I remember the days, weeks and months leading up to our first service and “launch.” We checked, double-checked and triple-checked to make sure we had thought of everything. The day came and we had 164 people show up. I was excited, energized and confident that this just might work when I went to bed that night. But when I woke up in the morning, I realized I didn’t have weeks and months until we did it all again….I had days. And I didn’t just have a small group anymore, I had a crowd and everybody needed something! Once things get going, you might think it gets easier and to some degree it does, but it also gets harder in other areas because there are things you start to experience that you never have before….
I’ve learned that disagreement is healthy and necessary
Early on, people came because they believed in what we were doing, they were on board with an idea of a new church. Once we started though, people who’d held back, hoping maybe things would look different then what I’d been talking about for months realized that things were just like I said they would be – but now they don’t know if they agree with our approach or like it. People who came and “tried out” our church (you get a lot of those) wonder why we don’t have a choir or if we’re going to ever do Sunday School? People who stay start to feel uncomfortable with the “kind” of people we’re attracting or don’t like how it doesn’t “feel small” anymore. On and on the list goes. People disagree with our approach, my leadership, our hires, our location, our direction, how we do this, why we did that. And I’m OK with all of that. I want to hear when people disagree with something and I want to hear why. What I don’t want to hear is that somebody has been talking to everybody BUT me or whomever the appropriate people are. Disagreement isn’t a bad thing, but it can be if it’s a secret thing. Trust me, I’ve had tons of conversations with people who think differently than me and who would do things differently than me – we disagree, and yet we’re still friends.
It’s hard when people leave
Anyone who tells you otherwise is just plain stupid. When you’re a pastor, it’s not just your job to care for people (if it is just a job, quit now, please) instead, it’s your life. I sincerely care about husbands and wives, marriages, families, kids, financial struggles, uncertain health and people’s spiritual relationship with Christ. So when someone decides that “Discovery isn’t for me/us” – that hurts. Right or wrong, it can cause me to feel like a failure and like I let them down somehow. And then there’s the question of how you’re supposed to act when you see them around town? I don’t have a problem with this, but my wife and kids do. Not too long ago we ran into someone who left and when my wife took the risk to go say hi and just be friendly, she got the cold shoulder! My kids “lose” friends because their parents decide that it’s time to go somewhere else for one reason or another. When you’re part of our church, I look at you like part of our family. While there are some people in my family I’m glad I don’t have to spend much time with, the majority of the time, it’s hard when people leave. So, do me a favor, if you do leave….leave well. Talk to the pastor (or whomever) and tell them why you’re leaving (a simple conversation might clear up a bubbling misunderstanding). Make the commitment to be honorable – when you see people, greet them, smile, be cordial, and don’t drag others into your personal struggles. Nobody has ever told me they’ve left for doctrinal reasons….it’s always personal. And that’s why it hurts.
You’ve got to be committed to the long term
People come and people go, but when you’re committed to the long term, you might find that people will come back again. It’s funny, but sometimes the same people that leave come back. I’m committed to what we’re doing and I’m committed to Greenville. NC. In fact, when I pull into my driveway, I can picture myself doing the same thing 20 years from now and having my kids and grandkids visiting this same house. I’m committed to the long term. I may be cheating a little, because I started learning this when I was a student pastor. I learned it when I’d get calls, emails or letters from students years later. When I’d get asked to do weddings. When I’d be one of the first to know they were getting married or were gonna have a baby. They’d call me when they were in trouble and didn’t know what to do. When I thought about why, it was because they knew I cared, that I’d be honest with them, and that I’d do whatever I could. I hope we’re creating that kind of church at Discovery. One thing I know for sure is, I’m committed to being that kind of pastor long term. And I’m convinced the results are coming…