I worked on a church staff for 5 years. At first I thought I had landed my dream job - that I was finally able to use my gifts and talents in a tangible way for ministry. It was great for the first couple of years, then I started to grow weary of all the strategy meetings and weekly debriefings about how to get more butts in the seats, whether the worship team performed up to par that Sunday, what kind of slick marketing materials we could produce, how we could get more people to volunteer for kids ministry. We also experienced a very difficult transition in leadership that turned ugly and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
We thought we had found the answer when my sister- and brother-in-law asked us to go with them to plant a church in San Francisco. We were on the leadership team and got to be part of the discussions about all the ways we were going to do church differently and better, and all the creative things we were going to do to reach the people of the most unchurched city in America. I was so excited to be a part of something new and fresh and different, and frankly I was looking forward to being pushed out of my comfort zone, thinking it would bring some new life to my relationship with Christ.
Fast forward a couple of years, and wouldn't you know it... turns out that the people in SF actually like going to a church service that looks and feels like every other evangelical church service in America - featuring a talented band playing good music, a funny, charismatic pastor preaching a challenging and relevant message, and a fun program for the kids. Wash, rinse, repeat. The formula works. And I can't stand it anymore. I've been in churches for 40 years and, while sometimes we seem to get a taste of new wine, we keep putting it into old wineskins. They may be cooler wineskins, with tattoos and modern graphics and hip cultural references, but they're essentially the same.
We left that church about 15 months ago. As you can imagine, it's been an awkward situation being that we're closely related to the pastor and we moved to this city to help with this church. But we are confident we are moving in the right direction and are trying to hold onto faith that our relationship with Jesus and other believers will only grow stronger. It's a lonely road, though.
Please, Lord, let there be something more than this!