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Hi everyone, thanks for checking in on me (yes, I know who comes and goes each day…well at least your IP address and possibly what city you live in (link)).
I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere.
I do have a bunch of things brewing, so keep coming by. I’ll get something up sooner or later.
For now, leave some comments, everyone likes comments. Or better yet, chat it up with other people who leave comments.
Yes, that’s it, have a full fledged conversation with the other readers of andrewseely.com in the comments section.
Here’s a topic starter: calvin and hobbes.
If I lived in this region of the world, I would have to question the goodness of God.
Read THIS article.
My heart breaks. I weep that tragedy keeps befallen these people.
My prayers and love goes out to those who’s lives have been lost as well as those who must live through the strife of re-piecing their lives together.
I challenge you to participate in the counting prayer. It takes time and is very difficult. But I find that when I can fully engage in it, especially when I try and visualize people and faces and the landscape, my empathy and compassion swells.
Please pass on the word. Prayer is needed and it is needed now.
Ok here’s the long waited massive update on my current standing in life.
If you’ve followed this blog over the last few years and months, then you are well aware that for that last 20 months I have been serving as a youth director at a Presbyterian church. What I have not been able to say publicly is that being at this church has been quite difficult and trying. Not for the fact that being with students or working with students was hard, in the sense that I really enjoyed that portion of my job. I love being with students and feel most comfortable being around them and being a part of their lives. But working with a church can be a difficult thing.
Being someone who has forward thinking ideas about ministry and being someone who desires to push conventional thinking about how ministry is done, doesn’t always fit into the life of church. I thought when I first started that things that became apparent it might be hard to work in an environment that wasn’t on the same page as me when it came to the values I posses in relation to youth ministry. Example: for me numbers have and will never be a factor in how I perceive my ministry. But when it came to what I discerned about the unspoken values it became clear to me that somewhere deep down people really thought that if there were more people then that meant that I was doing a good job. This for me doesn’t jive.
From the start it became clear that youth ministry was supported only as far as the church saw a need and they filled a position. It is now clear to me that the church did not put the needed time and effort to discern what the church’s theology was concerning youth ministry and its place in the congregation. Translated, this meant that I had free reign to do what I wanted in youth ministry as long as it didn’t interfere with the rest of the ministries. But I hold the value that youth ministry should be done alongside of and with the support of other ministry areas in the church. This created tension. Tension that turned into animosity on my part and on the part of others.
For most of the time that I served as director of youth ministry I was able to operate under my own conditions (which was both a good and a bad thing). But sooner or later I wanted to spread my ideas and influence into other areas of the church. This created more tension. It was never my goal to create this tension, but my sheer desire to see a healthy and functional church body. It is hard to impart the value to students that “big” church is for them and they should and can be an integral part of it, both as participants and as leaders, when the church only sees students as something to put on “show”. And when both the students and I felt like there was nothing for them during the service. Not to say that church should be totally catered to students, to meet their every need, but they must feel included and valued as contributing members, not merely potential member or people who are only allowed to do certain things.
After many conversations over the past year, it became clear that this church was not a good fit for me. While I know that youth ministry is what I’m meant to do and that I’m not really happy doing anything else, that is not enough to keep me in a place that is both harmful to me emotionally and spiritually.
I actually came to the conclusion that I needed to leave a while ago. And realistically the only thing that was keeping me there was the financial situation. I could not physically afford to leave unless I had another source of income.
During my time, I did peruse alternative jobs, which may be the first time some of you are hearing this. I actually interviewed at other churches and got a chance to see what other opportunities were out there. But God’s timing was not in my favor for starting a new journey.
So as of last thursday night, I am no longer employed as a director of youth ministry. This does not mean that I will cease to be someone who is called into ministry, nor has the experience soured me from wanting to work in a church environment again. I have learned and grown tremendously over the last 20 months. I have relied on amazing and unrelenting friendships that carried me through some dark places of hopelessness and despair. The greatest lesson that I will carry from this time is the understanding of how I wish to carry myself as a pastor in the future. I have learned a lot about what I DO NOT want to do and how my experiences will be shaped from here on out. I have also learned that I will always love working with students.
What’s next for me?
Really I don’t know.
I’m trying to be open to the leading of God. I could see myself working at another church. I could see myself getting in my car and driving around the country serving in some capacity. I could see myself in a foreign country.
What is holding me back from some of the more extreme ideas? Fear.
Am I willing to walk completely into the unknown, so far out of my comfort zone that I leave everything comfortable behind?
Part of me really wants to and part of me knows that I probably will not, because I allow fear to tell me that it is too risky.
Over the next few months as I try and discern what is next for me, please encourage me to think outside of the box. For right now I have little that ties me down. No relationship, no permanent job, no real obligations. The only think I don’t know how to get around is my debt. Not that I’m really taking care of that anyways, but I don’t know how to leave that behind if I want to peruse some radical ideas. And then there’s the whole making enough to support myself.
While I am faithful that God would provide if I journeyed into the wilderness, there is a part of me wonders if I could make it. I don’t need much, and as I have stated previously on this blog that part of me hopes to live that life of less.
I am trying to sit and wait and be a man of discerning ears to where God is calling me. I acknowledge that this is going to be hard, and I will need all the support that I can get.
I need peace I need quiet.
For the first time in my life I find myself without a church home. I think for the next month or two I may wander. Please understand that if I choose not to attend any church for a while, I do not need people telling me that I need community or I have an obligation. This is something I need to do to hear God’s voice. If you know me well enough then you should know that I will not cease to peruse God’s presence. And not being at church isn’t a bad thing.
For the first time I get to church shop. I get to go to faith communities that I have been wanting to go to for a while, but because of my obligations I have not been able to go to. Though I am aware that I probably will not be able to really immerse myself in these communities, for the fact that if I peruse employment at another church, then upon hiring that church will become my community.
In a lot of ways I will be like a wandering sage.
I think that is a good metaphor for me in the coming period of my life.
Well folks, that’s where I am.
I’m saddened that I am leaving something that brought me joy, but more importantly I am leaving something that was causing my spirituality to suffer.
In all my time during worship over the last 20 months, I really feel that I did not meet Jesus during worship. Please don’t leave comments such as “well if you had only tried” or “sometimes it’s not about you” or similar comments. I know what worship is, and I know how to sense Jesus. Honestly I think that during my (limited) time in worship the attitude of those leading it, was more about saying the right words and doing the right things, instead of being people who allowed God to do what God wanted to do. It was more of a fight to present Jesus, than it was a time to allow people to come to the feet of Jesus.
I found Jesus in the least expected places. I found Jesus more in serving the homeless. As well as being deeply moved by the situations in 3rd world countries. By being informed about suffering and injustice in the corners of the world. I found Jesus by simply being quiet and immersed in prayer. Over the last 20 months Jesus to me has been found in the simple prayer (the Jesus Prayer) that is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God (while inhaling), have mercy on me, a sinner (while exhaling).”
I am in the process of healing. I am the process of being led.
Blog posts may become more infrequent as I now have to “punch the clock” to earn my income, which leaves me tired and lazy. But I will no cease to think and challenge my understanding of what God is doing in the world.
I hope to continue to expand my pursuits of writing and ministry. I look forward to interacting with people both on the internet and in person. I will continue my involvement with Emergent Village and the relationships I have found there as well as continuing to study theology and youth ministry so that when I return to full time ministry I will be capable and effective in what I do.
Hold me in your prayers as I will hold you in mine.
Please don’t hesitate to call me or email me.
I hope this catches you up on where I am now.