Friday, November 30, 2012

Allow me to introduce the love of my life - Part One

We have been in your corps, your churches and your families since the beginning, but we are unseen. You speak as if we are not there, as if we are some “other” outside of you. We are soldiers, officers (active and retired) and adherents, friends and Corps Cadets. Work colleagues and family members, neighbours and the people you deal with every day. You aren’t sure whether we are a normal part of life or not, we kind of scare you, and we are in your eyes unmistakably “other”.

We are Christians, followers of Jesus, who have come to know and accept that we are not heterosexual.

You are those who have come to know and understand that you are heterosexual and consider that to be God’s only plan for all his people.

Let me start by saying our faith and understanding of God are rich and vibrant, our walk with Him in many cases still close. We still take the bible seriously, although some of us have developed a more nuanced understanding of how scripture “works”. We are probably not as literal in our understanding as some of you, and more literal than others of you. We don’t “struggle” with homosexuality we struggle with a position from Christians that makes no sense and doesn’t seem to be supported by a reading of  either the bible or church tradition.

We want to get to know you and you get to know us, we want to honestly and openly talk through a theology of gay people and the church, from our perspective, from the perspective of gay Christians called by God to live out their witness in the world.

I want to explain one way of seeing God's plan and work in the world from the perspective of a gay Christian. It isn't the only way, but is one way of understanding of God's reason and action in creating and blessing gay people. It speaks to my experience, because just as you cannot speak with authority about the gay experience, I cannot speak of being transgender, or bisexual, or a gay man. My lived experience is as a gay woman, and I can only speak of that.

Gay people, however described, are people of deep concern to God. There are stories in the bible in which we can see ourselves depicted. There are acts of God's grace in which we see affirmation for who we are. And yet, when we come out to you our recent experience has been exclusion and rejection. So we don’t come out to you, and you never really get to know us.

Fundamentally I believe the Army is less than it can and should be if gay people, whether single or partnered, are excluded from the life, witness and ministry of the church. We are gifted and called by God, not just to attend, but to minister.

God knew we were gay before we did- in every case (check out Psalm 139 and try to read it as if you have just worked out you are gay).

It is not a surprise to God that we are gay, we are created gay. For us, to be gay is the full expression of everything that God created us to be. Because of that, we can see more clearly and in sharp relief the calling and commissioning of God to those normally excluded from the church, including the GLBTQI community.

We see the depiction of gay people when you don't in the bible, in history and in ministry because we are only too familiar with how we hide our sexuality (and therefore aspects of our true selves) from others. Our “gaydar” (the ability to identify another gay person)  is usually nothing more than recognising the language of the hidden:
·      the failure to use pronouns,
·       the use of "we" with no explanation of who "we" is,
·        the absence of chat about what we did on the weekend,
·       the long term house sharing arrangements,
·       the assumptions of others about the existence of a relationship without ever extending the social niceties you extend to significant others who are of the opposite sex.
While some of us take quite a long time to come out to ourselves, and a small group may say they choose to be same sex attracted, for most of us being gay is a fundamental part of our being. It is not, however, our whole identity just as being heterosexual is not your whole identity and it is not being gay that is the struggle, it is the response.

Messenger of Hope
Former Officer

Thursday, November 29, 2012


So you've left the professional clergy. Or you're thinking about leaving . . . but there's one problem that looms large over your head. What are you going to do to provide for your family?

You're having a less-than-easy time with the idea of getting a "regular" job and forfeiting that faithful clergy salary that comes in like clockwork. And the larger the church you have, the more difficult it will be to part with it.

Let's be honest. With the issue of money at stake, it's rather tempting to conjure up reasons justifying your clergy position. (It's not dissimilar to the Ephesian silversmiths who opposed Paul's message because "it endangered their craft.")

But deep within your own heart, you know you can't keep playing the religious game and ignoring that pink elephant that follows you to and from the church building each week.
Perhaps it's time to put all those sermons you've delivered on following Christ at all cost and really trusting God by faith into practice.

Make no mistake about it. Your dilemma is a real one. But following the Lord all the way often comes at a price, doesn't it?

The good news is that you are not alone.

Countless pastors have taken the plunge. They've given up their clergy professions to follow their conscience and be at peace with themselves and with their God. (If you have no idea what the last sentence means, please read Chapter 5 and 6 of Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna - Tyndale, 2008, as it will give you the context for this entire article.)

What follows is a list of real jobs that real ex-pastors have landed. All of these jobs were filled by people in the clergy who appeared to possess no employable skills except for preaching, performing marriages, and conducting funerals!

Here they are:
    Automobile dealership sales. This career is quite lucrative, and most pastors have inborn skills for this. Many car dealerships are looking for salesmen who are likable, articulate, and honest.

    Become a book editor. Many Christian publishing houses are looking for editors, particularly those who have some background in theology.

    Begin some sort of service-based business. Dog watching is a service that's always in demand. Lawn care. House and/or office cleaning. Painting homes, interior, exterior, and/or artistic.

    Helping senior citizens find housing.

    Take a teaching job at a college or seminary. If you have a master's degree, you can qualify for this.

    Real estate. A number of ex-pastors have become real estate agents with minimal effort. Anyone can take the required test and qualify.

    The mortgage business. Some have become mortgage agents.

    Get into the Internet Market place. Many have created web-based businesses where they sell a product online through a web site and a second-hand distributor.

    Get into book publishing. Some ex-pastors who are gifted writers have become full-time authors for a living. The WritersEdge (www.WritersEdge,com) is an online agency where you can submit a manuscript for publication. Book publishing is difficult to get into and it typically doesn't pay a great deal, so we would only suggest this as a side endeavor while you seek other forms of employment.

Granted. None of the above jobs are easy. They all require work, time, and energy. But they are all feasible jobs suitable for most ex-pastors, as experience shows.

If you are ex-clergy and you have landed a job that's not covered in the above list, please write us at hcresource AT hotmail DOT com and tell us your story. Also, if you are someone who is hiring people who have the sorts of skills that an ex-pastor can fulfill, please let us know. We'll add it to this site.

What follows is a letter from one ex-pastor (Gary Welter) that tells a bit of his story and offers additional advice concerning employment. It's quite helpful.

"Regarding ex-pastors who are in need of employment: Part of their dilemma of course, is what to do in order to earn a living since most (if not all) of their professional training has been towards church ministry. This is a scary situation to be in. Especially for those (like myself eight years ago) who are husbands and fathers and therefore, responsible for the well-being of their family.

I know that after I resigned my position with the "church," I really wrestled with feeling like I had done something stupid. However, I knew deep down that I was doing something that the Lord had put in my heart to do. And indeed, He was faithful to not let me and my family fall into financial ruin. I hope that these insights pertaining to my own experience will be helpful to some who are facing this employment dilemma.

During the last eight years since I left my job as a "Pastor," I have earned an income in two different ways: 1) sales and 2) a service related business that I started myself (actually my wife and I started the business together, since we both lost our jobs when we resigned the ministry). While I'm sure that the Lord could provide for someone in ways other than the two I mentioned, I do believe that those vocation are the best fit for someone leaving the clergy; especially the second one, but more on that in a minute.

There are "pros" and "cons" to both of my suggested vocations, but here are some reasons why I believe they are good possibilities for former (or soon to be former) clergymen. Sales requires communication and people skills, which most ministers have some level of. Also, there are plenty of sales jobs available (most companies are always looking for salesmen). However, here is what I see as some of the negatives concerning the sales field:
    The hours can be long
    Often involve traveling to some degree
    Retail sales often involves evenings and weekends
    Some companies expect you to relocate
Nevertheless, there are some good sales jobs out there. I have had two different sales jobs since I quit the ministry. Both provided good income but eventually interfered with our desire to spend as much time as possible locally meeting with the body of Christ. From my own experience I think the best opportunities lie in starting some type of service related business.
Starting a service related business requires communication skills, a servant type attitude, and a good work ethic (diligence). Someone that is leaving the role of professional clergy probably has the aforementioned qualities. Here are the reasons why I feel starting a service related business offers the best opportunities:

    It can be done with minimal over head expenses and licensing
    It usually does not require a lot of training or experience
    Many people need (and are willing to pay for) services that they can't do themselves
    You are in control of your work schedule

As your business grows, you have the option of hiring laborers while you spend your time managing the business and contacting potential clients.
Four years ago, my wife and I started a painting business. She happens to be a very talented artist so she started offering her services as a "muralist." Within a few months we were both fully employed by our own business doing murals, faux finishes, and interior painting. This obviously required some specific skills that we happen to have. However, there are many business opportunities that do not require any talents other than diligence and willingness to work hard. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:

    mowing (general yard work)
    house cleaning
    construction cleanup (when a new house is built doing the final cleaning prior to closing)
    wedding related businesses
    pressure washing
    local moving or delivery service
    auto detailing

One of the best options may be "contract cleaning." Contract cleaning involves contracting with businesses to clean their facilities during the hours they are closed. Most offices banks, stores, etc, don't employ their own cleaning staff, they hire a company to come in and do the cleaning. By offering reliable and trustworthy service, a large clientele can be established in a relatively short time. I personally know two Christian men living in a small mid-west city who started this type of company. Within two years, they grew from a two-man company to employing over forty people. There are many other businesses that can be started with a small amount of training, licensing, and over-head, such as:

    floor installation (carpet, tile, wood)
    swimming pool cleaning and service
    photography or videography services
    tutoring services

"The bottom line is that the Lord will provide a way for these men to earn a living while they learn the joys of being a brother in His body, the church!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Pastor’s Dirty Little Secret CONCLUSION

How Christians and church members can help. 
  •  Pray for your pastor
  • Pray for guidance, protection, healthy friends, their marriage, and family.
    Pray for inspiration, anointing, the leadership team, unity, and clarity. 
  • Protect your pastor
  • As best as you can, don’t allow or participate in gossip and criticism.
    How can you serve and problem solve to prevent overload? 
  • Encourage your pastor
  • Thank him for his or her work and ministry.  Thank them for their sacrifice.
    Tell them a specific time in which you or someone you know experienced a life change in their church.
    Honor them to others.  Let your pastors know you are praying for them.
According to the Barna report—the profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”

To Pastors

Don’t give up, pastor!
Persistence is powerful.
Keep on.  Really!  Your work, your labor of love, and your sacrifice matters.

I realize the last thing a pastor needs is another sermon.  But these verses have helped me.  Hold on to God’s Word with your life.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord.  Remember the great reward it brings you!  Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.  Then you will receive all that he has promised.  Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Gal. 6:9 NLT

Be careful of the comparison trap.

Looking at other ministries can be inspiring.  Comparing yourself to other churches can be destructive and discouraging.
Make new pastor friends.  Expose yourself to new influences, new leaders, churches, or ministries that are doing some things differently.

Discover to some fresh views and ideas.  Sometimes, it just takes one or two new ideas that can change momentum around.

Pastors that are struggling or are no longer in ministry may have unresolved hurts.  I encourage you to find healing.  Seek counseling; find a local Celebrate Recovery group; equip yourself with resources on healing (some examples are Safe People or Boundaries) and share your secrets with safe people.  Remember you're only as sick as your secrets.

*The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. provide the statistics I have used in this blog. 

Philip Wagner

Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.

A Pastor's Dirty Little Secret PART THREE

4.  Loneliness

Who’s my friend?  Who can I trust?  If I tell another pastor my problems, will he criticize me, tell others, or just treat me differently?
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
Are my friends really my friends or a church member who is a temporary friend who may leave any day now?
Healthy friendships are crucial to a fulfilling life, especially to the well being of a pastor.  Put special effort in this area.

5.  Weariness 

  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years
  • 70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50% still felt called. 
Keeping personally refreshed is an art and a science…and extremely important.
When fatigue comes in, you not only look ½ empty, but also dirty, contaminated, and undrinkable.

6.  Frustrations & Disappointments

Disappointments come in many ways.
Because of smaller congregations, the average compensation package for pastors is between $35,000 - $40,000.  There are many things pastors in this salary range are not able to do for their family that other people around them can do.
There are many areas of ministry that judging "success" is difficult.  Pastors can be hard on themselves.  We work in an area that good work and good effort does not always guarantee success.

Many pastors work hard but are missing some kind of "X-factor."  They are good people, sincere believers, love God, know the Word, have great content in their sermons, but somehow it’s not clicking.  It’s frustrating.

It’s like a worship leader who loves Jesus and has a great singing voice but somehow cannot lead people in an effective worship experience.

Some days, leaders feel like they can’t seem to do anything right.  The ministry finally gets momentum, and then a leader in the church falls.  Things are going well, and then a couple of your biggest givers leave.
The church needs money, but the pastor doesn’t want to put too much focus on money.  It’s not about the money—but it becomes about the money.

All of this can be overwhelming. 
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close. 
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year. 
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year. 
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living. 
  • 45.5 % of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 
This is not the case for all pastors.  In fact, many that I know have managed to handle these issues well. 

A Pastor's Dirty Little Secret PART TWO

Pastors can be criticized by a lot of people for a multitude of things.

 “Music is too loud.  Worship is not long enough.  It’s too long.”
“Sermon is not deep enough.  It’s too long.” 
“Pastor thinks he’s too important.  It took me 3 weeks to get an appointment.”
“You talk too much about money.”

“…can I talk to you for a minute, Pastor?”  This simple question can cause a pastor to think: “Oy vey.  Now what?”

We pastors need to find a way to not take criticism so personally and learn from truths that could be hidden in the criticism.

2. Rejection

The smaller the church, the more obvious it is when people leave.  Some leave for reasonable decisions; many leave ‘ungracefully.’  They leave the big churches, too—by the thousands.Members leave, leaders leave, and pastors’ friends leave. The reality is—people leave.

People leave TD Jakes’ church, and they leave Andy Stanley’s church.
When our church had about 150 people and some would leave, it was so disappointing.  I tried to console myself by thinking,“They may be leaving by the dozens here at Oasis, but thousands have left Jack Hayford’s church, and he’s a great pastor.”…That only helped for a minute.

“I’m leaving.”

“We want something deeper.”  

“My needs aren’t getting met.”

These comments can feel like a personal rejection.

Every pastor has heard, “I’m not getting fed here.”  Bill Hybels has heard it.  Wayne Cordero, Dino Rizzo, Ed Young, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, and Matthew Barnett have heard it.

Really?  Not getting fed?  In those churches?  How is that possible?

One of the most difficult conditions to achieve is to have a “tough skin and a soft heart.”  Love people, hold them lightly, and don’t take it personally. 

“…uhhh, OK.  Lord, help us.”

3.  Betrayal

Trusting church members with personal burdens can backfire.  They may end up telling the pastor's personal issues to others.  Staff leaders can take church members away.  The pastor trusts a person with the platform or title, and that person uses the influence given to them to take people away.  The Judas kiss.
Church staff causing problems is a betrayal.  Pastors rightfully think, “I’m paying you to solve problems.  I can get new problems for free.  I don’t need to pay someone a salary to create them.” 
  • 40% report a conflict with a church member at least once a month
  • 85% of pastors said their greatest problem is they are tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. 
  • The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is that church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor.  Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction, but the people are not willing to follow or change. 
  • 40% of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
We pastors have to find a way, with God’s grace, to love people as if we have never been hurt before

Philip Wagner

Philip Wagner
Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Pastor’s Dirty Little Secret PART ONE

A Pastor’s Dirty Little Secret

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • pastor
Is that true? Pastors love God and love people.  They get to pray for people, lead people to a faith in Jesus Christ, and teach the Word about God.
That’s the dream job.  You can read the Bible all day, pray, play a little golf, and preach.  I want to do that!
Here is the secret.  Being a pastor is hard work.  It’s not for wimps. 
This is the reality—the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges.

Some pastors wear themselves out trying to help people.  Some wound their family because they are so involved in ministry.  Others flourish in their ministry and personal life.

Approximately 85% of churches in America have less than 200 people.  Sixty percent of churches are under 100 people.  The average size congregation in the U.S. is 89 people, according to The Barna Group.  Staffs are small, and needs are great.  In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer, and fundraiser.
Who can be all of that?
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely differentthan what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry. 
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
Personally, I love being a pastor.  I have a great staff.  We have great people in our church; I am content whether going through good times or difficult seasons.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to be "content" when things are good.  I have great friends who are pastors.  My marriage is strong.  I am a better man because of my time in ministry.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Left the Work Part II

I want to give a plug for two books, the first written by General John Larsson entitled 1929. The second book was actually written in 1928 by Ford C. Ottman entitled Herbert Booth. Two separate accounts of two brothers who loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and loved The Salvation Army. One remained an officer until the High Counsel removed him from the office of General. The other found himself confronted with the decision to “leave the work” a decision which cost him dearly. As I compared the two brothers I made the following observation. Bramwell loved the system by which the ministry was administered more than he loved the people for whom the ministry was begun. Herbert loved the people, and couldn’t allow the system to keep him from his calling.

In one of his more recited statements, when confronted with the overwhelming effects of poverty and hopelessness of modern day London, William Booth turned to his son Bramwell and said, “Do something!”

Millions around the globe are thankful that this admonition was acted upon by the young Bramwell. For many of us our call to love, serve, and honor God was solidified in those moments that followed, as the ever industrious eldest son meticulously and methodically began to “do something”.

Yet I wonder how many more times would Jesus have to ask us if we love Him in an attempt to get to the heart of the matter. It’s not enough to just do something. It’s not enough to just “stay in the work” It’s not ok to leave the work!

In the John 21 account the lesson Jesus wants us to hear is that through our work, as we feed, shepherd, and tend His lambs we have the call to love; first Him! More than anyone or anything else. Then as we love those He calls us to care for with the same intensity He will know that we truly love Him.

My question to officers, former officers, soldiers, and friends of the Army is simply this; have you left the work?

Jeff Bassett
Former USA East (click here to visit the website)
Pastor, Living Water Ministries

Friday, November 23, 2012

“Left the work” Part I

In John 21 Jesus asks Simon Peter the following, “Do you love Me more than these?” Jesus' words have the power to energize and excite the heart of His follower. Peter’s initial response, while offered in the affirmative, for some reason did not satisfy the Lord. What answer was He looking for?

Last week I was confronted with the same question as together Jessica and I sat in the parent teacher conference to discuss the progress of our youngest son. Our son is very intelligent, articulate, and has the ability to win the heart of almost everyone he meets. Unfortunately he also struggles to stay focused, on task, and organized; this potentially a consequence of the drug and alcohol use by his biological mother during her pregnancy.

We listened as the professionals shared observations, frustrations, and victories. The meeting began with his Social Studies teacher who while never making eye contact, unleashed a barrage of anger with the obvious conclusion that, “this one isn’t worth investing in”.

I was furious, indignant, and ready to call for her job. Who was she to write off our 12 year old son? Perhaps it was time for her to look for a profession that didn’t have to deal with less than perfect children? Maybe she just needed a break, a change of scenery? Whatever the case, I just knew she needed to make some changes.

The teachers left and the guidance staff called our son into the room to discuss the “action plan” we had agreed on. As he sat across from us in his chair, squirming, smiling that goofy grin, and trying to keep up with the action plan being articulated, I looked deeply into his big brown eyes and realized how much I really love my son.

In that instant I began to reflect on my years as a Salvation Army officer. How many times did my actions and attitude toward those I was called to serve come across more like my son’s Social Studies teacher than the loving father I try to be? I was trained, called, and commissioned, but were there times that I had checked out? I showed up for work every day, did everything that was expected of me, and even initiated some innovative programs to minister to the people.

The truth is there were more times than I care to admit that I had “left the work” even though I was still doing the work as an officer.

Jeff Bassett
Former USA East (click here to visit the website)
Pastor, Living Water Ministries