As I talk with people about being unemployed, the reason for my unemployment invariably comes to the forefront of the conversation. I tell them that I was formerly a traditional church pastor but because of biblical conviction I could no longer serve in that capacity. In as gracious a way as possible, I let them know that I cannot find any biblical evidence for salaried pastors and therefore I resigned.
The reactions to what I have done are mixed. Some folks remain quiet. Others tell me that I had to follow my convictions. Others mention it being a matter of conscience. Others ask about I Timothy 5:17-18. Usually the conversation either comes to a quick end or someone changes the subject.
This is where the fascinating thing happens. Someone who was listening to the conversation (but usually was not too actively involved in it) comes to me a few minutes later and wants to know more about my decision. They are open to what I was talking about and in most cases had thought some of the same things themselves. It is with these folks that I am able to have the most fruitful talks.
This is what happened this past weekend. I went on a Boy Scout campout with my son, about nine other men who I knew a little bit, and 25 boys. We had a great time. As I was getting to know the men (we just recently joined this scout troop), someone asked, "What do you do?" I'm beginning to get used to this question. I explained my situation, we discussed it a bit, and then the topic went elsewhere.
A while later one of the dads approached me. He had been listening in on the previous conversation. He proceeded to tell me that he had wondered about some of the same things I had been discussing - especially about salaried pastors. We went on to have several excellent conversations during the weekend. Mostly we talked about how magnificent Jesus is. He told me about his background and his amazement that God would save him. I also learned about his serving in prison ministry. As we discussed the church, we found that we were in agreement on many things. He is part of a fairly large church - 400 or so people - that he loves. I'm thrilled for him about this.
Despite the differences we may have on some aspects of church, our being brothers in Christ helped us discuss the church in a positive way. We talked about all sorts of different things related to the church. It was positive for both of us because we both looked to scripture to guide us. He was open to challenging any tradition to seek to be more biblical. I think we both grew because of it.
It seems that there are a lot of Christians who recognize that the church needs reform, but they don't really know what is wrong or what to do about it. I'm glad that I'm getting to talk to more and more of them. I hope I can encourage them to ask hard questions, even if these are not particularly welcomed. My desire is to show them that they are not crazy or whacked-out to think some of the things they are thinking.
The way I have been approached shows me that more people than I thought have legitimate questions about the church. I also see that many of them appear almost scared to have these discussions in the open (even with other Christians!). This is most likely why they approach me after the group conversation is over.
We need to be willing to ask any question, even as it relates to our faith. If we are scared to ask the question, it probably means that we are afraid of the answer.
We also should encourage other Christians to ask hard questions. I'm glad to have this opportunity. I'm fascinated by how it is happening.