Dave: Mike you were a pastor for 11 years. Tell my readers about your church and how you ended up retiring from the pastorate.
Mike: I’ve spent the last decade pondering that question. I started my church six years after I became a believer. I had no formal seminary training, had three kids with a fourth on the way, and a deep sense that God was calling me to something. A small, but strong core group of members rallied around me.
While my teaching gifts became evident, eventually so did my lack of other gifts. I found myself deeply enjoying the study and the pulpit, but struggling with counseling, relationships, and the minutiae of management. Eventually, unable to secure a permanent facility and spiritually burned-out, we merged with a sister church. It proved to be disastrous. The two congregations and our pastoral visions grated against each other. There were evaluations. re-evaluations, tears, and defections. Nevertheless, we eventually disbanded the church. It remains one of the hardest, but one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Dave: How did your life change for you and your family when you quit pastoring?
Mike: At first, I was in limbo. I really didn’t have any marketable skills… save being able to preach a good sermon. I contemplated starting another church, but felt like I needed some time to gain perspective and rest. So I returned to construction work, with one ear to the ground. The family thrived during that time. I didn’t realize until I was out of the ministry how much wear and tear one takes.
Being able to spend time with my wife and kids — heck, being able to miss church! — was liberating. But I continued to find myself gravitating back to the ministry, and eventually returned to leadership in a lay level, which was really refreshing.
Dave: Do you have any regrets about your decision?
Mike: It’s kind of like a broken leg that’s gone gangrenous. Unless you cut off the leg, the whole body will die. I don’t regret “cutting off the leg,” because it saved me. What I do regret is not taking care of myself when I knew the leg was broken. A lot of ministers do that — we see little fractures and don’t address them. Eventually, the Doctor is standing over us with a hacksaw.
So to answer your question, my regrets weren’t about the decision to resign, but about the processes that brought me there. I began to be see my “ministry fractures” more acutely, times in which I compromised, lacked faith, and simply refused to ask for help. So, yeah, there were some regrets. Now I walk with a spiritual limp (like Jacob). But at least I’m walking.
Dave: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were pastoring?
Mike: The ministry is not a career, it’s a calling. I don’t mean to suggest it can’t be a career, but that if we strip it down to its essence, the ministry is a man following God. That’s it. And following God requires flexibility; it can be unpredictable, risky, and not at all what we had planned. When I finally had to face the possibility of resigning from the ministry, after 11 years full-time staff, it was strangely liberating. I really had to trust God and follow Him. And THAT was what I’d always been “called” to do.
Dave: If you could only give one piece of advice to someone starting out in the ministry what would it be?
Mike: Only one thing? Probably setting a realistic goal for yourself. Too many ministers bind themselves to the success or failure of their church. Their self-worth gets far too tied up in their performance. And as a result, we begin to minister out of ambition, motivate others through guilt, and rush things that need time. Pastors are loved by God, and the simplicity of that truth often evades us
in the ministry. So my advice: Set goals that have nothing to do with church attendance or your performance in the pulpit. Set goals that have simply to do with you and your Heavenly Father.
Dave: You now work in construction but your real passion is writing, in fact you have a novel being published soon. Tell my readers about The Resurrection.
Mike: Writing was one of the “fruits” that sprung up, unexpectedly, after I left the ministry. I’d always loved to read and write, and decided to make a concerted effort at developing in the craft. I studied, joined an online critique group, attended some writing conferences. Eventually, I started having some smaller pieces published, acquired an agent, and then recently signed a two-book contract with Strang Publishing. The first novel is slated to be released February 2011. It’s entitled “The Resurrection,” and is about a crippled woman who raises a boy from dead, unlocking a centuries-old mystery in her quiet coastal town.
Dave: Thanks Mike.
Find Mike Duran here.