Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 2)

I told you yesterday that I would be vulnerable as I explored the question of intimate relationships in ministry. Today I will give you a snapshot of my story so that you have a point of reference as we explore the sometimes unclear ideas as to the best way to deal with these relationships, later in the week. My personal journey in planting The Well is a somewhat convoluted story so I’ll leave out much of the detail and focus on the parts that I think might be helpful for this post. Keep in mind that the subject at hand is the value or otherwise of building intimate relationships with people that you pastor. I moved to Orlando from Colorado Springs with a team of close to 50 people in November 2005. I had spent the entire year building a team. We met in my home once a week for months and I would teach on leadership, cast vision and simply motivate and encourage the team to dream big. We bonded and became a ‘family’ and I enjoyed watching the intimate relationships form between people who shared a common vision, yet were from such different streams and had never even met each other before they became part of the team.

We had a ton of money in the bank that I had raised towards a huge launch, accompanied by a ‘feverish’ sense of excitement at the prospects of what this church would look like. We had prayed, fasted, received all the requisite “words” from the Lord, and launched out with a goal of having 1000 people on launch Sunday. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 375 people! I’m ashamed to tell you that I was gutted! My team sensed this and so they were gutted too. Oblivious to the fact at the time, I had bred a sense of entitlement in the team, and rather than see each individual as a gift from God that we were called to love and serve, we focused squarely on what we had done wrong, and on what we needed to do to get the rest of the 625 or so people through the doors. A series of completely unrelated events outside of my control prompted a mass exodus about 11 months into our launch. I began receiving letters and e-mails discrediting my calling, encouraging me to step away from ministry and stop ‘bilking’ people. I had “Dear John” letters telling me “it’s not you it’s me.” I even had false allegations leveled against me regarding some of the most dubious things you can think of, which don’t bear repeating here. I wanted to defend myself so badly, but I was counseled to let God do the defending. I never said a word! To those that were gracious enough to meet with me to inform me of their “call” to move on, I expressed appreciation for the time they had committed to serve at The Well. When the dust cleared we had about 20 people left who called me their pastor. I felt so wounded and angry. I spent many nights curled into the fetal position weeping like a baby.

Some of the people who had left had been dear friends. Some of them had traveled the globe with me doing ministry, over many years. Still others I had discipled, mentored and walked through some of the most harrowing and difficult experiences of their lives. I had prayed and fasted for them all. I had loved and served their families unconditionally, but now I was their sworn enemy. I was the source of their pain, I was the reason God had “released” them from being at The Well. I couldn’t process all this through my tears and hurt and I would sometimes just re-read some of the letters and e-mails trying to see if I’d missed something. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this process wasn’t about them at all. It was about me! How I responded to this situation would determine what The Well would look like, or indeed if there would even be a Well. I realize this is a lengthy post but I wanted to get this out of the way so that we can concentrate on the intimate relationships with this as a backdrop. See you tomorrow.


Hope Clark said...

I'm so glad you were able to share this... :)

Joseph said...

Hope, it was a major hurdle for me to finally get to the place where I was willing (and able) to share this. It is truly liberating!