… 36 years in church leadership ???

21 years of full-time work with New Life Church in Brigg, North Lincolnshire came to an end yesterday, as I stepped down from my leadership role.

9 months ago I knew in my heart that I was reaching the end of the line, and that, in common parlance, “enough was enough”. I had arrived at the place where I could no longer see myself continuing to do what I was doing for the rest of my working days. Indeed, the very desire seemed to ebb away as I faced an internal crisis of ‘integrity’ and ‘credibility’ over what I was doing. They were painful months, wrestling with these issues – questioning myself, the people around me & even God at times … but ultimately reaching the conclusion that the time had come when I needed to let go.

Added to a previous 15 years incumbency of Immingham Pentecostal Church, I count myself remarkably privileged to have served in full-time Christian work for 36 years. There have been amazing experiences of God’s favour along the journey, which have been instructive and formative … and I hope I’m a better person as a consequence.

Of course, that is truly in my past now, and having decided to step down, June 1st 2011 becomes the first day of the rest of my life … I’m believing this development to be something positive, and choosing to consider it as a re-positioning, with the potential of exploring other avenues of work & ministry … for example:

On May 5th I was elected to our local Town Council for a further 4-year term of office. Although this is unpaid work, it nevertheless brings the possibility of exercising Christian influence within the community.  Only last week (23rd May) the Town’s newly-appointed Mayor invited me to be his Chaplain during his one year term of office – an amazing honour, I feel.

There’s more … having served as Chaplain to an independent special needs school for the past 18 months, making contribution to their RE curriculum, I have been invited to create and then drive forward the school’s Community Cohesion Policy (i.e. how the school relates to the immediate and more global community) and also to head up their  entire RE syllabus from September … in a ‘paid’ capacity.

I have other ‘irons’ in the fire such as:-

  • The prospect of further opportunities in education (teaching RE)

  • A return in some capacity to my former profession of  book-keeping

  • Exploring the much-needed ministry of Spiritual Accompaniment

It won’t be all work either, as I’ll have time to discover some of the wonderful sites of our English Heritage and National Trust. Also I’m hoping to do more writing, travelling, and, if it’s not beyond me, I’d like to develop my golfing ability – (should that be ‘disability’, or even ‘handicap’ ?).

So, this personal musing is offered with a mixture of emotions – sadness that 36 years of hard graft have come to a rather abrupt, though necessary end – and relief that I am free to determine what happens next, and to continue fulfilling my personal vision of knowing  Jesus, growing  like him, and making him known.

If you’re reading this as a ‘praying person’ then you may appreciate this prayer, cited from the Morning & Evening Prayer Book that I’ve been using recently: “Lord God, in Your wisdom You created us, by Your Providence You rule us: penetrate our inmost being with Your holy light, so that our way of life may always be one of faithful service to You, through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Someone told me ‘the best is yet to come’ – which I’m sure in the longer panorama of eternity is certainly the case. Yet for now I can respond to my earlier question, “Is There Life After 36 Years In Church Leadership” with an emphatic, “YES, of course” !

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