Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Strange Feeling

It has been more than a year now since I retired from the preaching ministry. With few exceptions I served local congregations from 1962 to 2013. I was the Senior Minister or had major responsibilities in the churches I served.

There were exceptions. I went full time with Intermountain Bible College in 1977 but Northeast Christian Church was home after spending four years with Orchard Mesa Christian Church. Even though I was never and elder or deacon at Northeast I was part of the church's inner circle. Leland Griffin and I were good friends and I had input through him and Frank Goodman. I taught a Sunday school class and Delores and I led the Junior High Youth Group. I served Northeast twice as Interim Minister spending nearly six months in the pulpit during those ministries.

After Intermountain Bible College closed I was Minister of Adult Education and Administration at Westwood-Cheviot Church of Christ in Cincinnati. Westwood was a historic church and the ministry carried with it quite a bit of prestige. During my three years there the leadership exhibited a great deal of confidence in my work and included me in the eldership (as they did the other two ministers).

In Boise I taught at Boise Bible College and ministered with First Church of Christ. The church grew and the leadership respected me. The only reason I left was personal depression created partially by Dave Girvin's death. Dave was my associate and my best friend and losing him hurt me and the church.

In Canton I was Minister of Adult Education and led in restoring the church's historic Bible school to prominence. Attendances in Bible school were consistently in the 900s and we broke 1000 on several occasions. I was an integral part of the leadership team and the elders and deacons respected my leadership. I worked closely with 28 adult Bible classes reorganizing, closing, merging, and launching new classes over 8 years.

I left Canton for Phoenix and began several frustrating years back in the Intermountain West. Still, I had input and exercised leadership.

Over the 50 years of ministry I served churches of 40 or on the staff of mega churches. My graduate studies and experience gave me tremendous opportunities to learn a lot about what makes churches tick and grow. I learned there were numerous practical changes churches needed to institute in order to communicate with the current culture. I knew what needed to be done but couldn't always get it done because of the old "we've never done it that way before" syndrome.

Now after a year in retirement I'm feeling like I'm no longer a part of things. Delores and I became part of Paseo Verde Christian Church in Peoria, AZ. Right now it is a declining church. I can see numerous reasons for the decline and leadership is "running scared." The church hired a new minister from the East Coast and his lack of experience and approach just isn't doing anything for me. The people are great and they are doctrinally sound but the church is clinically depressed right now. Communication is poor and leadership is cutting programs and personnel to save money.

As a result I feel like a preacher without a pulpit. I really understand how difficult it is for preachers who retire and are in positions without opportunities to lead.