-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Before the Pandemic hit, I expressed the need to be outside the system to the community of Fig Tree Christian. I left room for discussion, and there was support. Fig Tree has almost always pulled non-denominationally or multi-denominationally. The only descent was realizing moving away from a denomination would mean ministers could no longer use Fig Tree as their church on their standing forms. (I have issues with this and how it's negatively impacted non-traditional ministries, but that's a discussion for another time.)
I crafted an open letter of "resignation,"
Before, no one even bothered to tell me hi. I was forgotten. After the post, it got weird.
I was told they would not take me or Fig Tree off the books. We were still part of the denomination, something they did for a year, you know, just in case. Which would have been fine to ride it out another year, and let them feel like they were helping us, but it was not across the board. As a minister, I never got the ministerial card. As a church, when the pandemic hit, Fig Tree wasn't included in the online resources. (Yeah, you read that right. The online church in Georgia, that had been online for years, was not on the online list of resources.) The region chose to keep us where it benefited them, and lose us where it benefited us. They became leaches. It was not helpful, and it made the community angry to see what a denomination could do.
Any time someone tried to contact me over this past year, it was either to "talk" or to seek something. No one came to us to ask the very important question, "How can we help?" Why would they? No one asked that question before. Why would they do it now?
God has called me out.
If I were to be completely honest right now, this call happened in front of my computer back in September of 2011, in Bedford, Kentucky. A very strong question came to me: "Would you rather be comfortable or do what is right?" It was such a jarring question! Of course I would want to walk the right path. Doing what's right, is right. Eventually what's right wins, so discomfort eventually comes anyway. It was a no-brainer. What followed was even more jarring, "I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry."
I had this realization, as I was lovingly pushed off the ministerial cliff by a congregant only a month and a half later, that eventually (in some future), I would move away from the denomination I loved. It was merely an itch back then; a melancholy thought. It was something I didn't want, and actively fought against. Yet, as opportunities came up, opportunities I would have been amazing at, like New Church ministry, or Youth leadership- I didn't even submit my name. I just somehow knew I wasn't supposed to. God has always moved me with baby steps. Transitioned me with gentle nudges. I innately knew, those were not my opportunities. If I went for them it would put me on the wrong path.
Imagine trying to explain to your husband why going for something related to your field wasn't right. I've been a server, a retail worker, and a sub. I did that instead of going for ministerial jobs because it felt right.
Meanwhile, those nudges have become a full turn. By the time I realized where it was going I was ugly crying with my friend over the phone. At that point I was still trying to "fix" it, include the denomination into what Fig Tree was doing. Begging anyone to be part of the process.
No one helped.
Know this- it was with deep lamentations that we left. Most of the community was ready for the split before I truly was. Now, after only being included in ways that benefited the denomination, I feel used. It would have been better just to let us go when we asked to go. Why would we want to stay when things happened the way they did?
Fig Tree in the wilderness
One last note, and maybe this note is for all you churches out there feeling the breaking breathes of life slipping through your doors:
God has been calling us outside our brick and mortar buildings for over a decade now. We were forced out, and instead of figuring out how God was already in the digital landscape, we simply recreated what we already knew. We've all done a great job preaching inwards.
I'm done pretending evangelism. I'm through trying to save the calloused husk of the old church. An important statement was made in 2019, and we ignored it because he made it in front of stained glass windows: "Are we trying to follow Christ, or save a building?" Maybe we all need to be asking that question.
God asked me to leave when that action held power, when I still had a choice one way or another.
Come with me. Let's try something new, fail, learn something, and try something else! I am not going to save your church, but I will follow God. Wherever God may lead me, I will follow.