Tuesday, April 08, 2014

aka (former) pastor guy

I started writing this blog on April 1st, 2005... and from the beginning the "tagline" at the top of this blog has read:

Everything including the kitchen sink... but with special attention paid to board games, Jesus Christ, my family, being a "professional" (and I use that word loosely) Christian, and the random firing of the 10% of the synapses I'm currently using.
 
As of January 2013, one element of that changed: I resigned my position as pastor of NewLife Community Church and stopped - at least for the foreseeable future - being a "professional" (and I'm still using that word loosely) Christian.
 
It's been a tough and not altogether welcome transition. The vast majority of my training, experience & expertise are in teaching, preaching & leading Southern Baptist churches: 13 years as a youth pastor and nearly 15 years as a lead pastor.
 
Yes, I've worked other jobs (warehouse, fulfillment, call center... and most recently computer tech support & software documentation) - but they've always been "way station" jobs. They've been money for rent & food while we wait for the next church to call me.
 
This was and is different.
 
The Question(s)
 
I know that whenever someone dropped out of ministry (yes, "dropped out" - it sounds like they left college, bought a beat-up VW Van and started driving around the country trying to get in touch with their inner child), I wanted to know the answer to one question: "Why?"
 
Well, two questions, actually:
  • "Why did you leave your church?"
  • "Why did you leave ministry?"
Sometimes I wanted to know so I could pray for them... but chances are pretty good that I wanted to know so I could either
 
(a) avoid the trap they'd fallen into, or
(b) pat myself on the back that I hadn't done the same thing.
 
It's a short (and dangerous) trip from "Man, I bet he's hurting" to "Well, that's what you get when you're not as spiritually/emotionally solid as people like me". Pride is a pandemic & no one is immune.
 
The Answer(s)
 
So, as I answer (sort of) those questions, I encourage you to pray not only for me & my family, but for your pastor/ministry staff as well.
 
Question the First
Why did you leave NewLife?
 
Honestly, that's really a question better answered one-on-one rather than in the context of a blog post. That doesn't mean it's a bad question - it's just not one I'm going to answer in detail here.
 
I wrote a post earlier this year about some writing from Jen Hatmaker that encapsulated what I was feeling that may gave you more insight - it's entitled Kenny Rogers, Toffee & a Hatmaker.
 
What I will say is that I chose to resign without a specific place of ministry to move to, there was no moral issues involved, it was a long & heartbreaking process to reach the decision... and that I miss pastoring NewLife Community Church.
 
Question the Second
Why did you leave "the ministry"?
 
The answer to this "why?" is not a simple one. First & foremost, it's the result of a great deal of prayer & wise counsel. Multiple folks from various parts of our lives encouraged both Shari & I to rest and heal.
 
We had the privilege of attending a Ministering to Ministers Healthy Transitions retreat in July 2013 and once again had our decision to step away affirmed by people who had a great deal of experience with ministers & forced termination. (Forced termination, by the way, can cover everything from being outright fired by a church to simply choosing to resign due to negative pressures & abuse.)
 
In addition, Shari & I had to choose what was best for the two of us and for our boys. Our first responsibility is to be spiritually & emotionally healthy parents to Braeden & Collin - and, at this point in our lives, that is most likely if we are not subject to the unique pressures & stresses of congregational ministry. 
 
What's Next?
 
I don't know.
 
Well, that's not entirely true. My 2 month temporary employment (my mouthful of a job title was "Legislative Aide to the Windows7 / Office 2010 Upgrade Project") extended out to 8 months... and this last week, I moved from the Legislative to the Executive branch to become the Deputy Executive Director of Assessment Logistics at the TN Department of Education. I'm overwhelmed (but in a good way) by the job... it's a great opportunity and a big challenge, all rolled into one.
 
We've found a fantastic church - and, in a move that will make our friends from the church @ hickory hollow days laugh, are a part of the set-up/tear-down team. Braeden's in the youth group (yes, I'm officially old) and we've beginning to find a small group fit.
 
What I don't know is what's next as far as vocational ministry goes. I keep praying... and wondering. And then some more praying. It would be great if you joined me in the whole prayer thing.
 
So, "aka pastor guy"?
 
I've struggled a bit with changing the name of this blog - since I'm not actually a "pastor guy" anymore. I've come up with two possible choices:
  • aka (former) pastor guy
  • the artist formerly known as aka pastor guy
But after some extended thought & prayer, I think I'm going to leave it. Whether or not I'm financially compensated for the work of being a pastor, I still have a calling to speak and live the truth of the gospel of grace and the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether I'm a civil servant working with testing data or a gamer trying to roll all sixes when my forces attack Kamchatka, I'm still Mark Jackson, aka pastor guy.
The ultimate aim of the Christian minister is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and a genuine faith. (1 Timothy 1:5, Phillips)

9 comments:

firestoneiv said...

You've pastored to me, even in the midst of your own transition and uncertainty. It fits.

~Scott Firestone

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Scott:

Thank you, my friend... you have done the same.

Tim Walker said...

Paul did not quit being an apostle and a missionary just because he was under house arrest in Rome. I think that you are what God called you to be, "the pastor guy" and that stays true whatever you do as a living. Circumstances may determine where we serve but God but they can't keep us from serving God. And you, dear friend, are in God's hands today and always!

ToastedWoobie said...

Transitions, especially those giant ones, are great and scary and exciting and amazing and terrifying and everything else.

When I finally left newspapers after a few years of pulling my hair out and convincing myself I could fix things from the inside out I almost lost focus of who I was. I'd set out to save the world and it felt like the world just didn't want saving.

But then if we're lucky we're surrounded by people who care and we get to refocus on what's important to us (family, health, faith, gaming, whatever).

A couple of weeks ago Scott and I hunkered down to clean the house and finally donate books to the library. As I cleared off several shelves of journalism related books, I was a bit sad at that stage of my life being behind me. But what I'm in now is amazing and where I'm headed should be pretty awesome (I hope).

Sounds like you're life is leveling out into something great as well. And with that amazing family of yours, I hope it only continues to be awesome.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Tim: "Circumstances may determine where we serve but God but they can't keep us from serving God."

Well said, my friend... thank you.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

ToastedWoobie... thanks for your story & your encouragement.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

BTW, just figured out that ToastedWoobie is one of the Head Squirrels (of the Crazy variety)... so appreciate your friendship and offers of help as all of this went down.

Bill Beukers said...

Mark,
Let me start by saying...
"authentic expression suits you best!"
That could be in a "professional" church setting or in a "professional" business setting. Either way, you are and will always be a pastor.
It is not a title or a position, it is how God wrought you.
In the depths of who you are, God established and designed you to minister the gospel.
In this time of stepping outside of "professional" ministry, I believe you and Shari will find it exhilarating and exciting to minister in ways that you were confined to before, as a "professional" Baptist (said with a bit of sarcasm) pastor... Not that I have issues with Baptist... Its just that denominations tend to put "professional" ministers into a box.
Bill and I used to say, "Mark and Shari and totally closet Remnant, zealous believers!" We saw the chains of expectations on you and it was heartbreaking! Just like the vision God gave that first time we met you...
You spent so much time trying to fix the cracks in the dam, but really God wanted to break the dam and le the Holy Spirit run freely.
You and Shari both will grow and heal and change and blossom in this time of rest. Shari is such an amazing woman of God and you have the heart of Frodo (from Lord of the Rings). Determined to defeat the enemy, even if it means losing your identity, you life and/or your comfort.
This is what Bill and I loved about the two of you.
This is what we saw in you when we met you at New Life and prayed with and for you...
Perhaps you can look at this time as the time when Frodo went with the Elves... hee hee... a time of rest and refreshing...
Yes that is the word I am hearing from the Lord for you...
"May you be refreshed in the Living Water of His mercy. May your heart be overflowing with a spring of cool water that brings life to those who are dying in the wilderness. May your home be a place of refuge for your own family and for all who wander. You and Shari are being rooted and grounded in the reality of grace and love and He is teaching you how to draw from the well of his goodness, so that you can and will always be refreshed in His glory!"

Love you all and miss you something fierce!!!
The Beukers

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Bill & Teresa... we miss you guys as well. Thank you for the incredible encouragement, both in response to this post and in our last few months in Fresno. You were and are a godsend - literally and figuratively!