(For the 2022 update to my story please see My Transition Story.)
My ministry began in a small church of 24 people. I remember the moment reality hit me in the face. We pulled into the tiny town with our loaded U-Haul truck. Standing at the main intersection was an old man who, as a member of the church, knew we were coming. Waving his arms like a madman, he flagged me down. After making sure I was his new pastor he announced, “My name is Ed and you may as well know, I’ve run off the last three pastors.”
Welcome to the challenges of ministry!
True to his word, at every opportunity, he made life miserable. When I proposed starting a new Sunday School class he exploded and threatened to leave. Ed was the biggest giver, the janitor, a board member, and the only adult Sunday School teacher. We started the class. He left. And we doubled in attendance.
Later in ministry we were at a church with a terrible reputation in the community. I went to the utility company to get the utilities of our new house placed in my name. When the lady behind the counter found out I was the new pastor she grimaced and bit her lip. I pushed her a bit and she said, “That church mistreats their pastors.”
God helped us and we grew from around 200 in worship to more than 300.
I remember a pivotal moment which helped us grow. We wanted to start a second service in the gym. But to make it happen we needed to purchase special gym carpet which would dampen the sound. This church, however, had a rule that any expenditure by the church of more than $1,000 needed a congregational vote. Before the vote to buy the carpet, the politicking in the back hall went into over-drive. The vote failed. I stood up and waved my credit card. I announced I would buy the carpet and if anyone wanted to help reimburse me they could give to the carpet fund. The church got the carpet, I got my money, and attendance took off.
I’ll not bore you with the story of the DEA agent in my church who phoned and told me not to come into the office. Why? Because a board member had a gun and was looking for me.
And I’ll save the story of surviving a catastrophic church split where we lost 70% of the congregation for another time.
Here’s my point. Ministry is tough. And I have a theory: if you are doing your job as a ministry leader the job gets harder, not easier. You cannot move a church forward without encountering difficulty.
In the complex and stress-filled context of ministry, you need a friend. And you need a friend who has experience in leading in times of difficulty.
I’ve been happily married for 42 years. We have a son and daughter who are both married. Thanks to their combined family efforts we have seven grandchildren.
Bachelor of Science: Olivet Nazarene University; Kankakee, IL
Master of Divinity (Cum Laude): Nazarene Theological Seminary; Kansas City, MO
Doctor of Ministry: Grace Theological Seminary; Winona Lake, IN
I’ve invested 30 years of my life serving successfully as a lead pastor in churches located in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.
Now I am a writer, speaker, and a professional interim pastor providing assistance to people and churches in transition. In my role of helping churches in transition I’ve served in Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, and New Jersey, Alaska, and Ohio.
In July 2016 my book Tom’s List: 50 Commandments to Transform Your Life became published. It is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and select bookstores.
I like to work but I also like to play. My hobbies include: book binding, collecting rare books illustrated by Gustave Dore, and selling books on eBay. See? I’m a real person!