Ten years ago, I took a different path in my spiritual life. I took this path based not on discernment but upon my own willfulness. I had been pastoring a local church but also had allowed myself to get into denominational politics. I recently asked a sympathetic soul (a person who knew about my involvement and who continued in the denomination I was associated with) if my actions were helpful or hurtful. This individual (who I call friend) said yes and no. I can accept such an evaluation.
The path I chose (with the advice of a friend) led me to work in a local church (sometimes churches) in a connectional denomination. I felt that the connectional nature of this denomination would allow me to avoid some of the conflicts I had encountered in the other denomination. I still find it hard to accept that I was so idealistic and naïve. I swore I would not repeat my political mistakes of the past. I was faithful to that commitment. The problem was that the denominations I became involved with were much more politically oriented (denomination politics) than the denomination I had spent 33 years of my life with. I came to discover, the hard way, that to not be political was a sure-fire way to be consumed. I had hoped to find a spiritual path that would lead me closer to God, instead, I found a clerical club that was more than willing to use me until I was no longer needed.
The one good thing I found on this leg of my spiritual journey was my discovery of spiritual direction and my successful pursuit of my Doctor of Ministry. Spiritual direction made me a much better pastor and the discipline of the doctorate give me a better grounding in preaching and worship.
The thing that dismayed me the most in my time working with connectional churches with their hierarchical leadership was how it promoted a “career mindset” among the clergy and encouraged the pursuit of ecclesiastical power. In my opinion, it was worse than secular politics with its intrigue and alliances. Now I do not want to sound completely negative. There are good, spiritual, orthodox (conservative), Jesus loving and obeying people in those denominations. However, the pursuit of power and the dependence upon the power of individuals to decide what the focus of the church should be I found to be counterproductive to the Gospel and a seedbed of evil pretending to be light.
There was a joke in the denomination I was ordained in that there was too much emphasis on nickels and noses in some of the churches. It is not a joke in the connectional churches but a serious fact.
I have returned to the church of my younger days. Currently, I am not an employed pastor but am helping others in discipleship and have a worldwide following in this blog. I returned because, for me, the best way to be a church, the body of Christ, in this world is to do so through a local, autonomous connection of believers who seek to share the Gospel and live according to the teachings of Jesus. I hope to again serve a local church (without getting involved in denominational politics) and use my skills as a spiritual director to guide those in my care to a closer, more meaningful, and involved relationship with God. I do not believe there is a greater honor and privilege in life.