I served 13 years in the local church as an Adult Director who oversaw over 200 small groups, with over 80% of our congregation attending groups, and a staff that was responsible for 80% of all the adult discipleship, outreach, and teaching outside of the pulpit. After I left the local church, I worked with a church plant that ended up being unsuccessful. That’s when, in 2008, I started my life as a missionary to the community. The transition was difficult for me but necessary as well. You can read about the transition and lessons I learned during that time in an article I wrote called “Tainted Faith: The Rise and Fall of A Pastor.”
The idea of a shepherd, or someone who ministers to others, is not reserved only for those who carry a title within a local church. Your leadership, understanding of faith, and ability to lead others does not come with title but with deed. You are not a pastor because someone called you one. You are a pastor because you have been called to be one.
This took me quite some time to understand and even believe in my own life. I could still be a minister without a building. Although, someday I hope to work in the local church again, my days working outside the church have proven fruitful. I have started several ministries working with youth, addicts, bikers, exotic dancers, and even come across a few drug dealers. I can assuredly say that I now associate and live amongst more hurting and lost individuals than I ever had when I was a pastor. I’d even argue that, if I would had been doing back then what I am doing today, my ministry would have looked so much different.
I’ve learned many lessons, one of which is found in 1st Timothy. It is in this passage where we get an understanding of what it means to be a good minister.
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:12
Although Paul writes this passage to Timothy, a young minister of the gospel, there is a command in here for each one of us, whether young or old, which promises to do nothing but increase your ministry. He instructs to conduct ourselves in love, faith, and purity! Not just in speech but in deed. And not only to those we lead but also those who love us and are close to us.
When I walked through the failure of my church plant, the people closest to me were the ones who caused the most harm. I watched my family struggle as they watched me struggle. They saw as I transitioned from being very solid in my faith to suffering greatly in my faith, from being a pastor with vision to a man who struggled with his identity, purpose, and mission. It might have been much easier on each of us if I hadn’t of failed at living out love, faith, and purity of spirit.
My recovery process began with humility. Which eventually led me to a process of relearning how to live out these areas in my life: being strong in my faith, loving those around me, and being pure in spirit. Those became building blocks of healing for me.
Now, God is teaching me several things. One of which is the importance of guiding my family, who had followed me during my dark days of transition, and leading them back to loving God with all their heart.
I must admit, this road is a humbling one. But if you allow yourself to learn from these moments, seek to remain faithful to the mission of God in your life, and ask Him to grow you through these difficult times, then as you come out on the other side, you will be healthier and more in love with God than ever before.