I Was Fired for Not Being a Christian

1 comment

“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?”


“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.

Abortion Politics: A conversation with a political operative.


Abortion Politics
“What brought you to DC?” I asked the guy sitting next to me at the bar. He was well dressed, tie loosened, and finally off work at 9:00p.

“Politics, just like everyone else.”

I love being in Washington DC, the frenetic energy, the pace, the seemingly endless potential to make a difference in the world. In fact, that’s why I wanted to go into politics when I was in high school… and maybe that’s why I ultimately ended up in ministry. There are some interesting similarities between the two.

My single-serving friend for the evening was a political fundraising director for Congressional campaigns. He seemed to be pretty good at his job considering he’d hit all of his financial goals for the 4 previous GOP Congressional campaigns he’d run… well over $1.5 million per campaign. We talked shop for a while, I learned an awful lot about fundraising from this guy in just the 20 minutes we talked.

As we sat there talking, he looked tired; ready for this political season to be over. (Aren’t we all?)

“Do you vote for or believe in the candidates you raise money for?” I asked.

With a snort he responded, “No way.”

“Why do you do it then?”

“It’s a job.”

“I get that,” I responded. “Is it easy?”

“Yeah,” he laughed sarcastically, “if you have no soul!”

I chuckled along with him even though I think he may have actually been a little more serious than sarcastic. But I was really interested in his response so I pressed a bit deeper. “Who are the easiest people to raise money from?” I asked, wondering how predatory political fundraising is… I didn’t expect his response.

“Christians. Without a doubt. Christians.”

He had no idea that I am a pastor. No idea what I did for a living. Perhaps one of the benefits of being an evangelical pastor and not wearing a clerical collar.

“Why are Christians the easiest?” I asked.

“All I have to do is talk about abortion and they’ll support anything and anyone. In fact, abortion helps me get them to double max all the time.” (I had learned earlier in our conversation that a double max is the $10,500 total for a married couple for the primary and general election.) “And then,” he continued braggadocious-ly , “I get them to pledge a vote to my candidate, even though he won’t be able to do anything about it… And my candidate knows it. Abortion is just a GOP political tactic now for money and votes.”

“My candidate won’t be able to do anything about [abortion]. Abortion is just a GOP political tactic now for money and votes.”

You know that moment when you keep talking and reveal too much behind the curtain? Yeah. That was that moment. But I don’t think he cared… or maybe it was a moment of confession from someone who was starting to wrestle with the current reality of our political system.

I was taken back. I couldn’t believe he said what I have been thinking for nearly 10 years now.

You see, I cast a vote in my first presidential election for George W. Bush on the promise that he would do something about abortion, and more specifically about Roe v. Wade. The conservative Bible College I attended ran Pro-Life campaigns on campus, went to DC to rally against Roe v. Wade, and all of that made an indelible imprint on me–which is why I also cast my second-ever presidential vote for George W. Bush. I was a single-issue voter, and this compassionate conservative president was going to make a difference in the right way.

And then he didn’t.
And neither did Congress.
Everything stayed the same.

You see, when George W. Bush was in office, the Republicans had control of the House and Senate for 4.5 years of his 8 years in office. That’s nearly 60% of his time in office. And together, they couldn’t do it… or wouldn’t do it.

…Four and a half years…

Of course when you believe in a cause and you’re promised an action that never materializes, you tend to become a little cynical. My cynicism surrounding abortion politics began to create a few different scenarios in my mind for what was really taking place behind the curtain. Of course the one scenario that stuck in my mind was that the GOP really didn’t want to do anything about abortion because it was a source of cash and easy votes. Well, the curtain has been pulled back thanks to my single-serving friend and the darkness of abortion politics has been revealed.

So, if you’re voting for a pro-life candidate or if you’ve given to a pro-life candidate maybe start looking at the rest of their platform to see if they’ll enact legislation that will help drive down abortion rates through policies that help support women and create better environments for them and their children, like Obama has done (13% decrease according to a study done by Guttmacher). Maybe there is still a way to “defeat” abortion… but it’s going to look a whole lot different than the rallies and picket signs we were encouraged to take up in the fight.

Update |
“I’m pro-life. And I’m voting for Hillary. Here’s why. is a great blog post that was recommended to me regarding this conversation of voting and the pro-life movement. Shannon, the author, lays out a thoughtful position on pro-life and why a tacit GOP vote because of their pro-life stance may not necessarily be the best way to go.

How I “Denied the Faith” and Became a “Godless Man”


GodlessTen months ago my life changed forever. After 10 years of marriage, my wife and I welcomed our very first child into the world and I have never been the same since.

Perhaps the biggest influencer in the change I experienced is that for the past 10-months I have been a stay at home dad. Day-in and day-out I spend every waking moment with our daughter. Through sleep-strikes, uncontrollable wailing because her poor teething gums hurt, to bumps and bruises as she learns to stand on her own, even throwing the food she finds unacceptable in my face, the moments of joy and laughter, the moments of tenderness and care as I watch her fall to sleep in my arms or smile at the silly faces I make; I have had the privilege of being there through it all. These past 10-months have contained some of the most joyous and yet most difficult moments of my life–yes, even more difficult than when I was a pastor. Being a stay-at-home parent is hard. (I can’t imagine doing it with more than one child–bravo to those of you who are able/capable of such extraordinary feats of strength!)

You could say that the difficulty from being a stay-at-home parent stems from the transformative shaping that occurs within. Never before have I been thrust into a situation or lengthened period of time where I have had to grow more and faster in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control–you know, the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5). This is why I was so surprised to find out from a prominent pastor (Mark Driscoll), that I have in fact “denied the faith” and become a “Godless Man.” (Video Link*)

Let me summarize the video for you in a couple of sentences: Condemnation. This condemnation is specifically for all stay-at-home dad’s, ‘Peter Pan types’ who simply don’t want to grow up and instead choose the lazy route as a stay-at-home dad rather than being a real man who provides for his family. This is a role that no woman can respect.**

The challenge of these condemnatory statements are at least two-fold.

First, the basis for Driscoll’s statements derive from a misquote and a misunderstanding of his prooftext 1 Timothy 5.8, which reads (from the English Standard Version–Driscoll’s translation of choice):

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

The misquoting of the passage happens when he inserts gender into a passage where none exists. The original Greek for this sentence is gender neutral (which the ESV captures in its translation), yet Driscoll insists on making this about men instead of the intended universal truth that is for all Christians regardless of gender: “Provide for your household.”

The misunderstanding comes from a narrow interpretation of the word ‘provide’. Dricoll has chosen to narrowly define the word ‘provide’ to merely financial terms. However the word here actually contains a much broader understanding of provision extending into the realm of physical, emotional, and spiritual care. It is a word that lays out an expectation of continuous responsibility to one another, a covenantal relationship.

As a stay-at-home dad, I am upholding the universal truth of this passage by staying home and caring for my daughter. I have been providing for my family what is necessary in this season of life, and it has been a sacrifice on my part to do so.

Second, I take issue with Driscoll’s assertion that being a stay-at-home dad is a lazy role for a man. If that is the case, then what does this say about women who choose this role for themselves? Is he really implying that this is all they can handle? Being a stay-at-home parent is not easy (I’ve said as much already), however to liken it to laziness and then say that this is really all a women is suited for is a horrible degradation and a completely skewed understanding of gender roles within the home.**

Today (May 14, 2013) is officially my last full day as a stay-at-home dad. I get to re-enter the “work force” in the next couple of weeks as a pastor. These past 10-months staying at home with my daughter have been truly amazing. Moments that I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. In fact I can honestly say, despite how hard it is, I will miss this. I will miss our spontaneous mid-afternoon “daddy-daughter” dances, taking her to Giants games in the middle of the afternoon, going for walks around the neighborhood creating silly songs along the way. And sure, I’ll still be able to do these things but it will be different. I won’t be with her every waking moment of the day… and that will be a drastic change that will take getting used to.

Being a stay-at-home dad is difficult and even more so in the face of our success-oriented, career-focused society. It is a counter-cultural sacrifice that shows the extent to which you are willing to give of yourself to your family. You, the stay-at-home dad, have my respect. You have not denied the Faith but instead have walked full bore into it. You have not become Godless but as the Fruits of the Spirit grow from within, you have become more like Jesus. And that is the true measure of a man.

* This is a clip from a sermon by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle in 2008. I would love to assume that someone has lovingly talked with Mark about his comments and perhaps even changed his view. However, the video of this teaching remains up on the Mars Hill YouTube Channel (as of May 14, 2013), so I don’t believe he’s backed off his statement. And if he has, he should at the very least have the video removed so that articles like this one become irrelevant.

** Not to mention that this is a horribly narrow understanding of masculinity!