The first year of the plant was fun. It looks weird seeing those words together, but it really was. People were meeting Jesus. I was free from the pressures to conform to the stale and controlling church system that I had left. Preaching on Sundays was more worship than the transfer of information. For the first time in my life I really enjoyed church. By the end of the second year the fun was gone.
Crash and burn
I think I had a good ecclesiology from 50K feet. I had a grid for what church could be and should be, but I had no idea what to do with it. I realized, almost too late, that some of the guys I called pastors were barely good members. The result was that I touched the ball on every play. My cell phone was the church line. My day off was sermon prep (read-cramming for Sunday). I was still driven by the idol of performance and the acceptance of others. Saying no felt like a sin because I was worshiping the false god of acceptance.
The result was exhaustion. I was tired but couldn’t sleep. I started hating my leaders many of whom were the kinds of people pastors would give an arm for. I developed severe TMJ. Each morning my jaw would crack like a snapping baseball bat at a Power Team rally. I couldn’t get through a counseling appointment with out seeing double and feeling like my eyes were about to explode. My recurring daydream was about being a brewer in a cabin in the mountains surrounded by more guns and beer than people. I was heading down the road of being another ministry statistic.
Out of darkness
God brought me two answers to the prayers I wasn’t smart enough to pray. The first was a series of teaching by Mark Driscoll on burnout. I was reminded of my priorities to be a Christian first, a husband second, a dad third, and a pastor fourth. He reminded me that God really is sovereign, Jesus is the senior pastor of His church, and I am not in control. I started to repent of the underlying idols of performance and people pleasing that were driving me with the whips of busyness. I changed my cell phone number. “No” was reintroduced into my vocabulary along with “I can’t”, “I won’t”, “never” and “you’re fired”. Vacation became an act of faith and worship. I rediscovered the joy of time alone with Jesus and my family.
I also met a godly older man named Charles who had been a Vineyard church planter. Charles taught me how to rest in the love of God in my prayer life instead of the “it’s all up to me” approach to prayer that left me tired and depleted. A standing appointment to meet with Jesus in silence, study, and solitude was added to my schedule. My family day became the highlight of my week. The people in my church can come and go but I want a relationship with my wife and kids till I die. I really like being a pastor now. Its hard work, but its fun hard work.