A couple of days ago, I told you the story of Shaun King stepping down on September 1st as the senior leader of Courageous Church in Atlanta. Shaun resigned not because of a scandal but because he was worn out and disillusioned from trying to transition his church from "the big Sunday morning event" to small missional communities. Read the whole story here: http://storiesfromtherevolution.blogspot.com/2011/09/mega-church-pastor-we-are-completely.html
Now, here is Rai King's (Shaun's wife) take on what happened. All I've done is take sections from her own blog (the link to this is at the bottom). It's a little longer than most of my posts but what she writes is so gut-level honest that I couldn't cut it back any more. (I like this lady! I hope I get to meet her some day) I think you will find this to be compelling reading.
I wonder how many other pastors' wives might write something similar if they had the freedom to "tell it like it is"?
Here are Rai King's own words...
"I have never loved leading this church. Ever. I didn’t want to plant it and have had just a hand full of days since planting it that I felt like it was worth it. Shaun, however, has loved this church with his whole heart from the moment he conceived it. Before one person set foot in anything called Courageous Church, he dreamed about it, prayed for it, and worked around the clock for months getting it off the ground. He contacted church planting organizations and sought their financial support. He went through their assessment centers, filled out their paperwork, went to their meetings, emailed their leaders.
...Shaun thought that if people witnessed courageous leadership, and listened to edgy, courageous teaching, they’d be inspired to get out and be the hands and feet of Christ themselves and provide life changing power and solutions to a dying and hurting world….Um, FAIL! (JW: You mean great teaching/preaching doesn't result in genuine disciples???)
...So 2 years into it, after 300+ sermons, who knows how many songs, people coming, people going, stressful lead team meetings, raising money from outside sources because the people who attended the church didn’t actually give enough to support the church, Shaun got frustrated, a few leaders got tired and left, and Jinean got sick of being the only “crazy” person in the room and started serving God on her own in Mexico.
...Thus Shaun had a vision for “the shift”…as it has come to be known. After searching the scriptures and seeing Christ’s ministry for what it really was we decided we no longer wanted to participate in the spectator sport we Christians call CHURCH. So we said, "let’s stop meeting every Sunday. Let’s instead, meet in small groups in each other’s homes. Let’s share a meal and learn how to be true disciples of Christ. Let’s all serve together. Let’s have each small group belong to a cause group that addresses a need in our city." (JW: Sounds a lot like the house churches of the New Testament!)
We talked about it, met about it, argued about it, preached about it, sang about it, and read books about it for months. And for the most part, people were buying it. As a matter of fact, the month before the shift, when Shaun was preaching the "hows" and "whys" of what were about to do was our highest attendance and our highest offering in all of 2011. We thought that meant people were actually ready to be radical and courageous. 4 months later, it’s clear that what that meant was that people love HEARING about being radical and courageous.
(This is where Shaun explained that when they actually implemented "the shift" all hell broke loose. Within 3 months, 85% of the church was clamoring to go back to the Sunday "experience".)
...I thought the problem was that we weren’t organized enough. Maybe people weren’t serving because we’re not organized. So this summer we went into super churchy, extra responsible, grown-up church mode. But after months of church meetings, and the ridiculous antics of electing a board, and forming ministry teams, we’re the most organized we’ve ever been, and STILL, no one shows up to "the cause" group meetings and outreach initiatives.
...Am I frustrated? CLEARLY! Am I overstating the irrelevance of the Sunday morning song and dance? Probably. Did people come to Christ and renew their relationship with God because of what Courageous Church did for so long on Sunday mornings? Absolutely! But, then what? Glad we baptized you, glad we helped you believe in church again and feel all warm and fuzzy about your creator, but I’m sorry we failed to actually make the vast majority of you into disciples.
...We’re leaving because we will not go back to the stress and relative lack of actual disciple making of the every Sunday model. Sunday morning has its place. I too missed the gatherings, but I will never again participate in a model that replaces the real work of Christ with the mundanity of 2 songs and a feel good sermon.
...I actually feel I owe Shaun and apology. For so long I have put all of the church’s problems off on him as a leader. I complained that he wasn’t organized enough. So time and time again he devised and implemented strategies to make the church better organized. Then I complained that he didn’t spend enough time on his sermons. So he’d hunker down and study more and preach more well thought out sermons.
...The truth of the matter is, Shaun is simply exhausted. Pastoring people has been 10 times better than my best hopes and 100 times worse than my worst nightmares. Unless you’ve done it, you will NEVER understand it. It looks one way from the outside looking in, but trust me, you don’t know the half.
Pastors are the sickest, loneliest, most depressed people in church. (JW: Wow! Read that last sentence again. What is it about the way we have done church that produces those results in the lives of many pastors?) That’s why they have affairs, that’s why they die at the age of 42 from heart attacks and drug over doses. That’s why every time you turn on the TV there’s a new scandal, and a fresh news story about the latest greatest to fall from grace. Taking criticism day in and day out from people who swear up and down they know better is exhausting. Having people leave for stupid, selfish reasons is exhausting. The divorce rate for pastors is among the highest of any other group in the country. Shaun and I have decided we’d like that to not be our story.
...To close, I want to be clear that Shaun and I haven’t given up on “church.” We’re just finished with church as usual. There must be churches out there getting it right. Evidenced not by how big and cool they are, but by the fact that they’re actually making disciples who are recapturing the world for Christ."
My response: I believe Rai is telling a story that hundreds (maybe thousands) of pastors and their spouses could tell. I was a pastor in traditional churches for 25 years and its a story I know well. Having been in the house church world now for many years, we have learned something of what's necessary to grow churches that "actually make disciples" and that don't burn out leaders.
If you are interested in learning more, check this out: http://storiesfromtherevolution.blogspot.com/2011/09/foundations-course.html
To read Rai King's entire blog, go here: http://raiking.com/this-is-probably-a-manifesto-leaving-courageous-church/