When I was let go from the youth ministry job I had loved so dearly, one of the Board said to me, 'Well, it's probably for the best, your business seems to be going well so you should probably just focus on that'.
Seven long years later I realise he was accidentally right
With stumbling words that pricked and stung, he cut to the heart of it and said something so brutally true my idealist heart didn't want to believe it. And in the end, the only reason it stung was because my pride was on the line. Now I've learntâit's exactly what I need to focus on.
I was 15 years old when I drank the Kool-Aid, believing my life would only be trulymeaningful if I was a minister, a youth worker, a preacher or teacher.
You can hardly blame meâI sat through my share of sermons focused on how to become world-changing or the world's greatest missionary. I did all the courses and quizzes on personality and spiritual gifts. I took every leadership courseâbecause you're only as significant as your leadership roleâand I was inspired and intimidated by every testimony I heard, wondering how I was to ever live up to the expectations. By 17 years old, these inspirational programs were a weight of expectation I had set myself. It was ambition too. That's nearly 20 years of ambition right there.
So I did it. I've been a youth worker, pastor, creative minister and worship leader. I've been in Christian ministry writing youth programs, training seminars; hosting radio shows and music festivals. I've done it all, relentlessly believing I was pursuing meaning in making a difference. There are not many things I set my mind to that I don't achieve.
What kind of significance is that? I've always been ambitious. I want to change the way people thinkâbut changing the thinking of the middle-class, largely white, Western evangelical church through Sunday services and events? That's not enough for me. It's never been enough.
I've wanted it all and tried to have it both ways
I wanted significance in the Church, but I want it in the world too. In fact, I think I want it out there more. My old friend's hard truth stings meâit's not because the Church doesn't please me. It's my ego that wanted the Church to love me back.
Like an unrequited love, I wanted her to need me just a little bit more while I pursued the attention of the world. Every commercial success I've had, I've tried to turn back into something for the Church. Because if the Church doesn't find me worthy, how could God?
I'm finally accepting that we're a bad romance because of me. It's not that the Church doesn't want me but that I want more because the Church is not enough for me. I want the world. I want to influence world leaders and titans of industry whether it's through the ad business, strategy, politics, TV or hospitality.
I want to be the place and the person people come to ready for truth, ready to eat, drink, laugh and make decisions that really change things. I've got a long way to go. There's just a spark of wisdom in me now but I intend to stoke a raging fire. The world is just beginning to catch alight.
I've spent many years trying to be bi-vocational because I've wrestled with my lack of meaning and significance outside of the Church. Slowly, I've done less and less inside the Church and the Church wants (needs) less and less of me.
I've struggled to find meaning. I've screamed, cried, raged and fought to be held on to. I've wanted so badly to find meaning there because I haven't wanted to be one of my generation who have given upâall the while being almost ungrateful for all else I've been able to do. While I've wanted more from the Church, I've almost failed to see everything I've been given.
To be good the business of Church
I want to be good at the business of Church. It's time I wholeheartedly accept the advice I was given long ago. Focus on findingâno, makingâmeaning in what's in my hand.
A few clarifying statements:
- I'm not leaving the Church
- I still love the Church
- I still want to influence the Church
- I'll influence from outside, not inside
I have wanted the Church to be my ahi kaa, the home fire. But the truth is I take my ahi kaa with me and any one who gathers around my table, my fireplace, my whisky circle or round my boardtable sits there with me.
Kia mura tonu nga ahi kaa mo te matemateaone: Keep the home fires burning, so loved ones will always return.
I hope the Church will still want to hear my stories when I come through her gates. She'll still like my provocative, challenging ways and wrestle with what to do and say: she just doesn't know it yet.
Kure kwandinoenda, asi ndichakusvika chete: Where we are going is far, but we will eventually get there.
This was originally published at www.tashmcgill.com.
Tash McGill is a digital strategist by day. That means helping people make smart decisions about all things digital. Her passion is people and communicating ideas that shape our world, especially the world of young people. Formerly a youth worker and theologian, Tash is passionate about identity and spiritual formation alongside a healthy dose of hospitality.
Tash McGill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tash-mcgill.html