I shared on Sunday what happened to me last Thursday evening. How seeing brand new parents glow as they held their newborn baby brought tears to my eyes. More and more, as I see new or happy parents, while I'm glad for them, it feels like someone has stabbed a knife into my heart and given it a twist. That experience alone took a lot out of me on Thursday evening.
But there was another heart wound that was opened up on Thursday night. While I'd had my suspicions, I was surprised to know that a wound from two years ago was still so painful. There's been a scab over the wound (emotionally speaking) but I've never really dealt with the incident so it hasn't really healed.
My good friend and mentor, Dave Thornhill, founding pastor of Grace Point Church in West Shawnee, told me that the first people to get excited and jump on board for your new church could very well be the first to leave. At the Ordination Service last Thursday night, I saw a family that fit this description.
They joined TFC's launch team back in the fall of 2004, during our early stages. They joined our new church because they believed that being in a church closer to their neighborhood, they'd be better able to invite their unchurched neighbors. They were hard-working, dependable and had a lot of leadership potential. And in the early days they did exactly that, lead and served in some major ways. About 3 months after we launched however, they started to have serious issues with my leadership style and methods. I must say that they handled everything with high integrity and with Christ-likeness. Rather than telling everyone else about their frustrations, they came to me about them. In challenging my methods, they forced me (along with other leaders) to ask again why we do what we do. Being only a few months old, this was a great conversation and it solidified missional strategies we're still following 3 years later. After sharing my heart and reasoning with them, they realized their perspectives weren't compatible with mine and the left TFC.
We've had people leave TFC for incredibly immature reasons. I won't list them, but they'd make you laugh (or cry). That doesn't really bother me much because I know their real issue is disobedience to God but they're blaming me. It hurts however, when mature people with good intentions just can't wrap their minds around what our church is about.
I think the depth of the wound comes with where this family landed. Of course, I'm not going to give the name of the church but it seems to go against what I thought to be their reasons for joining TFC. It hurt when they left and it hurt deeper when I heard where they landed.
I shared all of this with a good friend who was sitting next to me at the Ordination Service that Thursday night. He said he can tell the exact same story about a family that used to be in his church. I was also reminded of an article written by Adam Hamilton of the Church of the Resurrection how even as his church has grown, it's still very painful for him when a family leaves. It's good to know I'm not alone in feeling this way.
I'd think though, that after two years I would've dealt with it. But while standing in a crowd of people that Thursday night after the service, I saw one of the family members through the crowd and I immediately turned away before they made eye contact. I then gave a quick goodbye to the friend I was talking with and walked outside to my car. As I was crossing the College Church parking lot I was wondering why in the world this two year old wound still feels so fresh.
Leadership is not for the weak. It took a lot of strength to prepare emotionally for this past weekend.