Dear Family, Beginning with Midtown’s first day as a church, we have done our best to emphasize the missional calling on the church. Throughout the New Testament, Christians were spreading out all over cities and being sent to new places to do new works in Jesus’ name. We have tried to follow in this pattern by spreading out around Columbia as missionaries here, as well as sending people to other countries and cities as God has called. The opportunity that Dustin and Renie have been given with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) falls exactly in line with this vision. They will have the opportunity to help churches plant healthy churches all over North America, essentially taking what God has done here in Columbia through the Midtown family and spreading it to other churches. We are delighted to send them out for this role, but are very sad to see them go.
The frequency with which we all hear about a pastor doing something unethical or illegal has created a great deal of suspicion in all of us when dealing with situations like this one. Unfortunately, when one of the more visible pastors leaves a church, it seems to usually be for bad, if not sinful, reasons. With that in mind, we thought it best to directly state some of those reasons and assure everyone that none of them apply in this instance.
1. Moral failure. Moral failure happens too often with pastors and to make matters worse, the issue is often handled unbiblically. In spite of 1 Timothy 5:19-21, the pastors sin is often covered up and the pastor simply moves on without the pastor or the church announcing what has happened. This typically allows the disqualified pastor to get a job at another unsuspecting church. At Midtown, our goal is for this type of thing to never happen. If a pastor’s persistence in sin disqualifies him for ministry and he is asked to leave, it will be stated as such publicly, as 1 Timothy 5 instructs us to do.
Dustin has not failed morally.
2. Career advancement. Some men view being a pastor as a career instead of a calling. These types of pastors rarely settle in, put down roots, and give their lives serving a particular place for Jesus’ sake. Instead they are always looking for the next step up the ladder...a bigger church, a pay raise, a higher-profile opportunity. The Bible confronts these types of pastors as those who "peddle the word of God for profit."
Dustin views this, as we do, as a calling; not career advancement.
3. Unrepentant, unfruitful church members. Sometimes pastors are stuck with a church full of people who have no real love for Jesus and no interest in seeing their city get saved by Jesus. Despite a pastor’s best effort to preach the gospel and organize for mission, there is simply no interest from the members of the church. This is an exhausting situation and often the pastors of the church will eventually move on to more fruitful opportunities.
Dustin, along with all of the other pastors, loves the Midtown family and has continually felt it a joy to be a part of leading them on mission here in Columbia.
4. Bad relationships. One of the effects of the fall is that relationships become strained and sin comes between people...and pastors are people. When relational sin isn't appropriately dealt with, it tends to fester. These relational tensions can make life miserable for the pastor who doesn't do his part to confess sin, reconcile with others, and repent as necessary. Sometimes these bad relationships continue to go sour until the drama and conflict is unbearable and the pastor involved finally just leaves as a way of avoiding the issue.
Dustin is in great standing relationally with the Midtown family. There are no issues here at all.
5. Philosophical differences. Sometimes pastors will have the desire to make changes within the church that they serve but will be met with resistance. This can be very difficult for men who feel they are being led by God to make changes but find God's people unwilling to follow along. Eventually the pastors of that church burn out or lose their fire because it seems that there is no hope of progress and kingdom advancement.
Dustin is actually taking much of the philosophy of ministry from Midtown and communicating it to leaders and churches all over North America. So it is safe to say there are no philosophical differences.
We are delighted to emphatically say that none of the above mentioned reasons apply to this situation. Our church family is healthy and flexible, all relationships are intact, and there have been no moral failures. Instead, here is our best summation of why & how Dustin and his family landed on this decision, and why the others pastors agree with them:
After the opportunity with NAMB was presented, Dustin talked with some of our pastors so they could all talk and pray through this together. Nothing was done abruptly, secretively, or in isolation. The other Midtown pastors think that this position will be a good fit for Dustin and to be honest, it very much appears to be a job that Dustin has been specifically gifted to do. As a result, we are excited to see much fruit come from it. He and Renie both sense that God is leading them to this ministry during the next season of their lives. We are extremely grateful for Dustin’s service as a pastor in our church and are very sad to see our friends being sent out, but we are grateful to have such a huge kingdom opportunity.
How will this affect Midtown moving forward? When the bible speaks of pastors/elders at the local church level, it speaks in plurality. From our best understanding of scripture, it was always the goal for local churches to have multiple qualified elders who serve by providing overseeing leadership through preaching and teaching, care, and decision-making. This is what we have tried to model at Midtown. The Bible calls Jesus the Chief Shepherd, or senior leader, of the church (1 Peter 5:4). With Jesus as our Senior Pastor, we have worked hard to train up and empower qualified pastors and leadership, and our church operates around a team concept. God has been incredibly gracious to our church family by raising up strong leaders and as we transition Dustin out of his role as one of the lead pastors in our church, the teams that were already in place will continue to function as before, with a few people moving around and some roles being adjusted. Our vision is still to see missionaries spread all across Columbia and Jesus name be lifted higher in our city. Jesus has promised that the gates of hell cannot withstand the onslaught of his ever-expanding kingdom, so we will continue our aggressive approach to ministry. We are currently finalizing plans regarding church planting and campus expansion for the next few years and are excited to roll these out soon.
By His Grace, The Leaders of Midtown