At the end of the “Collective Review” time with the Personnel Team, we committed as a staff to meet again early the next week before creating a proposal for the Leadership Team to vote on. We were still divided and needed time to think, pray, process and discern. Between these two gatherings I met with Josh and we had one of our many emotional, heart-to-heart conversations that had taken place over the years.
Our friendship took a big hit when I came on staff. I’ve always heard that when you go to college you should be hesitant about being roommates with your best friends, because it is often the distance between two people, as much as the nearness, that forms close bonds of connection. Remove the distance and, often, disaster occurs. I think a similar thing can be said for working with close friends. Josh and I discovered that a shared love for beer and a similar sense of humor made for a good friendship, but wasn’t enough to overcome differing visions of church leadership among co-pastors.
I shared my frustration with him about what was transpiring. The past couple of years had been great, hadn’t they? Why are we all of a sudden doing this? I was told they hadn’t been wonderful for Josh, nor for many in the church. He felt that for all the disadvantages that David’s leadership and celebrity brought to the church, at least there was a air of excitement and positive momentum when he was around. Since he had left, Josh felt the church was stagnating, and it he was dying inside not being able to take charge and do something about it. Whether we re-work flat leadership or move to a senior-pastor model, he felt something needed to change. He believed we had already tried the former, and now it was time to try the latter.
Everything happening was taking its toll on me, and Josh knew it. He suggested I get away for a couple of days to clear my head. For a moment my defense mechanism kicked in and I bristled at the thought of being away from the church during pivotal days of discussion and discernment. But I knew I needed to remove myself from the situation before I caused any more damage.
My “getaway place” is Caddo Lake, a swampy wetland that straddles the northeast border of Texas and Louisiana. I try to be there at least once a year during a time when the state park is devoid of tourists and campers. As this was in the middle of the week, I had the lake to myself. I spent the days praying, hiking, and just sitting on the lakefront, staring at the waters. I thought about all the times I had been out there, including several days after Kyle died. It was quiet, and I was ashamed at how I had acted and postured myself. I needed the anger, shame and fear to wash away from me.
In the evenings I drove out of the woods to Jefferson, an old riverboat town, (Population: not many,) and spent hours at Auntie Skinners, the local bar and grill where locals gather. I needed to be witness to laughter again, a sense of community where status and strife was far down on the list of priorities. I needed to be near people who would have no category for the strife I was feeling, whose lives were on the ground, not in the clouds.
When I returned to Waco, I felt settled. I was still anxious about what was to come, and more than a little worried about what had happened in my absence, but the inner storm had passed. I had come to terms with the likelihood that those on the fence had changed their mind when I returned, and this proved to be the case. Tye had gone from a reserved to resolute support for a Senior Pastor model, and Emily had moved in that direction from being on the fence. The tide had shifted, and I was coming to peace with it.
The Leadership Team had been called together. They were only told that the meeting was important and everyone needed to be present. Toph, who had been the moderator for those meetings, described to the group what had transpired over the past couple of weeks. He let them know where the staff stood, and that they would need to vote on whether we move toward a Senior-Pastor model, or keep flat-leadership and figure out a way to make it work better.
Several of those on Leadership Team knew what was coming, as they were close to people on staff and the personnel team. But others, mostly the younger representatives, felt blindsided. In theory the staff came to them as a united front, those of us disagreeing choosing to acquiesce to the votes of the majority. But a couple on the leadership team wanted to know where all this was coming from, and if the staff all felt the same about it.
I always bristle at the idea that when a group decides something, that those in the group who disagree need to keep their opinions quiet to put on a united front. I’m ok saying “the group has decided,” but I’m not ok keeping the truth about my dissension quiet. And so, when we were asked where we all stood, I couldn’t keep quiet. I also felt a small glimmer of hope in this line of questioning that our flat-leadership model might be salvaged. So we all, everyone on staff, shared where we were.
Those on Leadership Team who had known about what was transpiring were frustrated that we weren’t voting. Those who hadn’t known were angry at what appeared to them to be “backroom negotiations” behind their backs. And there was confusion over exactly what we were supposed to be voting for. On one hand was a Lead Pastor model of leadership, on another a revamped flat-leadership model. But what exactly would that Lead Pastor model look like, and how would we rework flat leadership if given the opportunity?
The vote was put to a halt and we were given a week to answer those questions. Basically, we were asked to create a particular Lead Pastor model, complete with flow chart, responsibilities, etc., and the same for a revamped Flat Leadership model. They needed to know what they were voting for.
Emotionally exhausted, but seeing the end near at hand, we went to work.