The beginning of the end of my life as a pastor came shortly after June of 2009. I was serving as an assistant pastor in a church full of people I love dearly to this day. However, I was about to see behind a large dark curtain. The charismatic lead pastor was the most narcissistic person I had ever met up until that point in my life. He was dishonest, manipulative, and had turned over his staff 5 times in 6 years. After witnessing lies to the congregation and personal friends I was planning my exit. I had planned to do so quietly, but prominent board members wanted to know why. And so I clearly spelled it out for them. And it turned out, I would be one of many who had done so throughout the years. So things changed right?
When I watched the board of directors (elders) allow him to continue to lead after knowing he had been dishonest and manipulative it made me ask, “Do we go to church or a club?” A church is carefully structured based on biblical principles and teachings. There are very clear and strict guidelines for who is deemed worthy to serve as a leader of the congregation. And I can assure you that being manipulative, dishonest, and abusive of staff is frowned upon by the good Lord of the Bible. A club is a place where people show up to simply be served, and have a good time. Had I been naïve? Was I missing something? Was I the problem?
I came to the conclusion (maybe not a correct one but it was my conclusion) that a significant number of people don’t care or even know if the church is biblically structured. And they easily wave off the pastors immorality, because he has been there for them at a time when they needed him.
My highly offensive point is this, as long as people are getting what they want from the leader and the church then they let a lot of things slide. And what they do want is great music, an awesome place for their kids to hangout, a message that encourages them, a place to see their friends, and someone to marry and bury them.
In more and more churches across America the lead pastor isn’t really a “pastor.” He sure as hell isn’t a shepherd tending to and loving on the flock. He is a personality. A motivational speaker who occasionally uses scripture to make a point. Yes, he or she is both entrepreneur and entertainer. Much like lets say, a radio personality?
Over time I would completely turn away from God, the Bible, and the church. I wasn’t angry. It wasn’t because of the pastor of disaster. I just didn’t believe in any of it anymore. I figured if I was going to be an entertainer or CEO of Jesus Inc. then I might as well be on the radio. So I shut the door on God, the church, and scripture. And that didn’t work for me.
After three years I missed Jesus. I missed feeling connected to an energy I describe as God. I found myself in a dark place, and didn’t know how to escape. I felt like I had been duped, and all that I held sacred was actually a scam. God, the Bible and the Church had been my life, and now I didn’t believe in any of it. I had never felt so alone.
I don’t know exactly when it occurred, but one day The Light came on. I realized two things: One, maybe the pastor of disaster’s disciples were on to something. Maybe the church should just be a club of sorts. An all inclusive club sounded good. Two, I had made a horrible mistake. A mistake that maybe many of you reading this have made. I had allowed the fundamentalist to highjack Jesus, God, and scripture. I had bought into their arrogance that they had it all figured out. In fact, we’ve all heard them say that they…they know the only way for you and I to get connected to God. And how sad it is that because of them…millions of people have been lead to believe that God is only for the chosen frozen.
Lastly, my experience in 2009 taught me to look at my own issues. My own levels of narcissism, and to dive deep into what I had said I believed most of my life. It was in the darkness that I would eventually be enlightened. And the new message in my heart is to introduce you to a new way of thinking about God, the bible, and da club. I’ll explain what I mean in the next blog post, “Jesus, Women, & The Gays.”