This is Pastor Tim’s article which appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, Dec 27
In 2004, I finally satisfied all of the requirements to be Ordained in the United Methodist Church. I had my undergraduate degree, my Master of Divinity, been through numerous training events, been evaluated by a therapist, and spent three years on probation. It was a 10-year ordeal, to say the least. I was 28 years old, and had spent most of my life chasing this credential. I had been around the world 4 times visiting different mission sites and spending time with actual oppressed people (not the crybaby variety who claim oppression in this country). I worked in an AIDS clinic in Haiti, I watched a baby die of Tuberculosis in Africa, I walked through a field with markers on it to indicate where the landmines were in Israel, and I spent time with a group of people who lived on top of an inactive volcano in the Philippines. I had a clear understanding of my purpose in life. God showed me some terrible things, and I wanted to be a part of helping the people who really needed it no matter if they lived around the corner or around the world.
At the final interview before ordination, I met with a group of 5-6 people who asked me questions for the better part of an hour. Then they sent me into the hallway while they deliberated…for an hour and a half. I sat out there in the hallway wondering what was going on. As I sat there, the custodial crew came through turning off the lights in the building. I went to the front desk to see what had happened, and they told me my interview team had not come back yet. Finally, they came out and told me that I had been approved. I was shocked.
I went out to the parking lot and sat in my car. I was shaking. I sat there until I got myself together and drove the hour and a half back to Cincinnati, where I was living at the time. My church had a big celebration planned. It was quite a moment, but I just felt weird about the whole thing. The next morning, I got a phone call and the committee, after more deliberation, overturned their decision, and I was not being ordained. I had a lot of very awkward phone calls to make to people who were heartbroken and angry about this. It was the darkest time of my life.
In fact, to help you understand what a mess I was in, a few months after this happened, I walked into my church office at Westwood UMC and one of the secretaries asked me what happened at my house the night before. I didn’t know what she was talking about. She laughed and then realized I was serious. She asked me if I saw the tree? I still had no idea what she was talking about. I looked outside and saw the tree in my front yard, taller than the 3-story tall parsonage I lived in, had fallen over, and I didn’t even see it. I don’t know how I managed not to get scratched by the branches because the tree had fallen within a few feet of the sidewalk to the office. I didn’t notice it at all.
A few months after this nightmare, I got a call from the District Superintendent. I was being moved from Westwood. A church that had over a dozen staff members, including 3 full time pastors and 2 part time pastors, 3 secretaries, and a whole host of other full time paid staff positions. Average attendance was almost 600 a Sunday. I moved from there to a three-point charge in Wyandot County. Three little churches whose total combined annual budget was less than one-month payroll at Westwood.
I had basically flunked out of the Ordination process, and now I had been demoted about as far as a pastor could be demoted without being dropped from the system. I was broken, and I was angry. I thought I had lost the career I thought I was going to have, and I lost a whole lot more during that period of my life. Many things happened that I am not proud of, but there is one thing that I am thankful for: I did not quit. When the round of interviews came up the next year, I rewrote my entire file and got an interview with the same team I had the year before. The first question they had the audacity to ask me is what I learned through all of this. My answer to them was I don’t need you or your credential. I am in this to serve the Lord. Whether you want me on your team or I join someone else’s is the choice you are making here today.
I was through the interview, the committee deliberation on whether to approve me or not, and back on the road home in 20 minutes when it took almost 3 hours the year before.
This last article of this year I want to tell all of you one thing: DON’T EVER QUIT. Looking back, I had every right and opportunity to give up, but I didn’t. I knew where I was going, and the only question that remained is who was going to be an ally and who was going to be an adversary.
The events of the past few years have inspired many people to quit. Quit going to church, quit supporting public functions, quit working out, quit doing a lot of things we as a community need done. It is time to realize that there are probably more adversaries out there than allies, and you make your critics right when you quit. Don’t give them that satisfaction.
If it is the right thing, then quitting is never an option. Besides, all adversity does is make your eventual success that much sweeter.