It’s hard to believe, but one year ago this week Paula and I were fired from the church we planted in 1989. What a painful ending to such an awesome life changing experience.
I am glad to say that the firing did nothing to diminish our dream of creating a gathering space for people who had given up on church, but hadn’t given up on God. After the trauma of our firing wore off, we began a brand new journey 30 miles down the road in Franklin, called TheGatheringNashville.com. I have to tell you, the past year has been better than I could have imagined.
I’ve also learned, during this past year that an awful lot of other people have been fired or forced out of their careers. I’ve heard words of encouragement from literally hundreds of pastors. And what I’ve found is the reason most pastors don’t get fired is because they simply walk away from the fight before it ever gets to that point.
Getting fired is nothing to brag about or look for, but sometimes events happen that are beyond your control. If you are being forced out, or you’ve been fired, or you’ve been let go or downsized, and something really good has ended in a way that is incredibly painful, there’s a way to face your firing that leads to freedom.
Here are the 10 Freedoms I’ve discovered:
1. The freedom of knowing that at the end of every good thing is a greater thing waiting to be born. I loved the last 16 years. I loved seeing God show up. I loved seeing thousands and thousands of people find hope and life in Jesus Christ. It was a really good thing. But now I’ve been set free to do it all over again; hopefully smarter. And I love this new thing that’s being birthed; a lot of freedom and joy and fun involved in being back out there again. I love seeing a sea of people gathering, hungry for the hope that only exists in Jesus Christ. The past was a very good thing, but today is an even greater thing. Who knew? Yea God!
2. The freedom that comes from knowing that the love of those who love you will always be stronger than the hate of those who hate you. So if you’re going to obsess on one or the other, make sure it’s the former. My great joy today is because so many people stepped up around me and Paula, loved us, took care of us, and wouldn’t let us quit. There has not been one day in this last year that I haven’t had an email, a phone call, someone take me out to dinner, or let me know they are praying for me. The generosity of those around me is so great that I don’t have time to obsess on those who I felt betrayed me.
3. The freedom of knowing that if you take the high road in every controversy, you’ll never regret it. I look back at some of the things I did in the week or two after the firing, some of the letters I wrote, some of the interviews I gave, and I’m glad that I took the high road.
Here’s what I mean by taking the high road. In the grand scheme of life, personalities come and go, jobs come and go, but the mission of the gospel, the mission to love people is more important than any personality, title, or job. So always take the high road. Don’t try to defend yourself. Don’t try to protect your rights. Let God do all that for you. Take the high road and you give God a free hand.
4. The freedom of knowing that in every humiliation there is a truth to be learned and a lie to be rejected: Wisdom is in knowing which is which. When you’ve gone through a bad situation most of what people say is grossly overstated, but there’s a truth to be learned about yourself. Learn it, and you’ll be free.
5. The freedom of knowing that when you anchor yourself to the place God has placed you, you don’t have to let anyone intimidate you or threaten you to move. In the days after the firing I asked Coach Fisher what I should do and he said keep on doing what God sent you here to do and what all of us want and need you to do – be our pastor.
I know God placed me in Nashville. I loved serving in Bellevue. But I am thrilled to now be in Franklin; a whole new world, a whole new set of challenges, a lot of people to love, a lot of people to extend real hope to.
6. The freedom of being fully present where you are, experiencing what you’re going through is the only way to be transformed by the pain. There’s an old French proverb that says that we only really know the worth of a thing after we’ve lost it. For me that means being fully present and embracing what happened to me. It gave me back my love for being a pastor. I love it with all my heart. And everyday is a great day.
I have a renewed passion for something I’ve been doing since I was 18 and it took getting fired to make me realize how precious it is to do what you know you’re called to do.
7. The freedom of knowing what you give people when you’re up and they’re down is what they’ll give you when you’re down and they’re up. I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and generosity of so many people. I had someone say to me, “You’ve loved us and accepted us and refused to judge us, now it’s our turn to return the favor.” Remember that applies to us all.
8. The freedom of knowing that though God may be silent, He is never still. You question when you are going through something hard, “Why God, are you allowing this to happen?” By faith I trust that He has a purpose and a plan. He certainly has for me and I love the new doors that are opening.
9. The Freedom of knowing that no one can take from you or keep from you what God wants for you. The threat of getting fired is not the end of the world. It’s not the end of your career and is certainly not the end of your calling. Whatever God’s called you to do, do it! When one good thing ends, a greater thing begins. God will continue to bless you. Don’t worry about getting back or hurting other people. Let God be your defender. Focus on the next right thing to do and then God can bless you.
10. The greatest freedom of all is the freedom of knowing that the mission of being a part of this worldwide revolution of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ can never be muted or held hostage. Christians may disagree. We may have to separate. New churches need to be planted. But the mission is paramount. It’s always about Jesus. It’s always about hurting people and getting them and Jesus together.
The new mission God has placed me on, helping non-religious people connect to God and each other, is a passion burning in my bones every single day.
The mission is always the most important thing. And when you are on a mission from God, you’re free; free from the bondage of institutions, free from the confusion and division of religion, and free from intimidation because you know that this is the greatest mission in the world.
Hey, getting fired is not all that bad if you can learn something from it. These are the 10 things I’ve learned. What are you learning?