Friday, August 8, 2008

Where's a Pastor to Go?

How does a pastor find a church when he is between churches? What does his family do when their life has been built around the routines of church life, and then the rhythm changes?

We are between churches right now, a situation I have rarely faced in my adult life. The first time I was a "homeless" believer was when Gail and Abby and I left our first pastorate and moved from Vermont to Chicago to attend seminary. Within a few weeks we were in the fold again, at Waukegan Bible Church.

The second time was when I stepped down from the church in our town of Franklin, IN, but decided against moving from the community. It is not an easy thing for a pastor to live in the same place where he served and find a church home. That was almost four years ago, and we still have not found a permanent resting place.

In the interim I have done some part-time ministry and we have attended churches, but our family has never become intimately connected for any extended period with those congregations. Just recently, I completed my pastoral duties with a small group here in town and now we're looking again.

What are we looking for? Apparently something hard to find!
  • A TEACHING CHURCH. A church that is strongly evangelical but not doctrinaire; one that teaches the Bible with depth and insight, but which also allows discussion, diversity of conviction, and room to grow in areas where Christians differ.
  • A WORSHIPING CHURCH. A congregation that understands the centrality of worship, and which appreciates traditional as well as contemporary forms and styles of praising God and celebrating the Gospel.
  • A SIMPLE CHURCH. A fellowship that is not built around complex organization, spiritual technologies and extensive programming, but one which keeps things down to earth, encouraging and reinforcing relationships forged and lived out in the daily routines of real life.
  • A MISSIONAL CHURCH. A service-oriented group that equips its members to honor Christ and share his love and Good News in real-life situations, with their neighbors and in the community, not just in the "holy huddle" of the church building or program.
These are the emphases I crave in a church. How about you? Any suggestions for us?


Anonymous said...


Start a church like the one you described . . . in Brownsburg.

Mike, I understand the particular reasons why being a pastor who is between churches. I suppose the natural impulse is that the flock is what makes you a shepherd and without one you aren't. But that isn't true. You are the same guy who has served so well in several churches.

Keep writing these.

If you visit other churches, please share your thoughts and observations about them. I know you'll be kind, and maybe your observations will help us all think through how to recognize a good church.


Damaris said...

I liked your thoughts about what you wanted in a church. I don't disagree with them, but I would add or emphasize items differently. My four essentials:
a liturgy that reflects the last 2000 years of the faith, performed in a natural, familiar way, not imposed as a result of some new fashion;
a time of silence, of emphasizing our listening to God, not just being instructed, pumped up, or chivvied;
beauty -- no miles of electrical cords and duct tape; either the beauty of simplicity and purity, or the beauty of light and color and architecture and music;
stimulation of both the mind and the heart. This can come as well through ongoing contemplation of the liturgy and unadorned Bible reading as through preaching, but good preaching is a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you've described the perfect church. I love that your parameters are not based in the particulars of theology, but rather in relationships and growth. I have worshiped in many different denominational settings in my life and none is perfect, only the One we worship. Maybe this time in between is the time for your dream of being a writer to bear fruit. Maybe your flock could be one who reads your book. Let me know if you need a designer to create the cover for you. I think I might be able to find one! love to you from Nashville. --dawn

Richard Gay said...


I think it may be worth considering asking the question, if you can't find what you and others are looking for, is God putting it in your heart to consider starting one. It would have to have couches though and no pews!


Mike Rea said...

Hmm..Mike, I wonder if I could take this in a different direction/paradigm for ya by sharing a bit of my journey.

In one sense I identify with your “homeless” pastor thought I have been called a “nomad pastor”.Now I would say I have many homes. I thought at one time I was being called to be a “pastor” in the traditional sense and I am sure I was as part of the ongoing path. What I have learned since is that my calling is simply to be a son and abide in Him. Sure I have pastoral and teaching gifts as well as some others but my identity is in Jesus. The gifts are for the building up of the body right…so where is the body?

I think the church is best described as the relationships we have with other brothers and sisters on this journey. Seeing it that way the church is all around us and happening all the time. Sometimes those relationships are for only a short season other times for much longer. Some are close in proximity others are miles apart but it is always about the relationships. I am sure you see this. You know many brothers and sisters that you have relationship with but do not necessarily congregate with them on Sunday morning. Do we really need a Sunday morning service to make these deep relationships happen? Could possibly a Sunday morning service actually impede the growth of some of these relationships? I am certainly not saying Sunday morning services are wrong just simply thinking relationally and describing the church.

Seeing the church in this way how best do you use your gifts for the building up of the body? Simply put, abide in Father. Trust that He will lead you into all the relationships that you need and desire. I have found my days are filled with pastoring, teaching, learning, etc. now as I simply live a life of trust. I have no desire to build a thing but rather build and encourage people in their relationship with Jesus. This can happen in coffee shops, homes, neighborhoods, etc.

There is certainly a lot I have left out or not unpacked but simply wanted to give you a little food for thought.

You are a gift to the body and wherever you go and whoever you meet will be blessed by Jesus in you.

Michael Mercer said...

Mike, thanks for your comments and perspective. I have been thinking and reading a lot along the lines you spoke about.

I believe the life of the church is lived out in two spheres: "gathered" and "scattered." You seem to function best in its scattered form and in smaller gatherings.

The church is also a living "organism," which exists in the form of an "organization" as well. You seem to live out your faith and ministry best in those forms of the church that place more emphasis on the organism aspect.

I don't know where we best fit, but it's kind of fun having the freedom to move about and visit with folks who are following Christ in many different ways!