An Honest Review, Ministry

It’s a good time to post a reminder about my blog disclaimer.

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other entity I may be affiliated with. Additionally, my thoughts and opinions may change from time to time. I consider this a consequence of having an open mind. This blog is intended to provide a channel for me to communicate and opinions represented may offer a snapshot of the various memes running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not be the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.

I post that because I know this one will offend someone out there. Not that it’s intended to however sometimes being honest in life just does that.  Jesus offended a lot of people. I could write page after page about this. church-hurt-finding-healing-sermon-series In 2015 Debbie and I got involved in The Foursquare church after pastoring and ministering for 16 years in the Southeast. This was a big change for us however one we knew God was calling us to. But more importantly, it was who we were. We found like-minded and like-hearted brothers and sisters in Christ in Foursquare. Our beliefs matched almost perfectly. The people we met and ministered alongside become family and we knew this was our tribe. We just fit! At the beginning of our journey, we even came to a crossroads with the choice to become a Senior Pastor for Church in CO in a different denomination or go with Foursquare and see where it takes us. We were told repeatedly if we go with Foursquare we would become lead pastors within a local Foursquare church, District leadership even had one in mind. Sadly, we learned that was not true and after some heartbreak, we focused on serving in different areas of Foursquare outside the local church. Even then we still felt it was where we belonged. We were happy to serve and excited to see what the Lord was doing within His Church. The planet shifted and we felt a move was upon us. We prayed and prayed and knew it was time for our next journey. We contacted the Southeast District of Foursquare, met with a few local Foursquare Pastors, and felt this was the right move for us. We knew there would be some challenges. One goes back to the Bible Belt where we spent years doing ministry before. Being born and raised in the Southeast I knew what we were getting ourselves into. However, we thought if we come back as part of Foursquare it would be different. Soon we found that to be wrong. Each Pastor we met with, we could hear hurt and pain. They each shared their journey into Foursquare and the history of their local churches. I am sure to most people they would have run off and never return. However, we didn’t if anything we knew we might be able to help. It’s part of who we were and what we were called to do in ministry. Help hurting Churches and Pastors. Sadly, we learned the hurt went deep. Much of the hurt these pastors face was created by their own hands. Most don’t want to change and don’t want help at all. On the surface they are begging for help however once you get there, they put walls up and hide. We learned very quickly; we didn’t fit in the southeast district. There is such a disconnect between churches and leadership here. One pastor I met said he never met the district supervisor and only knew 4 pastors in his area. Maybe we were just blessed to be part of such a thriving district with churches and pastors connecting together to do ministry together. A pastor in Orlando told me as long as the district staff stayed out of his church and business, he didn’t care to know the district leadership. Wow, I can’t even imagine not having that trust or support from district leadership in your church. Our District was always there no matter what. I have to wonder why such hatred here. The sad part is I heard more than one Pastor in this district that shares this feeling. Maybe it’s just a broken culture here or a sign of broken leadership from the top. We attended a few different churches, and we found that they were all the same. Small, inward-focused, and hurting with a heavy history. Sadly, we saw so much potential in each church we attended. One was right across the street from a large public community gathering place. I asked the Pastor why they don’t outreach there and was told it was too much work and time. They did it once and no one came to their church. I asked another Pastor in one of the bigger cities why they didn’t do any outreach in their community. I was told because they didn’t have a big enough parking and none of the leadership of the church lived close by so “didn’t have time”. Could it be that nothing has changed from the last time we lived in the Bible belt?? Isn’t it our mission to build relationships and meet the people where they are at? Why do Pastors feel success is how many people they bring in the doors of their buildings? Well, sadly “not reaching out” seems to be a shared theme within the Foursquare churches here in this state. Church after church they all seem to be inward-focused. Remembering back as being part of the Southern Baptist I am not sure there is much difference between the two here. I also find that some Pastors here feel threatened by other churches. One Foursquare Pastor told me I should be a shame that my daughter attended another church that was not His church. And I was not a true Pastor because I didn’t attend His church every time the doors were open. Wow! Flashback to the inward mindset. I get the image of a child crying on the floor because he is not allowed to play with his sister’s toys. Step back and we wonder why people leave the church. Thankfully I find my identity is in Christ not Foursquare nor these local church leaders. So where does that bring us today… Is Foursquare our tribe? No, It’s the people that make a tribe not an organization. Our tribe is not here. We are alone. After reaching out to the Southeast District leadership and repeatedly getting pushed off. We were told if we would like to stay part of Foursquare without being part of a Foursquare church we could pay more money every year and serve in a local church. The leadership of the Southeast District and the Pastors of the local Foursquare churches made it an easy decision for us to leave Foursquare. The overall organizational leadership has changed so much. It’s now run by a very liberal mindset, and everything now seems to be about money at least in the Southeast District where we live. We see the hurt these Pastors have, and we understand now. We pray for the Pastors in this District, and we pray for their leadership.
“It takes a free man to set a man free.”
These Pastors need help, need love, need support. They are broken, and they need Jesus more than ever. We do truly miss our friends, fellow Pastors, our home District, and our tribe. THIS IS NOT IT! As much as we have been told all Districts are the same it’s not true. All Foursquare Districts are not the same.  But there is Hope, there is Freedom and with Christ, they can get back to the foundation of the church which Aimee Semple McPherson built.
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In closing, the question comes where does that leave us in ministry? We are where God wants us for now. We attend a wonderful local church that is part of our beach community. We are not labeled by the organization we are or are not part of. We no longer hold a Foursquare active license. However, since 2006 I have been licensed and ordained and still hold that legally today, even before being part of Foursquare and hereafter. We are not sure where God will lead us in ministry over the next few years or how we will be able to serve. If we will ever return to full-time ministry or not. We do know whatever that may be it won’t be in a  traditional setting and inside the walls of a building. Ministry is Relationship and that’s what we want to be part of.  For now, we are happily resting in His arms and listening for his guidance. I personally have a few areas I am praying on and time will see what comes about.