Wendy and I have some major changes coming up. To understand where we are going you have to know where we have been.
My Perspective Begins to Shift
The Thingy was going great. We we had finished our planning time and were testing out the system. (If you want more on that check out the descriptions of the planning meetings on the right in “Stories from the Thingy.”) Already several non-church people had hung out with us and been challenged by Jesus through us. Lots of God conversations were happening; and we were definitely being transformed. Like I said, it was great.
On the other hand, my time on staff at Streetlite was running out in a few days and the question of income was looming. I had been offered a great job, but like every other business in America, the company had taken a major hit and was forced to retrack their offer at the last minute. Things were getting a little scary.
As I searched for jobs, lots of people recommended I go back into professional ministry. Several people sent me notes telling me their churches were hiring. Even a few head pastors came to me and asked if I would pursue staff positions at their churches. I was flattered, but I had no interest in reentering the institution.
Saying I had no interest is being way to nice to myself. During this brief three month period, I was an arrogant jerk. I felt like I had found the answer, like our crew had stumbled onto the true church and everyone not doing something similar to us was missing it. We were experiencing true reality and everyone else was still plugged into the Matrix. I don’t think my jerkiness came across to others; but it was definitely hanging out in my head. My ego was growing by leaps and bounds. It was like a warm blanket I was wrapping myself in daily to fight off the chilling thoughts of “no job, no income, no way to feed my kids.”
At the last minute, through my boy Ellis Prince, a job materialized. I was hired to be the new shipping clerk at Cenveo publishing. The job was set to start in three weeks. Tension was thus eased and my ego expanded another notch. I remember thinking after the interview, “That’s right! God’s coming through because what I’m doing is awesome!” (The job ended up being a complete disaster…see my posts entitled “Jeff the Shipping Clerk Gets Laid Off” or “Incentives were all Wrong” in the Fun Stories folder on the right.)
That is when the onslaught began. There was a church, a very well known respected church in town, looking for a Small Group Director. I had heard about the position a while back. Even thought about applying for it before the Thingy crew got going; but in the last five months it had completely slipped off my radar screen. The first person that mentioned it to me was a complete stranger at a local playground. We were chatting as our kids ran wild. Then another guy at a coffee house. Then the next day an acquaintance from the neighborhood. Then another. Then another.
All of these I ignored. I was above working for churches. I was going to be a captain of industry. It would only take a few years, I was sure, for me to move from shipping clerk to CEO. That’s me. That’s the way I roll. “Church jobs? Phah! I laugh at church jobs.”
Then some members of the Thingy crew started encouraging me to go for. They knew how to pitch it. “The church needs what we are finding and you could be a positive influence there.” My ego was appropriately stoked. So I applied. Within a few days I had the initial interview. It was fantastic. The interviewer and I hit it off right away. I told him about the Thingy, and he loved it. I thought I was a shoe in.
It is funny how your ego can play games with you. I actually convinced myself that “coming to the church with answers” was a position of humility. Somehow I came to believe that by acknowledging their brokenness I was being vulnerable, teachable, and broken. Looking back on it now I laugh at myself. “Don’t worry broken church. I, humble Jeff, have the answers you seek. Your institution is corrupt and need to be overhauled…but I in a true spirit of humility am here to teach you what I have learned.”
Two days before the Cenveo job was supposed to start I had my second interview. Walking in, I thought I was just meeting with the next level of staffers; I had no idea the senior leadership of the church was going to be there and that this was the final interview. When I came into the room and sat down at the table to see the top guys there I was totally thrown. The discussion was strange. I feel like I learned much more about them than they did about me. I definitely asked more questions. By the end of it my ego had taken a real punch in the gut. Their problems were much bigger than I could solve with a catchy phrase and the force of my personality.
But I still thought I could help. I believed (and still do) that what they needed was what our crew was learning. So I left the interview and prayed. I asked God if this was right, what I should say in the follow up (again, still not realizing that was the final interview…I assumed a church of that size would have six or seven levels of questioning), and if I could really help. I became convinced it was right and I could help. I even developed a plan of action (graphs, diagrams, future steps, the whole shebang).
That was why the call came as such a surprise. It was a Saturday, only a week and a half since the interview. I was at the local playground, again watching my kids run wild, when my phone rang. There was no explanation. No commentary. The representative simply said, “We are sure God is going to use you in powerful ways somewhere. We just don’t believe it is here.”
At first I was angry. I thought about packing up the plan of action I had developed and sending it to them anyway with a strongly worded letter attached; but, through the council of a good friend, I quickly came to realize that if they wanted my opinion they would have asked for it.
My anger turned to sadness. I honestly believed I could help. The rejection was tough. I pushed thoughts of reforming traditional church aside and settled for loving the Thingy.
That was when my mom called.