I accepted a full-time job with Covenant Eyes as a Church Consultant. My primary role will be working with churches who are interested in addressing and removing pornography from their churches. If you are a church leader and are interested in this, contact me as this is the exclusive focus of my new job.
I am staying at Crossroads Church as a member and will be in the preaching rotation, but will no longer be on staff and will no longer be on the decision-making elder team. I’ll have a title of Pastor Emeritus, which sounds like something from Star Wars. This title honors my founding of the church and the role I’ve played in the congregation’s life, but is a volunteer role that does not carry decision-making authority with it.
Our church members received letters from me last week, but I thought a blog post filling others in would be good as well. This is also good for me as I process things through writing them out, and I’ll probably share some soul-level things here that fit my personal blog format better than they would a letter to my church members.
I’m the founding pastor of Crossroads Church and I’ve been in a senior pastor or co-senior pastor role there for 13 years. I switched our leadership structure around 7 years ago to a plurality of elders model. In a nutshell, this means we got rid of the “senior pastor” role, and if you’re on the Elder Team, you’re also a pastor. Elders pastor. There were 4 elders on our team when I was on it, each of us sharing the senior authority of the church. With me stepping down, there are now 3 elders sharing that role. My pastor staff role will not need to be replaced.
This change came multi-faceted for me. If you are interested in personality inventories like I am, you’ll be able to track with me here. I think people are all wired differently. Some are introverts, some are extroverts. Some are risk-takers, some like to play it safe. This is the stuff that just comes naturally to us. We don’t choose it. Over the years, every since I was a kid really, I’ve always been good at “taking new ground.” I’m good at starting things. I’m good at taking risks and successfully pulling off the risk. What I’m not good at is farming.
Once you take new ground, you need to farm it.
What I realized looking back at the last 13 years is that starting a church (taking new ground) and pastoring a church (farming) are two very different jobs. And I believe that for the most part, they require two different types of people. When you have a new-ground-taker who is farming, the farm suffers. And when you have a farmer trying to take new ground, you won’t be taking much.
It’s only recently that I realized that it wasn’t sinful to be wired the way I am.
On the Myers-Briggs, I am an ENFP.
On the DISC, I am a D (Dominant).
On the Enneagram, I am an 8.
On the Strengths Finder, my top 5 strengths are: 1 Futuristic, 2 Command, 3 Activator, 4 Relator, 5 Strategic.
If you are familiar with personality inventories, you might be laughing right now. My strengths, and their accompanying weaknesses, are so heavy on one side of the spectrum. Most days, I wish I wasn’t wired this way at all as it leads to a lot of conflict and stress.
A few things that go along with my wiring is I become addicted to starting new things (and then having to lead the things I start) and I easily become a workaholic. I was in a 9-retreat Transforming Community led by Ruth Haley Barton from 2015-2017 that changed my life. One thing I realized was that it is okay to be wired the way I am, that God wired me this way, He loves me, and I don’t need to beat myself up about it. I also realized the dangerous pace I was living my life at. Underneath this dangerous pace was the feeling that God needed me and that I needed to save the world. I would see problems in the world, start a non-profit, lead the non-profit, then do it all over again when I saw the next problem in the world. Spinning so many plates simultaneously that eventually the engine started to smoke, the screws starting to come loose, and it was only a matter of time before everything fell apart. I couldn’t ever just start one project and lead it. I had to start 6. It’s like I’ve been consistently trying to live 3-4 lives in the space of 1, which is the only life I have. Because “something’s got to give” is true, the past few years have been a painful process of closing down non-profits, leaving teams I was leading, and saying no to new initiatives. All for the sake of trying to reclaim my life. Each time feeling like I had deeply disappointed people.
Throughout these years of hard-driving, I read books about rest and I preached about rest. I’d slow down on the surface, with the inner engine always churning. I’d preach sermons about how we need God, God doesn’t need us, and I’d tell myself this repeatedly, while still living the opposite. The only thing that stopped my runaway train was failure.
I was trying to solve poverty.
I was trying to cure racism.
I was trying to be a go-to voice within Christian culture.
I was trying to get a book published, and would do whatever needed to prove myself to a publisher.
What surfaced from this journey was my heart’s deepest desire, which was to enjoy God and rest in him. I hadn’t enjoyed God for years because I was so busy working for him. I hadn’t been myself for years because the weight of the world was always on my shoulders.
This of course manifests itself in nasty ways. If not layered with the fruits of the Spirit, my personality wiring is a blueprint for conflict. Much of this I brought about myself because I kept pushing the engine faster when what the farm needed wasn’t more land.
I became like Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. When going into battle, the Enterprise would begin with 100% power in its shields. The enemy’s laser blasts would literally just bounce off this robust protection. This is the leader at full strength. Conflict comes, people attack you, and you are able to keep moving forward in love. The attacks don’t get close to your soul and you can keep moving deeper into the battle. But when you stay in the battle for a long period of time, your shield’s percentages start getting lower and lower. This is where the drama in the Star Trek shows and movies would come in. Technicians would report to the Captain that the shield power was down to 50%, then down to 25%, and to 10%. Of course at this point, there are flashing red lights everywhere as the ship is yelling out that it needs to retreat or it will be destroyed. Ruth’s new book Invitation to Retreat hits on this concept well.
Our lives aren’t any different than the Enterprise. God created us with limits that we must honor. We aren’t supernatural; we are humans. And if we don’t honor our limits, we will pay the price. God created rhythms of work and rest that the Bible clearly lays out, that most of us today completely ignore for the sake of getting more and more tasks done.
The 10% shields eventually become 0% shields and the hull of the ship takes direct hits. This is the point where you aren’t the fresh, strong, mature leader you felt you were when you started the battle, or the church, or the non-profit. An enemy laser blast that would have bounced off early in your journey now leaves a permanent hole. In my podcast interview with Kent Carlson, he discussed some of his personal regrets from the process of transitioning the seeker-driven megachurch he founded into a church of spiritual formation. He says that when someone throws a grenade at you, a good pastor will lay down on the grenade. His regrets were all the times someone would throw a grenade at him and he would quick grab it and throw it back at them.
Man, I can relate.
I’m not blaming anyone for ways I responded. I am held accountable before God for every grenade I threw and for every reaction I had after my hull took a hit. I am also held accountable for stubbornly staying in the battle without biblical rest and retreat for as long as I did.
I haven’t talked to much about my job transition and I’m 1500 words in…I told you this would become some soul-level stuff! Thank you for staying with me this far, for those of you who have.
I write some of this as an apology to anyone I damaged in my path for accomplishing tasks. I think I write some of it as an explanation as well.
During my time in my Transforming Community, I realized it was nearing time for me to step down as pastor at Crossroads. Both for my health, as well as the health of our congregation. It was obvious that more farming was needed and less taking new ground, particularly after we purchased our first building. That a hammer is a great tool, but is unneeded to drive screws or seal pipes. And that I had to stop trying to live multiple lives of pastor, author, and seminary student simultaneously.
This has been a pretty transparent post thus far. What I hope to communicate is that it become obvious that it was the best thing for all parties involved, including the Kingdom of God at large, that I step out of the role I was in at Crossroads. To be frank, the small groups I lead through beyondthebattle.net have been some of the most fruitful things I’ve ever done in ministry. This isn’t to diminish anything I’ve done as a pastor, but in a year with a lot of challenges, it’s been such a breath of fresh air to see deep, and rapid fruit in men’s lives in these groups. Marriages restored, singles living at peace, bondage to pornography broken, and the joy of men’s salvations restored. The opportunity to do more of this became an open door. When I was presented with this job from Covenant Eyes, it was one of the first times in my life when I felt like I was letting God open doors and lead me, rather than me running ahead of God and telling him to hurry up to help me out.
My new job will allow me to focus on my Beyond the Battle author work, and it will allow me to start new things. Every church that I help to create an anti-porn plan with is me getting a chance to “start something new,” and it’s something needed, and I’ll get to do it over and over again! And those gifted at farming within each of those churches will get to do the farming that will come next.
God doesn’t need our successes in order to be God.
I’ve really been humbled by all of this. I tried to solve poverty and failed. I tried to cure racism and failed. I tried to get a book publisher and failed! Praise God for his faithfulness. That He doesn’t need our successes in order to be God. I’ve always been in such a hurry to be a warrior for God, yet God just wanted me to be his son and rest in his arms (Romans 8:15-17). I’ve been like David when he put on all of Saul’s armor. It didn’t fit and I kept bumbling in it, because I felt like I needed it to protect myself. To protect myself from failure. To protect myself from what other people think of me. To look like a powerful warrior. To protect myself from letting God down. It’s no wonder I could never enjoy God or rest in him. God has wanted me to take the armor off for a long time, but I’ve been too prideful. I was to be the exception. It’s only been through failure that God has shown me I don’t need the armor at all, I only need him. I praise God for that miracle.
I’m talking about a lot of deeper soul-surrenders here than my role at Crossroads. I do not think Crossroads is a failure, for the record. It is not. It is a beautiful, biblical community that I am very glad to get to continue to be a part of. More on that later.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is the difference between being a pastor at the church you started versus being a pastor at an established church. I believe there’s an innate pressure that the whole thing rests on your shoulders when you start a church from scratch, particularly with limited resources, that you simply don’t have when you get hired in at an established church. I was never able to shake this. My clinical depression and anxiety began when I started a church. I don’t think I’m alone on this as a church planter. I think if a study of pioneer church planters was done, this would be the norm. Some haven’t been diagnosed, but would exhibit the symptoms.
What has been so awesome about this whole journey is the support, counsel, and encouragement of Crossroads’ Elder Team: Pastors Curt Wright, Justin Miller, and Will Berti. These men of God have loved me in such real ways and encouraged me in every way possible, while at the same time speaking truth to me when and how I needed to hear it.
What I love most about this next chapter of my journey is that I don’t have to leave Crossroads Church. Crossroads is my community and is where my closest friends are. As a pastor, you lose a lot of friends. People leave your church for all kinds of reasons, and more often than not, it hurt. I don’t hold that against those people, it just hurt to lose people who were once your friends. I think that’s a natural feeling. Like if it didn’t hurt, you never really cared about that person to start with. I think a lot of that has to do with starting a church, but to a degree probably carries over to all pastors. And I just don’t want to lose any more friends from being a pastor. So we’re staying. I’m looking forward to getting to enjoy my church, without the pressure of decision-making and the repercussions of when people don’t like the decisions you make. People ask me if I’ll be able to just attend and not try to get involved to fix things. I try not to laugh out loud at this (valid) question! That’s like asking the Star Trek Enterprise who is puttering along with one smoking engine and a hull that looks like Swiss cheese if it will be able to restrain itself from jumping back into battle. Yes. Yes, it will.
I feel like I’ll be able to enjoy my church for the first time in a long time. I don’t care about winning these battles anymore. I just want to sit in my Father’s arms. I want to enjoy God and enjoy my church.
I am so looking forward to getting to model what it looks like to submit to your church elders, as the Bible commands us to do. It is such a hard job. It’s a job that you’ll never do perfectly and never be able to please everyone in. When someone from another church comes to me for advice when they are upset with their pastor or disagree with a decision, my response is almost always, “It is a hard job.” I pray for our church elders and the heavy burden they carry to lead our church, you should pray for yours too. It’s a hard job. Praise God for the farming, shepherd hearts he has instilled in them.
Well, that wraps things up. Thank you for the space to write this. This didn’t end up having much to do with my new job at Covenant Eyes or my role at Crossroads as the title said it would!
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- Beyond the Battle Audiobook now on Audible & iTunes - October 31, 2018