DIARIES OF A PASTOR
All new Memoir Mondays series titled, "Diaries of a Pastor"
INTRODUCING MEMOIR MONDAYS
Recently I said goodbye to a twenty year career pastoring in the local church (though hopefully you also saw my recent announcement about transitioning to a new role of Digital Pastor).
Twenty years. Wow.
That’s my entire adult life.
Mind if I talk about it for a while?
I have some things to process. Stories to tell. Lessons I’ve learned.
And I seem to process best through my writing.
Therefore, I’m starting a brand new segment here at Perspective Shift I’m calling “Memoir Mondays,” where each Monday I’ll post a new article focused on the more personal aspects of my life.
Quick Heads Up: Memoir Monday posts will be accessibly only to Paid Subscribers—other than this first one. To receive Memoir Monday posts (as well as other new content) make sure you Subscribe to Perspective Shift OR, even better, become a supporter on Patreon and get a year subscription to Perspective Shift FREE—plus loads of other benefits, of course!)
DIARIES OF A PASTOR
To kickstart Memoir Mondays I want to write about my time as a Pastor. I’ll be calling this new series “Diaries of a Pastor.” I’m not entirely sure where all this series will take me, but I think it will be a fascinating exploration for two reasons:
Like I said, I process best through my writing. Looking back on two decades of my life—which includes several traumatic experiences in the world of church, by the way—I know that there are things I need to process, unpack, and (re)consider. Aristotle claimed that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I don’t want that. So it’s time to examine.
I may be wrong about this, but I think people might find something like “Diaries of a Pastor” to be a fascinating read. Whether that’s because in general you may not know much about what life is like as a Pastor, or, more specifically because maybe you’ve followed me/my work for a while, and you’re curious to know where I came from, what makes me tick, and so on.
So I guess I’m doing this series partly for me and partly for you.
For starters, I’ll go back to the beginning of how and why I became a pastor in the first place. I may not write strictly chronological the whole time, but everyone likes a good origin story so I that’s how we’ll begin next week. And then from there I’ll dig into more of the stories I lived, the lessons I learned, the people I met, and the gifts (both obvious and hidden) I received all along the way.
But first, for the uninitiated here is a brief overview of my twenty year career in pastoral ministry.
FIVE CHURCHES IN 20 YEARS
Youth Intern: 2002-2004
South Albany Community Church - Albany, OR
My first church job was as an intern for my High School youth pastor while I attended college twenty miles away. I drove south down the freeway every Wednesday night and Sunday morning to work with my old youth group at South Albany Community Church.
I prayed a lot during those years, but mostly because I drove a 1986 Chrysler K-car that shook when I exceeded 55 mph, constantly overheated, and one time while driving the actual engine fell out of the car. Each merge on to the freeway was a religious experience for me.
But yeah, this is where my ministry life began.
Associate Worship Pastor: 2005-2007
Salem Alliance Church - Salem, OR
Upon graduating college, after a brief stint working in a sign shop I got hired by a mentor of mine to join his Worship Ministry staff at Salem Alliance Church, a large church (in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination) up in Salem, OR.
For two years I got initiated into the world of:
full time ministry,
working with a team, and
what life is like when you live with a six day countdown clock Every. Single. Week. 🤯
Worship & Arts Pastor: 2007-2011
The Grove - Chandler, AZ
Then, in 2007, a friend-of-a-friend acquired my phone number and called to introduce himself and say he was moving to Chandler, AZ to join a fairly new (and fast growing) church plant as their Youth Pastor, and he wanted me to move there as well to be the Worship Pastor.
Neither my wife nor I had lived away from Oregon or family before, and so with two little kids we decided to set off for adventure and drove southwest in the middle of July (unloading the moving truck on a lovely 117° day).
I served as the Worship and Arts Pastor at that church, The Grove, for five (mostly) wonderful years. Unfortunately it all came crashing down when, in 2011, my boss and the Board learned that I had shifted my theology to become open and affirming of LGBTQ people. This revelation led them to fire me the very next week.
Of course, many people know this story because I tell it in detail in my first book, UnClobber: Rethinking our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality.
Worship & Arts Pastor: 2012-2014
Missiongathering - San Diego, CA
Wondering if my time as a pastor was over at that point, our family (now with 3.5 kids, as Kate was 7 months pregnant with our fourth) sold the house we’d built, loaded up another moving truck, and drove back to Oregon to lick our wounds.
I did my best to find a (non-church) job over the following four months of unemployment, but even though I had some amazing contacts and got some really good interviews, no one wanted to hire a former-Pastor.
With only a few weeks of money left in our bank account, the panic was getting real.
Five months prior, just after I’d gotten fired for affirming gay people, two separate colleagues mentioned a church in San Diego they said I should reach out to. The church, Missiongathering, was a relatively new church (planted by the Disciples of Christ denomination) that launched with a pile of money thanks to the sale of an old DoC church building. But more to the point, they were led by an openly gay minister. And, more specific to me and my situation, they were still doing church in the vibe of evangelicalism.
You see, when I shifted my theology on queer identity and got fired for it, I was under the impression my future (if I even had one) in the church world would be limited to, well, the Episcopalians or some other mainstream branch of Christianity that affirmed LGBTQ people. So to learn about a church that still looked and sounded and felt like the evangelical churches of my past—and yet whose theology was progressive!?— well back in 2012 that was a true unicorn.
After several phone calls, and one trip down to visit, they made me offer to join them as their Worship Pastor (well, to be more specific, the lead pastor had the idea of hiring me to be the Worship Pastor for a couple years and then hand the church over to me to lead—thus finally reaching my goal of transitioning out of Worship ministry. But, spoiler alert, that never happened. We’ll get to that story, I promise.)
My first year at Missiongathering was nothing short of euphoric. Finally I had found my people! I loved my job. Loved the team I worked with. And freaking loved living in San Diego. Sadly all that came screeching to a halt when the lead pastor no longer saw me as friend and asset, but rather as a threat to his position and power.
Which meant that once again I was summoned to an emergency board meeting so that I could be handed my termination letter effective immediately.
Church Planter and Co-Pastor: 2014-2022
Sojourn Grace Collective - San Diego, CA
Fired from two churches in two years—the first time for theological differences and the second time because I inadvertently got mixed up with a guy who routinely chews up and spits people out. I came to learn (too late, of course) that I was the 3rd or 4th iteration to be hired and fired by this guy since the church started. Then, after I was gone, I spent the next several years holding space for the people after me who experienced the same fate.
And yet, during our brief stint at Missiongathering, Kate and I developed deeply meaningful relationships with incredible humans. People who really believed in us and our potential. So when Missiongathering fired me there was a group of about 30 people that surveyed the situation and said, “Look, you and Kate have always been our Pastors anyway. We believe in you and if you want to stay in San Diego and try and build a faith community here, we will support you.”
Thus began our experiment in church planting.
Sojourn Grace Collective was founded on March 2nd, 2014, in our tiny house in North park, and then closed on October 30th 2022 (also in someone’s living room!) because we ultimately didn’t survive the pandemic. As they say in church planting world, “From Living Room you came, and to Living Room you shall return” (okay, “they” don’t say that, I just made it up… but it sounds awesome).
Thanks For Following Along
Like I said, I’m not sure where all this series will take us but I plan to be open, honest, and real with you.
As paid subscribers, not only will you have exclusive access to this series, but you’ll be able to comment and engage and ask questions along the way. I hope you take advantage of that.
Last week I said goodbye to the only life I’ve ever known. I hope that, if nothing else, these Diaries of a Pastor will be my way to preserve the experiences I had, record the memories I cherish (even the ones I wish I could forget), and be a testament to how I showed up to life for two solid decades trying to love God and love people.
Thanks for joining me in this endeavor.
See you next week.
Make sure you get Memoir Mondays and “Diaries of a Pastor” in your inbox!
Hey Colby! While streaming a service from Austin New Church (from 2 weeks ago), I heard them mention your name -- will you be doing some digital pastor work with them in the future? (I know they’re doing a study using The Shift)
On board and looking forward to the trip!