Have you seen The Wizard of Oz? I’m talking about the old one, the one they used to show once a year on the one of six TV channels one could get and we all watched. At the risk of spoiling it for some, Dorothy is trapped in Oz and these magical ruby slippers are stuck on her feet. She’s stuck in Oz and goes on a quest to find someone who can help her get home. At the end of her adventures, she learns that the ruby slippers have the power to get her home. She’s had the answer all along, hidden right in front of her. Well, underneath her. On the journey she learns some things she would not have otherwise learned. Interestingly enough, she was walking in the power and didn’t even know it.
In his most recent book, The Seed and the Cloud1, Paul Gibbs wrote,
Sometimes God doesn’t hide things from us. He hides things for us.
I think I’ve found something that has been hidden for me by God until right now. It’s something I could not have known 20+ years ago when this journey began, but it is oh-so-obvious now. It’s something that I could not have otherwise learned, and It was hidden in hindsight. Ready? Here it is.
I am not a pastor, but I am a teacher. Lemme â€˜splain.
During my Freshman year at the University of Washington, I attended a “Signs of the Times” Bible conference at Calvary Fellowship in Seattle. At the time I was studying to become a high school music teacher and taking improv theater classes on the side. Without getting bogged down in doctrinal stuff of the end times, God spoke to me at this conference. It wasn’t so much through the content or theology being taught, it was a work of the Holy Spirit. Through relatively boring old white dudes, God told me, “I don’t want you to teach music, I want you to teach my word.”
God’s word came alive to me and, more importantly, in me. I experienced God through learning and seeing how the Bible is one book with One author, and I wanted others to experience this. I wanted to be a Bible teacher. I believe that being a Bible teacher, a trainer, and a discipler, are the primary ways in which God designed me to build His Kingdom.
This is where my path could have gone two possible directions; the one it did take, and the one it possibly should have taken.
The path it did take
Assumption: to be a Bible teacher, what does one have to do? One has to become a pastor. After all, they teach the Bible all the time. While this isn’t an incorrect assumption, it is an incomplete one. Here is the short version of the path.
- Two years and an Associates Degree in Theology from Calvary Chapel Bible College, 1995.
- Youth Ministry Intern at Crossroads Community Church, 1995-1996. Discipled an amazing group of young men, wrote a Bible study guide that they still talk about to this day.
- Youth Pastor, Barton Community Baptist Church, because being a youth pastor, as we all know, is a stepping stone to “the big chair”. Not.
- Hired and then un-hired by another church as the youth pastor before I even started.
- Volunteer youth pastor at Calvary Chapel Portland, OR, 2001-ish
- Ministry burn-out, frustration, not walking in my calling.
- Some time not in church ministry, Pittsburgh, PA, 2002-2005. Told I was a great Bible teacher when I had the chance to teach.
- Senior Pastor, New Life Fellowship, Aberdeen, SD. 2006. Bad fit, but frequently told I was great Bible teacher.
- Associate Pastor, Toutle Christian Fellowship, 2006-2007, also worked on planting a church. Kids frequently told me I was a great teacher.
- Senior Pastor, The Exchange Church, Forest Grove, OR, 2007-2014. Frequently told I was a great teacher, people said that they learned and grew with me.
- Pastor of Groups and Young Adults, Crossroads Community Church, 2015-2016. Frequently told I was a great teacher and trainer.
- Today: Freelance IT consultant, driver for Ãœber and Lyft, freelance Bible teacher and blogger.
The pattern in all of this is that not once (or perhaps rarely) was I ever told that I was a good pastor in the smaller church environments. I can’t remember where I read this, but someone who studies churches and church growth said that in order to be growing and healthy, small churches (less than 150) need a lead pastor who is primarily about relationships and less about systems and structures, while larger churches need a pastor who is primarily about systems and structures and less about relationships. Having served in both I completely agree with that assessment.
As one who pegs the introvert meter, I don’t want or need many relationships. It’s not because I’m shy or don’t know how to interact with people. For me that is life-draining. I need a few solid relationships. Everything else is just work. This is why I sucked as a small church pastor and ministry pastor.
The path I should have taken
I am, however, very strong and very good at systems and structures that enable people to grow and be equipped in the Lord. All I really wanted to do way back at the beginning of all of this was
- to teach people,
- to help them connect the dots in scripture,
- to learn how to hear from the Holy Spirit for themselves,
- to invite and challenge them to go deeper with Jesus,
- to create materials, and one day even a school of sorts to systematically equip them in their gifts and strengths to be used to be kingdom builders.
What might that have looked like? I have no idea, because there is no job title for that. People who do that have built their organization from the ground up while working other “tent making” jobs to pay the bills. And now we come full circle because this is exactly where I find myself.
Saving the specifics for another post, I think I have a plan. I’ve learned, hopefully, from what has been hidden in hindsight, and the process of getting from there to here. I think God has hidden this for me, so that, perhaps, I can be more effective starting now as a Kingdom builder than I ever could have been had I tried 20 years ago.
Things to think on
Take a few moments and look back on your life since you decided to intentionally follow Jesus.
- Are you doing what God has wired you to be doing to build His kingdom in your own context?
- What assumption(s) have you made about how your calling should be fulfilled?
- Have you been trying to fulfill your calling in one way when it should be fulfilled in another? What might that other way be? Think outside the box.
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below so that we can all learn from each other.