Brian is my friend and business partner. I initially met him through my husband about 5 years ago and our families have been getting to know each other since. I love the Newmans! Here is his life unscripted story to share:
I arrived at a very successful church in 2006 to be the #2 guy in the shadow of a dynamite preacher/senior pastor. Within a year he was removed and the church was spiraling into a church split. And I was spiraling into depression.
For the first 3 months after the pastor left, another pastor and I preached most Sundays. It was like speaking at a funeral, except people in the congregation came back periodically to see if the person was really dead. Every Sunday felt like a sucker punch to the kidneys for me. Each successive Sunday became more and more painful as people left.
I vacillated between a few perspectives on this church mess. Perhaps reality is somewhere in the midst of these thoughts:
Thought #1 : Everyone wants a "rock star" for a pastor and the star will eventually crash, either due to self-inflicted wound or other circumstances;
Thought #2: God orchestrated the whole thing to show the folly of human empire-building;
Thought #3: The emotional pain caused by this church split was and is staggering to me!
In the midst of all of this I struggled deeply: WHERE IS GOD'S GRACE IN THIS MESS?
Trite answers from well-meaning people did not help.
Spiritualizing the mess did not help.
Blame shifting certainly did not help.
The question haunted me. I got depressed, probably clinically so. For quite some time. I lost faith in the institution of the Church. At points I thought I might lose my faith, and almost did.
But as the old hymn says, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back." It is in that following (dare I say obedience) that I began to rediscover grace - in the form of spiritual brothers and sisters who sat with me in the mess, who did not have simple answers to hard questions, and who challenged me to forgive (myself, others, God).
I hope that my wounds are turning to scars. Scars remind us of past hurts but they are now healed wounds. That is my hope.