I Was Fired for Not Being a Christian

home

“You’re fired.” Those are two words no one ever really wants to hear. However, when you’re fired (or politely, “let go”) for not being a Christian…and you’re a pastor…it brings things to a whole ‘nother level.

We’d been through a lot together, this group of elders and I. We expected to journey together in the care and growth of this congregation for years to come–at least that’s what they told me. In fact, despite the turbulent waters we had just experienced the church had not only grown but nearly doubled in size. By all accounts, we were through the worst. The waters were settling and we were preparing for a fruitful season ahead. That is until one particular elders meeting when they determined I wasn’t actually a Christian.

It was typical for us to have good theological conversations during our elders meetings, to talk about grace and Jesus and the role of Scripture in our church community, but this conversation in particular seemed to be one that Sam had been itching to talk about for a while. “The history of our church,” he began, “was founded upon a deep understanding of the Holy Spirit. We have, for the past 20 years, moved away from that understanding and have instead quenched the work of the Spirit here in our midst.”

As a young pastor in my mid-twenties I didn’t recognize the gravity of the situation. Instead of hearing his concern, I brushed it aside, chuckled and said, “Wow, we must be a pretty powerful people to stop the will and work of God!” Sam didn’t find it funny.

“We are raising a whole generation of people in this church who are not Christians,” Sam lamented.

My head tilted back and my brow furrowed inquisitively. I knew that we had several people in our congregation that were searching what it meant to follow Jesus and there were several new Christians, but exactly what Sam was referring to I wasn’t quite sure. As I looked around the circle I saw people nodding their heads in agreement. I sat in silence trying to figure out where this was heading.

As the conversation progressed and great laments about the lack of speaking in tongues and prophecy in our Sunday morning services filled the room, my eyes grew wide. I was startled. This was not the church nor the group of elders I had come to know. Something seemed different. Sam continued, “We need to start preaching about the Holy Spirit and the mark of salvation evidenced by speaking in tongues!”

“Sam,” I interjected with concern and a bit of a hurt ego–what was wrong with my preaching, was I missing something big?!–“what exactly are you saying? What do you mean?”

“Aaron, how can people become Christians if they don’t know about the Holy Spirit? How can they be a Christian if they cannot speak in tongues?”

I let his questions sit for a moment and I looked around the room. No one interjected. No one spoke up. They sat in tacit agreement, their silence growing in weight. Never one to be comfortable with an uneasy silence, I seized the moment and offered a clever rebuke and a teachable moment (or so I thought).

This is the moment I was fired.

“Sam, are you saying that you cannot be a Christian unless you speak in tongues?”

“Right.”

“Well, do you think I’m a Christian?”

“Of course pastor.” Sam looked perplexed.

“Sam, I don’t speak in tongues.” I could see the wheels turning as he tried to reconcile what I was saying with his statement of belief. “Sam, what you’re saying is that your pastor…” I paused for affect, “is not a Christian. Are you sure you really believe that?”

I was certain this would make a difference. How on earth could they deny their pastor was a Christian simply because he couldn’t speak in tongues? I was certain it would create enough of a dissonance that we could talk about this strange belief, point back to Scripture and understand the nature and reality of salvation through Jesus alone and the role of the Holy Spirit. I was certain.

Two weeks later, I was relieved of my duties and asked to move along quietly for the sake of the congregation.

I obliged.

Being fired is a hard experience. Being fired as a pastor for not being a “Christian”… yeah, that’s a new one. (Although it wouldn’t be the last time I’d be accused of not being a Christian–but never for a lack of relationship or belief in Jesus.) Over a decade later I am still serving the local church as a pastor. This difficult experience and the subsequent difficult experiences my family and I have endured have not changed the fact that our first priority and calling are to Jesus… and his Church. It will be messy. It will be difficult at times. However, through it all Jesus walks beside us, comforts us, grants us peace, and encourages us to persevere and press forward into new and beautiful experiences of his grace. And in the process we get to experience beautiful stories of faith and new life in people’s lives.

The Church is not perfect (yes, a glaring understatement), however it is the body of Christ. I cannot walk away from the body and I cannot walk away from the hope that it can bring into this world. May we remember well the role of the Church, and step beautifully into that role so that the world may see and know, that they may taste and see that the Lord is good. Let us be better examples today than we were yesterday.

Comments

comments

Tagged , ,

§ One Response to I Was Fired for Not Being a Christian

  • This right here is good man. We should share some war stories sometime. Those stories have actually caused me to want to be a louder voice for the authentic Christ than to sever myself from the body. Love this man. Stay the course and keep bringing grace and truth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *