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.
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.
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.
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)