Categories
Christian Living

The F Word, Part 3

Editorial note: This is part 3 (part 1, part 2) of a guest post series. I don’t normally do guest posts, but this friend had insight that needed to be shared. Today we’re wrapping it up by responding to some comments and answering questions asked. I have a feeling we will revisit this some day. While the point of this series wasn’t to promote something, if you’re looking for a resource on this topic, please visit The Marin Foundation.

 

First off, the outpouring of grace has been pretty overwhelming. It’s very strange I have to admit, to know there are beacons of hope, these mercy-givers out there. A thousand thank yous.

If you are wondering, how to find people like me in your sphere of influence, here’s how.

First, be very open that you wouldn’t care if a person was gay, you’d love them. And love them because God loves them, not because they are gay, or think they are gay, or this or that. When we love for a reason that is not because God loves them, we tend to have these variations of acceptance and then it just gets complicated.

Second, challenge the negative gay bashing talk. “Hey, that’s not cool. People I love are gay.” When people challenge me on this, I say, “OK, next time you pray, use the word you just used in talking to God.” That clears up the situation real quick.

Third, if someone tells you that they are gay. You let them talk it out. And when they are done, look them in the eye and say, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not telling anyone. I’m your friend and I love you.” It’s what I hope to hear when I tell someone.

Fourth, you’ll have a million questions. Maybe ask two. And when you get together, don’t make every time some kind of Oprah Q and A. We will tell you as it comes up.

Five, just love us. Invite us over. In a marriage-based church culture, where couples get together, single people are left kind of on the margin. We like restaurants and movies; we like your kids. We will help with dishes. We go home to an empty apartment; we like the warmth of your place.

Hug us often and don’t interrupt it as anything other than a hug. Celibacy is a hard road for the sake of the cross.  Human contact is a rare treat.

Now, to respond to some comments.

Some of you have called me courageous, but that’s because I have outstanding friendships in my life.

Some of you have said you’ve cried and I say thank you. I cry too.

HisOwn: Your story saddens me, makes me stumble like the earth is giving way. You have to tell someone. Tell your best friend. I pray you find some solace, my friend. And I pray that with clench fists, eyes shut, gathering all my will for that prayer.

Jeffery Dick asked why I don’t join a church would be fine with me being openly gay. You see, I can’t come out publicly because my parents would lose it. Trust me. My dad majored in beating up gay men in the military. It was his thing. So I can’t really come out. I also have a job where it would create complications.

The second reason is I need to be in a place where I can do the hard work of changing the minds of those around me. If we all ditch the churches who don’t really care for us, then the gulf between us becomes wider. I’m not called to comfort. Good question. Gold star.

Because you have to understand, I can manage the same-sex attraction part. I’m older now, a bit older.  It’s easier.

However, you can’t manage the isolation, the fear and dread of someone finding out and losing that relationship. You see, we, the Strugglers, the Forever Singles don’t get a family. The hardest part is not being someone’s first. You married people out there, your spouse picked you. You are their first priority.

We Strugglers don’t have that luxury. We are an afterthought, the Eternal Third Wheel.  Our loneliness is our miry pit.

I’m a member of a church that has a denominational leader who is actively offensive in this area. You’ve heard of this person.

I have friends in the church who know, all the pastors, and they are fine with it. They have no problem me being a leader or preaching.

I’m pretty good at preaching. I once scored a 9.2 when they held up the cards at the end. The Russian judge gave me a 7.6. (I figured we need a bit of levity.)

Know this: Christ loves us. You. Me. And I long for the day when I look back at this life in His Kingdom and laugh a bit; I’ll laugh at the foolishness of it all and that it won’t be like that anymore. And all of us, we’ll gather for awhile. I’ll shake your hand. I’ll give you a hug. We will know each other deeply.

And one day we get this white stone with a new name on it. A new name. A name only God knows. (Rev 2:17) And all the other names, even the one on my driver’s license melts away.

So if anything, this thorn I have makes me a better friend, more loyal. And it makes me long for Jesus and for home.

So share my story if you’d like. Not for my sake (I was nearly outed about 3 times in the past 12 hours due this series. No fault of anyone, just Facebook can be a bit tricky at times. Twitter too, that rascal.) People need to know that we are out there. We serve communion, and we pass the offering plate. We play on your basketball league (We crush you. Be aware of that.) We are your friends, or at least we want to be.

And if you get the chance, meet Adam McLane face to face. The guy has this sporty exterior, but he exudes grace. He exudes grace like he just ate garlic fries. It comes out of his pores. He listens so well and he has given me a platform that has shaped me in ways I’m just starting to grasp.  I owe him a debt, a great debt.

And to those of you who know my name, thanks for being my friend.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so tha they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Go be a light my good friends. Love those around you. Bring your light into our darkness.

And if you ever see a man wearing a sharp patchwork driving cap, who is very handsome and built, standing next to Adam McLane, give him a fist bump. Ask him his favorite comic book hero, buy him a beer and he will tell you a tale.

Adam: OK, that last bit made me literally laugh out loud. Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you aren’t anonymous in my life. I need more friends like you. Because left alone I’m a moron. 

Categories
Church Leadership

5 Ways to Fight Loneliness in Leadership

It’s lonely at the top.

For those who work in the church, we all know it. Those who make it for the long haul either succumb to a lifetime of loneliness and don’t have any real friends or we learn to adapt and find deep connection outside the walls of the church.

But loneliness doesn’t have to be a part of the job. You really can have deep friendships and be in full-time ministry.

Acquaintance vs. Friendship

The first few years I worked at churches I confused church members hospitality with true friendship. Sure, I really enjoyed being close with people in the church… but at the end of the day (and certainly in retrospect when you step away from a church) a lot of those people I thought were my friends turned out to be just positional acquaintances. As soon as I stopped being their Pastor Adam they stopped wanting to hang out. Once I stopped investing in their kids there were no more invitations to dinner, golf, and BBQs.

Of course, we have been able to transition a few of those church acquaintances into true lifelong friendship. (For which we’re totally thankful!) But I think getting there took some time and wisdom.

A spouse helps but doesn’t really count

Kristen is my best friend. That goes without saying. But Kristen could never fill the void I needed in ministry as a friend and confidant. When I meet with people young in ministry, I often see them putting their spouse in the friend category. Of course, your spouse will help you curb loneliness! But don’t forget your spouse needs to find true friendship outside of you, as well.

So, what works?

Here are five things that helped me get past loneliness and find some healthy friendship while in church leadership.

  1. Find a ministry network locally. Believe it or not, there are people just like you in your own community! Joining a network is a great way to meet people. Go a couple of times, see who you connect with, then take the first step and take that one person out to lunch.
  2. Join a sports club or league. I don’t mean a church league either. Join a league and get outside of your church social circle. Get to know contractors and realtors and other normal people.
  3. Connect with long-time friends intentionally. Some of my best friends in ministry, I only see once or twice per year. The few days we spend together per year are awesome and fill up our tanks. Going to the same conference really helps. But even meeting up for a weekend somewhere goes a long way.
  4. Ignore other leaders who live unhealthy lives. For whatever reason, church ministry attracts workaholics. Looking through job postings at YS I can’t believe how many of them will admit that they want someone to work more than 40 hours per week. Don’t work at those ministries. Go home on time. Make wise use of your ministry time and you’ll have tons of time for real friendship. Never forget that its Jesus’ job to grow the church.
  5. Take the first step! I think I spent over a year completely lonely and out of my mind crazy because I was waiting for fellow ministry people in my community to come find me. It’s not going to happen. The assumption is always going to be that you are busy and your life is full of relationships until you step out first.
Categories
Church Leadership

Smaller is Better

Photo by mrskoolick via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Want to know a little secret? People who go to your church like it when you know them.

Want to know another little secret? People who go to your church aren’t that impressed with big anymore.

How do I know these secrets? I listen to people who don’t go to church talk about church. I listen to people who are disgruntled with their church. (Their biggest complaint is that you don’t listen to them or care about them.) I meet people who wouldn’t mind going to a church or learning about a relationship with Jesus, they just haven’t met the right people yet.

The people in your life want to be known deeply. They crave intimacy. They are looking for people to trust. They long for people to share the good life and bad life with. They need community to keep growing. They desire people to giggle with. They hunger for 6-7 close friends. Wonder why they join a bowling league? Not sure why their kids hockey team is more important than coming to hear another sermon? The simple fact is that those people know them better.

Right now, things that are big are suspicious. They smell of waste. They look at big things and wonder if they have something to hide. They look at big things and assume they will just be another customer.

If you are part of a small church, this is great news. You are perfectly positioned to make a deep impact interpersonally. If you are a big church, you better get working on creating smaller and smaller ways for people to do life together outside of your church walls.

The wise church invests in creating intimacy between people. That is so 2010.

The foolish church invests in trying to draw a crowd. That is so 2000.