That day would be today.
No, that’s not news, I grant, but today is a day unlike any I’ve had in my life. Yesterday, I completed my time as pastor at Red Oak, an Evangelical Free Church. Today, I am opening shift manager at the Macland Crossing Chick-fil-A in Marietta, GA.
I’ve not been in this position, really, in my entire life. I went to seminary in order to prepare for vocational Christian ministry and, with the exception of a roughly-three-month stretch in 1986 while living in Colorado, this is what I’ve done for the past 25 years (even more, if you count a two-year internship at my home church in Roanoke). A review, for no particular purpose save to bring my friends up-to-date:
- I was Youth Ministries Intern at Shenandoah Baptist Church in Roanoke, 1983-1985.
- I was Minister of Youth in Pit of Darkness Baptist…err, Lighthouse Baptist Church in Pueblo, Colorado for a few months too long, 1985 (I should be more charitable; there were some wonderful people there, wonderful people, and some long-term good came of that experience).
- I was Minister of Youth for Gideon Baptist Church of Fountain, Colorado for a period of about 14 months, 1986-1987.
- I was Minister of Education and Youth at First Baptist Church, Bassett, VA, for two-and-a-half years, including a 14-month stretch as Interim Pastor, that lasted until the end of 1989.
- I was Pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, High Point, NC, from January 1990 through March 1993.
- I was the first Pastor of Fellowship Community Church (EFCA) of Mercer, PA, for thirteen-and-a-half mostly-wonderful years.
- I came to Red Oak, An Evangelical Free Church, in October, 2006 and finished yesterday.
The difference between my several-month hiatus in 1986 and what I’m doing now is that my intent was to find another youth pastorate as soon as possible in 1986, and God provided in rapid fashion. This time, I have no idea when—or if—I’ll pastor again. For the first time in my entire life, I’ll begin searching for a home church that won’t be paying me a dime. We are committed to two years minimum at Chick-fil-A, and two will likely equal at least three, given that Practically Perfect Daughter has just finished her ninth-grade year, and moving during or just before her senior year would be, well, a bummer. Of course, by that time, I’ll be 52 years old, and while the somewhat prevalent contemporary viewpoint that a pastor of that age is “past his prime”, as we ever pursue youth, is a deplorable and foolhardy trend, that and three years absence from pastoral ministry are likely to serve to diminish my prospects further.
God’s in control. I’m not leaving the ministry; I’m leaving (for 2-3 years) the paid pastorate. As a Christian, I will leave the ministry when God sees fit to give me my promotion; otherwise, being in ministry is an occupational hazard for every child of God, and only a foolhardy and unbiblical cleavage between the “clergy” and the “laity” accounts for that nonsense.
Now, it’s certainly a fair question to ask how I will employ my main spiritual gift: teaching. The answer to that remains to be seen. I might eventually seek an interim pastorate. I must ramp up my Walk Thru the Bible ministry (I’m excited about doing that!). There’s a cutting-edge ministry opp that I’m talking about with a friend (gotta get this CFA manager thing down well first, though). We’ll have to see. For now, taking a few months off from sermon prep, getting my family into a church where people see me as a regular guy instead of as “the pastor” (and that’s no swipe at Red Oak, FCC, or anybody; it’s just what it is, of course. I’ve got no complaints; none. Had a great last Sunday yesterday!).
And so began today, the first day of the rest of my life. I’m looking forward to the ride…