The story is almost over, the ending is predictable. I will finish the tale for completeness but first a short interlude.
I have tried to be as honest as possible. I have spent years reflecting on my own mistakes and have tried to own them publicly and openly. I have not hesitated to state where I felt others fell short, we were deeply hurt (Jeanie tonight: "Do they know that this was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my entire life?") and I couldn't explain how or why we were hurt without being clear about what was said and done that hurt us.
This story is my perspective. There are other perspectives, but I can only guess at them. If there are other things I did wrong, I have yet to hear of them. If anyone else feels they did anything wrong, that it wasn't all my fault, I've never heard it. I've apologized where I felt I did wrong, no one else ever has. Whether this means no one else feels they have anything to apologize for, I don't know.
The people who did this are all basically good people whom I have admired. I DESIRED to have them on my board. I enjoyed their friendship in the past. I miss them. I don't believe that any of them sought this outcome or wanted to force me out. I have explained why their behavior left me feeling like staying was impossible, but I doubt if they saw this at the time. I don't know how they didn't see it, but I think they got caught up in something none of us understood.
I have tried to explain how I've made sense of it. I've gone back to underlying conflicts over the type of church we would be and how the pastor should function. I honestly don't believe they ever really thought any of that through. They had an idea of what the church should be and do based on their experience of other churches and they wanted me to conform to it and when I resisted they probably thought I was being lazy or something and wanted to shock me into changing. If my guesses are wrong, I look forward to hearing the true story.
I had a vision of the church and my role based on my understanding of the New Testament and I wanted us to move in that direction but they didn't see it that way. Even today if I spelled it all out they probably wouldn't agree that my vision is how churches should be or how Christians should live or how pastors should lead. My missional conception of the Church and Christian life is pretty radical compared to how the majority of contemporary American church-goers think. If I spelled it out in full, most people at TA (then or now) probably would feel relieved that I left.
I'll have more to say about that after my story is through. What I have to share on these matters isn't specifically about TA but about all churches today. "You may think that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
Francis Chan left his church suddenly at about the same time I left TA. He said, in one interview, that he had a picture in his mind, based on his study of the Bible, of what the church should do and be, and every year they kept trying new things to bring their church into line with that vision (pretty much the same as my vision) and it always felt like they were just tweaking around the edges but could never bring about the radical changes needed to fulfill the vision.
I wasn't willing to compromise my vision and the other leaders and probably most of the congregation weren't ready to follow it so my leaving was ultimately inevitable. For that vision to happen at TA, I would have had to prayerfully figure out how to bring the leaders and congregation around to what I believe to be a New Testament perspective, a way of doing church different from what most of today's evangelical subculture is used to. Because I didn't, and couldn't, do that, I ended up being a leader with no followers and suffered the fate such a person always finds.
In all I've written I've tried to make the point that neither I nor they had wrong motives and neither I nor they are without blame for how it ended. I apologize to those who are angered by this conclusion for any anguish I have caused you. My criticisms of TA are not really so much criticisms of that specific church as they are of the state of the "Bible-believing" churches of America today in general. Some of you sincerely believe that these problems can be fixed by a series of small, incremental changes. What Chan calls "tweaking". I hope you are right. I just don't believe it anymore myself.