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When I got home from a short-term mission trip to Africa, the board members of my church asked me to meet with them. They weren't throwing me a "Welcome Home" party. Instead, they were throwing me out of the church.

They made it clear that there was no moral failure on my part, nor did I lack competency or giftedness. It was an attitude issue. My dislike for the senior pastor's decisions were well known across the staff. My attitude was toxic, and a reason for me to leave. I'll admit that I didn't care very much for the senior pastor's leadership style.

I guess John Maxwell is right. Attitude really is everything.

Rough transition

In the months following my termination, I took my toxicity to the blogs, only worsening the relational oil spill. I see now that in the months following my firing I only proved what the pastor had been saying all along. I did have trouble with authority and an insistence upon doing things my way.

I dug my own grave. I'm reminded of a quote that my mom posted on the wall when I was kid. It read, "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt."

I'll be completely honest. The transition from the pulpit to the pew was rough, rough on my soul, rough on my ego, and rough on our finances. My salary package as a Pastor of Discipleship had been $78,000. At 29, I felt as if I had "made it" in ministry. I was preaching regularly at a church that was larger than average. My wife and I owned two homes in two different states. But all of those material things could never have prepared us for the season that would come to us next. In fact, looking back on my life now I think those things in my life made me just the opposite—comfortable and unprepared for the turmoil that was coming.

There are many things that I learned through walking in this "land between." Some of them were very practical. I learned them quickly. I learned that food stamps will pay for food but not for toiletries. I learned that you usually can't collect unemployment from a church in Pennsylvania. I also learned that you can typically miss three mortgage payments in a row before the bank starts threatening foreclosure. Some of the other lessons were more abstract, and have taken the last couple of years to learn.

For a year or two I didn't really want much to do with the church. I felt hurt and wounded by people that I had trusted and admired. If "they" were the ones representing the church, then I didn't want anything to do with it. Besides, showing up in church—even visiting other churches—was humiliating. It was only so long before the inevitable question would come up: "So what led you to visit us this morning?" The last thing I wanted to do was relive my painful experience over again on Sunday mornings. I felt like someone who is going through a divorce and opts out of going to their friend's wedding because they just can't deal with the pain.

Knowing the wounded

I've met people over the years who once went to church, were wounded by it, and now refuse to go back. I often wondered, "Why can't they just realize the church isn't perfect … why can't they just get over it and move on?" I know why now. I've found that there is no wound quite like being wounded by the church. And, if the church isn't more proactive at draining the wounds of those she's hurt, the infection will spread. Before you know it, you've lost a part of the Body.

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Posted: April 22, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 23 comments

Tre Reaume

May 13, 2013  9:11am

The author has no interest, I am sure, in viewing our replies to his documented struggle with self while serving in ministry. The only question that matters is, "Did the church address this attitude issue with him previous to letting him go?" I speak nothing against the leaders of the church he served at, but want to encourage all of us as congregants and as ministry leaders (paid or lay) to evaluate how we address sin within our circles in the Church. Namely, ministry leaders need to evaluate how we 1.address sin/character issues of those who are leading/serving and 2. what process we have in place to RESTORE those who have been disciplined because of those issues.

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May 11, 2013  8:19pm

Thanks for telling your story. I bet its tough to say all that out in front of everybody. I think a lot of people look at the church the way you mentioned, like it's a career path or a ladder to climb, instead of it being the way its talked about in the Bible with giving all you have for the sake of the cross. I bet with a salary like that it sure would feel successful and comfortable. Also I'm wondering how you are able to change your attitude and overcome the toxic attitude you mentioned?

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Nerina Smith

May 09, 2013  6:05am

Im a pastor, not in full time ministry, mostly ministering at women's conferences and not employed by a church. For that reason, I can prescribe myself as a pew member, but even as a pew member I had my cut of been been hurt by the church. In my case, because Im a woman and the leadership didnt liked the idea of a woman, trying to give advise and trying to be accepted as part of the leadership. These days, I rather sit in the pew and enjoy myself in my outreaches all over my country and abroad. Through this, I still carry out the command in Mat.28:19/20 and only have to give feedback to God and ask for His will in my life.

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May 08, 2013  11:50am

It's fairly gutsy to post this in the first place, and I doubt he wrote this so we strangers on the internet can help him process this life event. Rather, we can examine ourselves for similar pitfalls, and try to put ourselves in the shoes of those wounded by the church, or who're convinced the church doesn't think of them.

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May 07, 2013  10:34pm

As I read this it seems like your attitude was a big problem. Is it still? Have you come to realize that perhaps you were the big problem not the pastor. It seems their is a lot of "woe me". How has your wife's attitude been in all of this? Have the two of you grown together from this experience? Have you continued to ask God how your attitude toward the church, leaders, etc. has changed for positive? I agree with Todd I don't see how you were the victim.

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