Why I Left the Ministry
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Wednesday, January 21, 2004 will be etched on the tablet of the hearts of my wife, Elicia and I for the rest of our lives. On that day, as 5:30pm rolled around many of our friends were arriving home from work and school, eating a quick bite for dinner before heading off to church. For Elicia and I, it was the first Wednesday in years we'd be missing church. Instead of fellowshipping with the saints we were preparing for an all out battle with fear itself.
Dinner that night consisted of Hamburger Helper, Pillsbury Crescent rolls, Kool-Aid and was topped off with Humble pie for dessert. The conversation we shared for hours was filled with rhetorical questions and awkward pauses. I remember looking into my bride's beautiful brown eyes and seeing the 'fear of the unknown' pouring out with every falling tear. Words can't express how horrible I felt. Externally I was trying to be strong by not crying while internally I was being crushed by weight of the world of confusion I led us in to.
The Background & BreakUp
At this point we'd only been married a week shy of 7 months and were expecting our first child to be born in a couple of months. I was 23 and Elicia was about to turn 22 next week. Elicia was 6-months pregnant, a full-time student in College all the while working a full-time job. I on the other hand recently quit two jobs in the last month. The decision for me to quit my job was one that Elicia and I prayed through because it dealt with me leaving the ministry. My official job title at the time was "Youth Pastor".
For Elicia and I "the Ministry" was a topic of discussion that served as a wedge of division between our hearts that was first put in position back in December 2002. It all started when I decided to take the position as "Youth Pastor" without talking to or praying with Elicia, who at the time was my fiance. Looking back, I can with full honesty say that I entered the ministry for all the wrong reasons.
- I was told I was qualified because I was a semi-known Gospel rapper for 6 years and therefore could hold the attention of young people
- I personally thought if a Gospel rapper became a Youth Pastor he could get more shows and build 'his' platform
- I figured the part-time salary would help my soon-to-be bride and I get an apartment outside of the hood after we got married
The night I told Elicia I was "a Pastor" who entered the ministry was the night our relationship ended! She told me she didn't want to be a pastor's wife and that she was hurt that I would make such an important decision without talking through it with her. My response to her heart was one I now counsel all young men to avoid as I told her "this was God's will and she needed to accept it." If that wasn't bad enough, I told her "this is who God has called me to be and if we were to be together our future is going to be in ministry". It was only by God's grace that we got back together shortly after and worked through our differences.
My Heart Began to Change
Over the next year "ministry" presented us newly-weds many ups and downs. By November 2003 I was "full-time" yet now fully convinced that I was not qualified to be anyone's Youth Pastor. I began to realize that opening our services up with freestyle sessions, coordinating with a DJ to put on "Soul Train Offerings", and drawn out altar calls was not making disciples.
My heart began to change as I realized me "speaking in tongues" for 30 minutes and pointing to a random passage in the Bible was not proper sermon prep. I kept getting physically sick because I was trying to tour as a Gospel rapper on the weekends while being a Pastor only during the week. I felt like a fraud and I was scared to tell my wife because I promised her a better life "in ministry" that what she had seen displayed. In addition to this, ministry was my only source of income and if I quit I would have nothing to contribute financially.
When I finally couldn't hold it in any longer I cracked and by Thanksgiving 2003 I told Elicia that I wanted to leave the ministry. I shared with her my deepest secrets and concerns. I admitted that although I'd been saved for over six years I had never being taught how to study the Bible, let alone preach a sermon. I began to confess that I didn't know how to make disciples because I had never actually been discipled myself.
After I poured my heart out and laid it at Elicia's feet, she did what any Godly woman would do, she lovingly supported her stubborn husband, used the Scriptures to comfort me and said, "let's pray about what our next step is". Soon after this crying out I sensed a leading from the Lord to, in the near future, resign from my position as Youth Pastor in order to seek out real discipleship and training. So in reality, I left the ministry in order to be educated and trained in the Scriptures so that my prayerful re-entry would be one that was in harmony with God's Word.
Faith or Foolishness
Over the next month we prayed, sought counsel from the pastor who married us, and spoke with our families regarding the timing of my resignation. After I resigned I couldn't find work. I applied for positions everywhere and couldn't get hired. Then Lord blessed us by allowing me to get a call from LoneStar Steakhouse to come on board as a waiter. Gladly I took the position and kept it for a month before realizing what I was brining home was not even a fraction of what our family needed to survive.
The decision to leave LoneStar was one Elicia and I prayerfully came to. It was tough because I had nothing else lined up. I felt less than a man because I couldn't provide for my wife and soon-to-be born baby girl.
So, on the night of January 21, 2004 when the mail came at 5:30pm my last check from LoneStar was in our box. The check's total was $26.24. At dinner that night my wife and I cried out to God asking Him was our decision for me leaving the ministry in order to get education and training one that was on faith or was it foolishness? We had no money, no savings, the rent was due and sadly, no direction outside of a crazy dream of going to some Bible College that we weren't sure even existed!
He Heard my Cry
As we cried out to God that night for me to find employment we also prayed for God to direct our steps regarding me getting discipled and going to Bible College. As we went to bed that night I prayed a silent prayer of dependence on God. I confessed to Him that I didn't know how to be a biblical man, that I couldn't provide for my family, that I felt like a failure because I was no longer "in ministry" and that I needed His help because without Him I would fail.
The next morning I woke up to my phone ringing. It was my dad telling me to get dressed and come Downtown to Kansas City for a job interview. In God's grace within the next week I was hired on a full-time basis and within a few months at my new job was given a raise. About a year later in May of 2005 I was introduced to Google by a Co-worker. My first day on Google I typed in Bible College and found Calvary Bible College.
My correspondence with the Calvary's Admissions Recruiter Mike Piburn would soon turn into a Paul & Timothy relationship. Pastor Mike introduced me to church planting while he discipled me for 2 years before launching me back in ministry as a Senior Pastor, recently graduated from Bible College, now enrolled in Seminary. Right before I enrolled full-time at Calvary Elicia saw God opening up the doors for Bible College as a way for her and I to serve in ministry together! We prayed and sensed the Lord leading her to walk away from a full ride scholarship to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and join me at Calvary!
The rest as they say....now is history.
The Day of Small Beginnings
This memory flooded my mind last night when my wife walked in our room, handed me my check from LoneStar and said, "do not despise the day of small beginnings". Truer words have never been spoken. Elicia's quote from Zechariah 4:10 hit me as a parallel to when God told Israel to not overlook the beginning stages of it's rebuilding process and that God was with them. For me, as I held that check in my hand, I immediately praised God for the beginning process of His rebuilding of my heart and our marriage on January 21, 2004.
I was inspired to write this piece for two reasons; one to share with you a snapshot of God's grace in the lives of my wife and I & to encourage you the believer to not make rash decisions based on emotions and feelings. Rather, entrust your struggles to those who are close to you in community. For those who are married, your spouse is to be at the top of this list. After you have vented, I challenge you to cry out to God and put your heart on the line and then trust Him with your dreams.
Here I stand 10yrs later knowing that God is STILL not finished with me yet. At the same time I stand in amazement of all that He has done in my life. At this point in my life, there's no greater confession I can make than one of thanks to my Lord. My thanks is not based on where He's brought me rather, its for the road He paved for my wife and I over the last 10yrs. I praise Him for not placing where I am now where I was 10yrs ago because I was immature and not ready. Those days of small beginnings are never to be forgotten, thus the reason why January 21, 2004 is a monumental day in the Horton household.
In God's grace, He kept us from cashing this check so that on today, 10yrs later, you could read the testimony of His grace in our lives and be encouraged to trust in Him for your life's direction.