My Big Demotion
"Who aspires to be demoted?!" My friend asked, only half-joking.
He wasn't the only one wondering why I, a lead pastor, wished to return to my previous role as a pastor of discipleship. Even more unusual, I wanted to be "demoted" but remain at my church.
To understand this seemingly strange desire, you have to know a little more about my journey. I began serving at my current church as pastor of discipleship in 2006, just shy of the church's third birthday. Less than a year later, when the founding senior pastor resigned abruptly, I was thrust into the role of solo lead pastor, one I filled for six years.
It's not that I couldn't hack it. My preaching was well-received, and the church grew under my leadership. But the new role left me feeling uneasy. And I couldn't shake the unrest no matter how well I seemed to be doing.
I tried everything I knew to make the shoe fit. I surrounded myself with capable advisors, and carefully cultivated relationships with pastoral peers and mentors. I was coached and counseled. I read widely. But through the years, I knew deep down that I simply was not thriving in the lead role.
Preaching weekly was taking a high toll. Whereas other preachers spoke of how they "couldn't wait" to preach, I mostly couldn't wait till noon on Sunday! Preaching wasn't a joyless task for me, but it did involve dread and anxiety. I was honored to preach, but the weekly uphill battle exhausted me.
Leading solo was stressful, and I longed to be part of a team (without the unique pressures of being the top dog). Though we were a relatively healthy, growing church, I knew that my innate lack of decisiveness and strategic thinking were hindering our progress organizationally and exhausting me personally.
I'd proven that I could do the job, but this didn't mean that I should do so indefinitely. I was able to serve "for such a time as this," but I knew that being competent isn't the same as being called to a particular role over the long haul.
I was growing to embrace who I actually am: a pastor who cares for souls and equips people to do ministry—but not one who thrives in a solo lead role.
I'd had too many family dinners where I was physically present but mentally absent, preoccupied with the church. I have four kids under 10 years old. I didn't want to miss another day of these irreplaceable years.
Instead of being so consumed with Sundays, I wanted to turn my attention to making disciples between Sundays. Eventually I came to feel called away from the lead role back to my original role as pastor of discipleship.
The dam breaks
But it wasn't until last April that I knew what to do. In an intense two-day period, I had four crucial conversations: with a couple in our church, my mentor, an old acquaintance, and my wife.
On the first day, a couple carefully expressed serious concerns about my leadership and the direction of the church. This was a good but difficult conversation.