Church has always been a necessary mystery for me—necessary because Jesus made it so clear that being the church is key to being a Christ-follower. It’s an essential part of the restoration we each need and long for. For me, “church” is a commandment I may not fully understand but yet choose to obey. Something happens when I worship, listen to a sermon, study the Bible, and pray in the presence of others: I feel a profound centering at my core. I am not alone. I can journey on in the company of brothers and sisters who “get” it.
But it’s also been at church that I’ve learned how cruel, ignorant, and political Christ-followers can be. Growing up with a high-profile grandfather, aunt, and uncles who planted churches and pastored pastors meant that I saw both the positive and negative sides of ministry from an early age. So I learned, early on, to only volunteer for under-the-radar jobs where I wouldn’t have to exercise my spiritual gifts of leadership or discernment. Why? Because I wanted to worship, not be at war.
However, I couldn’t fly under the radar for the years I served as an administrative pastor at my downtown Toronto church. My church needed a particular kind of leader, and I thought I was ready for the challenge. Eighteen years of dealing with insecure bosses and ego-driven clients in an advertising agency career had honed my leadership gifts (while also sharpening my distaste for politics and game playing). I longed for a workplace whose culture honored and respected all staff and where leadership knew how to lead. I hoped to find that in the church.1