "We're going forward, but you won't be coming with us." To top that horrible news, I was told that Jesus was a part of this decision.
How could that be? I was the pastor of a high school ministry that was cranking and full of life. Students were growing in Jesus, leaders were pumped to be there every week. What was he talking about?
Jesus, are you really a part of this?
I was waiting for an oxygen mask to drop from the ceiling. It didn't happen. My life, the life of my family and kids, would be altered that day, and I wouldn't see any good in it for years.
You imagine these moments and think you're going to fight for what's right, to tell them what's what. Instead, I folded, embracing the moment and eventually helping to pull the eject lever. It was a crazy mix of grace and pessimism. I sensed the hand of the Lord, and yet I vowed to "never, ever, don't even think about asking me" be a part of ministry again.
This wasn't the first (or the last) time I would hear someone tell me that my "church plane" was going down. Years earlier I muscled through the first crash as a colleague said: "You should try doing a job with computers or something, because you're not a very good pastor." That was my first job in a church. Gulp. Fast forward to yet another church and my third "Houston, we have a problem" moment when I was told I probably didn't have the chops to be a pastor and should maybe think of doing something else.
In all three of those instances, I wanted to quit being a pastor… forever. In fact, I said those very words.
The only problem for those 3 people who, in their infinite wisdom, had decided I shouldn't be a pastor? They weren't there. They didn't hear a call from Jesus to give the rest of my life to full-time ministry.
I did. I was only in high school, but I heard Him.
My conversation with Him didn't make it into the canon of Scripture, but it was my "Isaiah 6:8" moment and I said "yes" to Him. No matter how many people, for whatever reason, wanted me to quit - only Jesus could make that call.
I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit though. It's more than I can count. (I sure hope I'm not the only pastor who has said that out loud.) It's very real. What's more scary? It's usually people who drive you to the edge of that cliff. Their voices seem so loud and so true. Sometimes it can take years to undo those words.
I left that office. I left that amazing group of high school students and leaders. The plane went down.
Sitting, bruised and bleeding, in the empty field of confusion, hurt and uncertainty, the voices of doubt seemed to grow in number. My twisted, smoldering church plane - scattered in front of me - appeared to be the only truth available.
Well… now what?
His presence - close. His voice - inaudible, but resolute and true.
I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I have called you by name. You are mine. Follow me.
How do you make it through several ugly church crashes? How do you ignore the stupid, selfish doubts of others? How do you love a messy group of people who need Jesus as much as you do? How do you forgive? How do you pour out your life for the Gospel? How do you keep going back into the fray, when your flesh wants to run?
Just say, "Yes."