Some Thoughts On My Father’s Resignation As Pastor

I don’t remember much about my family’s move to Laredo, Texas in 1981 – I was only four years old. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my parents, leaving their family and friends, leaving these lush green fields and old back roads and creeks they used to play in barefoot, when they were children. Lancaster has a way of drawing you in from an early age, and it sinks its talons in real deep. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to leave.

While I don’t remember the move itself, I do remember Laredo. I remember the first trailer we lived in, a single-wide planted in a treeless dust bowl of a trailer park. I remember the little, blue, plastic pool my sister and I sat in, filled with water from the cracked hose. I remember how we used to get impetigo, a skin infection that thrives in the heat and humidity and dust. The dilapidated trailer didn’t help with this, and it was so hot, so we moved.

I remember the second trailer, a tan one in another trailer park.

I remember hearing that there was a swimming pool in our new trailer park. My mother packed us up for a walk through the mid-day heat. Now that I have children of my own, I know what a production that can be: changing into swimsuits, slicking everyone up with sunscreen, grabbing a few pool-friendly toys and maybe a lawn chair. She probably carried all of this plus my two-year-old sister. I probably walked, dragging my towel through the dusty dirt roads, eyes peeled for red ants wielding cross bows with fiery arrows.

The next image is my life’s metaphor for disappointment: an empty swimming pool, slimy green and full of lizards, surrounded by a rusty chain-link fence and tumbleweed. We walked back the way we came. I’m sure my mom was pretty down about it. She probably went inside and cried while I drove my hot wheels trike around the cement slab beside our trailer, the rumbling plastic wheels sounding like far-off thunder.

* * * * *

I remember when dad and I made up our own set of signals. The Nerf football was as big as my torso, but somehow I hiked it through my legs to him and ran the passing route into the kitchen. “1″ was a long straight pass, sometimes caught all the way back in the hall. “2″ was short, and dad threw a laser, digging the pointy end of the football into my bony rib cage – I never liked “2″ very much. “3″ was hook right. “4″ was hook left. “5″ was fake short and go long.

Dad called the plays inside that trailer for hours, and I ran the routes.

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He used to take me for rides on his motorcycle out the dusty trailer park lane, to the highway and back. I remember one time we saw a road runner: a real live cartoon in my three-dimensional world. I never even knew such a thing existed.

I see pictures of my dad now, when he was 24, with a mustache that looks like something he glued on to cover up his baby face. He looks like a kid in those picture. He was a kid, thirteen years younger than I am now, starting a church in a place where he couldn’t even speak the language, his wife and two young children along for the ride.

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There are a few things I learned from my dad over the years. I learned that if God puts it in your heart that it’s time to move on, it’s a mistake to stay one more day, no matter what you’re doing or how you might try to rationalize it. I learned that taking a job just for the money is something people do when they don’t know the real value of things. I learned that living, really living, usually happened when you had no idea what the next day held, or where your pay would come from, or where you might be going.

In other words, living, really living, only happened on the other side of trust.

I’m proud of my dad, because when he resigned on Sunday from his position as pastor of a church he loves, of a church he founded 11 years ago, he didn’t leave because of a scandal. He didn’t leave because he was asked to leave. He didn’t leave because he found a bigger church or a better paying church.

No, he left because it was time. He left because that still small voice told him it was time. With nothing on the horizon, no employment or promised position, he walked away, simply out of a desire to trust that God’s leading is enough.

Oh, that we would all be so sensitive to that Voice!

* * * * *

Living my father’s kind of life has literally taken me around the world, both when I was a kid at the mercy of his decisions, and now as an adult, as my wife and I have taken on much the same approach. It’s a good life, this life of trust, this life of willingness to follow. It’s a hard life, not knowing, not always having, not always living the same as everyone around us.

But most of all, I guess, it’s an alive life. An abundant life. An invigorating life.

Thanks, Dad.

* * * * *

I’ve been sharing some fiction recently here at the blog. Part 1, entitled “Shhh”, can be found HERE. Part 2, “The Man Behind the Drawing,” is HERE. And Part 3 will be posted this Friday. Enjoy!

10 Replies to “Some Thoughts On My Father’s Resignation As Pastor”

  1. Are you kidding me?

    “I’m proud of my dad, because when he resigned on Sunday from his position as pastor of a church he loves, of a church he founded 11 years ago, he didn’t leave because of a scandal. He didn’t leave because he was asked to leave. He didn’t leave because he found a bigger church or a better paying church.” Yesterday was my last day in a church in Fort Worth, Texas that I had pastor for 12 years. I didn’t leave because a scandal, or to a different church, or with half the congregation. I just felt like a pitcher in a advanced inning in the game The manager came out and asked for the ball, probably because he saw me and saw I could end up injured and also because I wasn’t pitching at my best and someone else needed to take over and carry the team. At least that’s the best image I had to explain it to a congregation that was sad to see me go and perplexed that I didn’t seem to have a very good reason to do it. I feel somewhat guilty as I see them having to look for someone else and I felt a bit like a quitter. I just know it was time to do it. I feel a bit anxious as being a pastor has defined all my adult life since I went to seminary the first time at 21 and now I am 42. This post is so weirdle timely that I choose to see it as a good thing. I need that. Thanks.

  2. People often do look at those of us who are apt to change locations as unstable. I’ve chosen to believe God always has a plan, and as long as He holds the plan, all I have to do is follow. Be obedient. I didn’t marry my husband while he was in the military cause I didn’t want to move around alot. We married in 67 and then moved 13 times in 11 years. In the middle of that time, God saved us and He’s been leading ever since. Thanks for the words of confirmation, Shawn, for your dad, but for all of us as well.

  3. Pastor Merrill Smucker, part of Victory Chaoel but an outreach pastor in Exton, Pennsylvania was one of the people I was assigned under for my pastoral internship as part of my seminary training. I was not much help to him!, and he may have been perplexed about me. But one thing he assigned was to read Taking Our Cities for God, and apply the redemptive spiritual warfare principles to Exton (which was a major crossroads in origin). He did not know how prophetic this was. I ended up following my gifts and strengths rather than try to fit the mold “allowed” for a pastor. Now, as we pursue the finishing anointing for that work of God, the things the Spirit led your dad to plant in my heart as seed are bearing their fruit.

    I hope he comes back to Texas!

  4. GCC played a very pivotal role in my life in my late teens early 20s. I’m forever grateful for the memories and friends from that time period of my life. Your dad started something beautiful in the town of Gap in a humble little fire hall. I was glad to be a part of it. Oh and the pizza and doughnuts every week was pretty cool too.

    Wishing him the best.

  5. Lots of thoughts swimming round this today, we’ve often been in the position of not always having / living the same as those around (I’d be very rich if I was paid every time I metaphorically rolled my eyes trying to explain to people in our church why we can’t afford to live in the same area as most of them!)
    We were visiting my eldest son’s church last year & the sermon was partly on PK’s not having alot. He turned to me & said ‘thank you for what you gave up to stay home & look after us’.
    He & his wife & our first grandchild to be, are moving on this summer, much further away. Part of my heart is sad but I know it’s following the still small voice & I’m proud of them for doing it. So this is probably the nudge for me to tell them just that..
    Thanks for sharing how you learned from your Dad & for the nudge :)

  6. I came to this blog post via an acquaintance on FB. Such graceful, clear writing. And an affirmation for me of something I’ve been experiencing this past year. I have lived in 7 spaces in 2 states over the course of 1 year as I make a transition and prepare for what’s next. Peace came when I finally started simply taking each day on its own terms, listening, trusting and paying attention to what people around me were reflecting back to me. Your writing is lovely. Thank you.

  7. A wonderful tribute to your dad who, like Abraham, follows God not knowing where God will lead. And a good reminder that God will lead those who, as you say, are “sensitive to that Voice.” It reminds me of my father, and the example he gave me, as he left a secure corporate job at the age of 47 to become a pastor. God always provided. Perhaps it is time for me to rely more on God and less on myself. Thank you for using your writing gift to encourage others and honor God.

  8. This small, wonderful story explains a whole lot about you, dear Shawn. Thank you for dad for being a person of integrity for me, will you? You learned well.

  9. I know that to be true about Your dad. .
    In 1998/99 I went to a tent meeting in rt.340 & New holland rd. I had a wonderful experience.Merrill was the Host..His emotional out pouring for Gods love. For all people made an impact on me that day.. Months later I was over come with urgency to Pray for the lost but not only the lost but for the fact that many would never even consider on going to church for help our guidance. I felt compelled to pray one day as I was driving through Gap near rt.41 I prayed about the need for a church for people who wern’t comfortable going to churches where they felt they had to dress up, and already be perfect.. we needed a church In our area “a come as you are” church for families who are broken and in need of guidance without judgement of their life styles..I remember saying to the lord”You could get that Merrill guy to be the Pastor” never realizing the impact that prayer would have…God called Merrill to the ministry..I believe in 2001 -meeting in the Gap fire hall at first, Gap Community Church became a reality… Where ever Merrill is being called next is all part of Gods grand plan I wish him the best of blessings on his journey…♡

  10. You’re dad sounds like a great man of faith. I’m inspired to live my life, too, on the “other side of trust.” Thanks for the post Shawn.

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