Church-leaving and Church-planting

So here's what's going on in my life.

I'm the Associate Pastor at Union Presbyterian Church, working primarily with the youth ministry. But you already knew that (some of you, anyway). Last May our Senior Pastor resigned, leaving me as the only pastor on staff. It was challenging, but also a time of significant personal growth for me. While I didn't hold the title, "Head of Staff," I essentially served in that role. In that time, I grew in confidence in my ability and calling to serve a church as the lead pastor.

In August, I told our Session (our governing board) that I'd be willing to consider serving as UPC's Interim Pastor. The Session was in favor of it, but the Presbytery (the regional governing body) said they wouldn't approve that. They suggested it would be good for someone to come in from the outside to help the church work through some of its history and challenges.

And I can definitely see the value in that.

Add to all this the fact that our church is having a tough time financially and can now afford to keep only one pastor. Since I couldn't stay on as Interim Pastor, that meant that I would have to leave this church.

Well, at that point, it became clear that God was carving out a new path for me and my family. So, I started looking for a new position, looking primarily for Head of Staff positions.

In the past year, I've begun to develop an interest in church planting, so, in addition to seeking positions at established churches, I also submitted my resume to presbyteries that are starting new churches.

So, here's what has happened with all of that. I've been in touch with two churches over the past several months (one of them more seriously in the past couple weeks). One is a New Church Development (that's what us Presbyterians call a church plant); the other is an established congregation. Both have their pros and cons. Both will be challenging. Both, I believe, will be rewarding. Both--including the established church--are looking for someone with an interest in church planting.

And I'm waiting to see what happens--circling the destination, so to speak, waiting for my clearance to land. Except I'm not sure which one is my destination. Come to think of it, it's totally possible that neither of these is my destination. In any case, I'm waiting--waiting for God to say, "Go!" And when he does, I'll go.

At this moment, I'm lying on my bed in my hotel room in New York City with my laptop on top of my lap, watching Firewall on HBO (man, intense movie!). Tomorrow I walk down the street to attend The Launch Conference: Starting a New Church from Scratch. (The guys doing this conference have got some pretty good, practical podcasts on their site. Check them out here.)

I'm really looking forward to what I'll learn at this conference--regardless of whether I end up in a New Church Development or an established church. As a shrinking denomination, I believe the PC(USA) needs church planters. I believe it needs new churches and it needs renewed churches.

So, anyway, that's what's going on right now. I'll let you know how the conference goes.

Oh, yeah--one more thing. I just started reading Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. I've heard good things about this book. I've heard bad things. The flight attendant on my first leg today told me it was a great book. My friend, Ted, on the other hand, felt differently. Check out his thoughts here. In all honesty, I love it so far!


steve-o said...

First, I'm not a big Donald Miller guy. Everyone I know really clicks with his writing while I don't. That's not meant to disuade you from the Blue Like Jazz, I just thought I should admit it.

Second, I think it's crap that you wouldn't be approved to be the interim guy at your place. Why bring in a brand new guy totally unfamiliar with the church so that he can take two to three years before he knows what to do? I love my denominational brethern but sometimes I think they're ridiculous. That being said . . .

I'm excited at the possibility of you planting a church. I'll admit that it's the most difficult thing I've done ministry-wise, but it's also been the most fulfilling.

Regardless of what happens, you have the heart to go wherever God leads you. We'll be praying for you, Markus!

DGH said...

Man I wish I could be there with you...and you should know by now that I will expect a summary of the classes, etc...when you get back...lunch is on me and I will bring my notes from the Emergent landscape conference I went to on Saturday....and the notes I will bring back form the Organic Church Conference in San Diego this week end...take care and God bless ya!

P.s. I look forward to reading any notes you may have from this conference here too.... And I need to listen to the podcast that is the title of your blog...interesting, and I think i will totally agree with ya!

Markus Watson said...

Steve: Re: Blue Like Jazz, I'm probably not far enough into it to know what it is that bugs some people. So far, it's working for me... Re: the church thing, yeah, it's kind of a bummer how things worked out, but I kinda look at it as, "It is what it is." Sometimes God forces us forward... And finally, thanks for your prayers, bro.

D.G.: I'll do my best to take good notes!

Both of you (and all other Cincinnatians): We gotta get together again soon! B&N in Newport?

Russell Smith said...

B&N is a great idea!
Markus -- I'm jazzed about the opportunities for you.

As for Blue Like Jazz -- I've tried to pick it up twice, but I just can't get into it. Here's my beef -- Miller comes across as "cooler-than-thou" to me. Don't know if that helps or not.


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