Burned out & feeling abandoned
To start with, I know that writing this won’t change the situation. I think that the reason that I did was to ask for your prayers…
I’m not really sure how to begin. There have been, and continue to be, so many things that have led to this point.
For many years, I felt led to the ministry and in 2001 I submitted to what I believed to be God’s call. In 2003, we were led to our first church and though there were some really great times there, and even though the church saw modest growth, there were issues (but where aren’t there). We pressed on and after 4 years the church had grown enough to offer me full time status. During the tenure there we were able to remodel the church (my wife and I doing most of the work and paying for some of the products). After a total of 7 years, I felt as if God were calling us to venture out and, subsequently, was approached by a search team to apply at that church.
We were voted in by the congregation, and moved to that community, which required my wife to drive 45 miles each way to work every day. Within 3 months of being there we heard several times, from members and leadership, that their decision was a “better than no one”…and attendance began to dwindle. Within 9 months of being there I broke my back in a “fluke accident," which required surgery. Trying not to miss a beat, I was back in the pulpit in three weeks.
By now we were being told that people just didn’t like my style of expository preaching and the numbers dropped a little lower. Finally, I was confronted by the church leadership, who insisted that I refrain from teaching through the Bible, but wanted me to bring a message that “made them feel good about themselves." I felt as though to do that would be compromising the Word and after much prayer I resigned.
Unfortunately, that is when it felt as though the proverbial wheels came off of the cart in our lives. Over the next 9 months I applied for 70 positions (some in churches and many not) and yet the only job that I got was part time driving a school bus. Consequently, we ended up living on credit cards in order to put food on the table and gas in the tank. Finally, the church that we were attending offered to bring us on as their part time Pastor (in addition to driving the school bus), as the prior one was retiring. Though this allowed us to quit living on the cards, it did little to help us get out of debt.
It was a small church, comprised mostly of senior adults and as time went on, many of them passed away or retired and move to be closer to their kids/grandkids and so it got smaller and smaller. Finally, the church was faced with the reality that they could not even afford to keep the lights on. And so the decision was made to dissolve the congregation and turn the building over to another church. And so, once again, I was back to just the school bus income for three months.
Needless to say we got behind on the payments, but got caught up soon after I was hired in my current position (not I a church). However, eight months later, my wife lost her job and decided to start a house cleaning business. Though her pay is almost equal to her last employer, it doesn’t include benefits, so I have added her to mine. But, once again, this leaves us short of our monthly need and behind on the cards again.
After the church closed, we began attending a local church and a short time later I was asked to teach a Sunday School Class of 40-50. After praying, I agreed to do so. One year later the class averages 25. The ones that are still there continually try to encourage me and say how they love the teaching, but I guess, I'm starting to feel as if I’m just better than no one.
In addition to all of this, our relationship has suffered A LOT! All of the negativity from the churches, the debt and the inability to get caught up have taken their toll on us. We rarely talk. We have zero intimacy. We are committed to each other but we struggle to get through each and every day. Added to this, my wife’s mother and sister both passed away last year and we have become the caregivers for her dad.
At this point, we are at our wits end!!! The negativity is overwhelming! We have lost all friends (most of them act as if what has happened to us is contagious, and they don’t want it).
Could I have miss-interpreted what I believed was God’s call to teach and lead? If not, why? We have strived to live for and serve the Lord in our lives and in ministry. What could have caused all of this in our lives? (No, I don’t think that we are such great examples that, like Job, we were singled out). We have prayed and sought the Lord, but still nothing. It’s as if heaven’s door has been closed to us and we have been left to fend for ourselves…