Missy and have been praying, talking, thinking and seeking much counsel as to what to do: do we continue at OSLC or do we move on? Well, today our decision was made very clear. We will leave OSLC and move on to wherever God may be calling us. There are so many reasons that played into our decision; it wasn’t just one thing, but rather a combination of many factors over the past year and a half.
And we have been thinking about how to leave if that was our choice. Do we just leave quietly or do we make an announcement? Neither choice was attractive. If we just leave people will be left to surmise, conjecture, gossip or just plain make up why we left. On the other hand, making a big announcement did not seem palatable either, by choosing this option we may place too much importance on our own departure making us look like we have sour grapes. But in the end, we had to choose one and as you can see, we chose to speak to you in a form that gives you the opportunity to listen, read or see for yourself why we are moving on.
First, Missy and I are neither angry nor upset. We have simply made an incredibly difficult decision that we believe God has been leading us to for quite some time. Why I have chosen to tell you about is because I don’t want anyone writing my final chapter. I want you to know the why’s, how’s, when’s and where’s from myself. So here goes, the good, the bad and the ugly.
I think it is important to give you a chronological background of the last few years since Missy and I were called to Midland and OSLC, as a former pastor at OSLC it is vital you understand what has occurred the past few years, they will be important to the future years to come. We were called here in 2005 to serve as the Associate pastor at OSLC. Things did not turn out the way we had hoped, but as Pastor Blackketter said today, obedience is following God’s plan and not necessarily your own.
In May of 2005, I came out to Midland with my family to John Starck’s birthday party (a great event by the way) and reconnected with many of you. One thing led to another and we were applying for the Associate Pastor’s position. We came out in October of that year to candidate and heard a few weeks later we had been called to Midland. We waited for the birth of our little Tori. I came out early in January and the rest of the Freese clan followed in February. John Langhoff and Coy Marlar were incredible as they came out on their own and helped us pack, load and move. We were here and ready to get started serving God here, back at home, at OSLC.
Allow me to back up, when I came out to candidate I asked then pastor, Robert Walter, what his plans were for the future. I asked him in the car on Loop 250 if he was planning on leaving after I arrived. It was no secret Robert wanted to spend more time in mission work. He told me, (I’ll never forget it) he had no plans of leaving anytime soon. I told him I wanted to spend the next two years establishing relationships and setting up the appropriate programs. My schooling, which was of concern to some, would have to wait for a couple of years. He agreed he would probably be here the next five years and I would have plenty of time to get myself established and get educated. It also was no secret between the two of us that the ultimate goal was having me be ready to move into his position once he left.
Several ministries were established or reestablished including: Alpha, Youth group, Confirmation, Sunday School for youth, Men’s Groups, a mission trip to Poland and many other one time or short term programs. When I came, my charge was to take care of the youth and get the program restarted. We did, with enormous success. Ski trips, retreats, lock-ins, counseling, outreach events and hundreds of relationships were established. I was doing the work of a youth minister.
However, I was also doing much of the work of a Senior pastor. Robert and the elders were at odds over his trips to China. This tension consumed our Elders and Pastors meetings. With Robert gone for much of the time I preached a great deal, did counseling, weddings and funerals. I preached over 40 times my first year here, including Ash Wednesday and Christmas Eve. I buried two people, married a couple, did several baptisms, numerous pre-marital counseling along with the informal counseling a pastor does, and was ALWAYS on call for those in need and I LOVED every minute of it!
April, Robert comes to me and tells me he is leaving OSLC, a surprise to me, but not a shock as I knew of his growing unrest with his situation at OSLC. He was restless and a little unhappy with our leadership and felt the time was right to move on. I certainly wasn’t happy about it, but did understand why he was doing what he was doing. That would of course change my role at OSLC.
To be honest I thought I would be the guy, maybe even permanently but certainly until we found a permanent pastor. Robert didn’t think I was ready and said so publicly, which made me very uneasy. I talked with him privately and let him know I was not happy about what he had said. We came to an agreement to agree to disagree and went about finding help for me. He and I decided KC Blackketter would be an asset and he agreed to serve as interim pastor. Robert and I talked to the elders and they agreed to KC as interim pastor.
However, I became concerned with what the future might hold for my family and me. I had just uprooted all of them and taken them 750 miles away and now was concerned if I would have a job. I decided to see if I could secure a stable job in Education. I was able to secure a teaching job even without having a teaching credential. I told Robert, the elders and finally the congregation.
It was difficult, but everyone was gracious and encouraging, thank you. I immediately knew I had made a mistake, I reacted and was now stuck in a new place I didn’t want to be in, a place I didn’t like. I talked with KC and the elders about returning to OSLC in my old capacity. They were cautious and set up a set of steps to be followed if I were to return. The steps included fulfilling my teaching contract, getting counseling, being accountable and continuing with my duties at OSLC (which included being the youth director).
I began the steps set before me, but as the year wore on, I became convinced I needed to wait for a Senior Pastor to be chosen at OSLC before I would come back as an Associate pastor, so I decided to wait. It was difficult because I feel so-called to preaching and pastoring, I was frustrated.
My work as a first year teacher and the three classes I was taking on top of everything else forced me to step down from volunteering in my ministry duties at OSLC. I regretted it, but if I was to survive my first year teaching, it was imperative I have some more time to complete my lessons at school and college. But I was still eager and hopeful I would again be a or the pastor at OSLC.
Robert Walter returned in the early part of the year for a visit. Over coffee, I disclosed to him how much I had grown over the past few months and feeling God’s call to place my name into the mix as OSLC’s Senior Pastor. He said he was not surprised. He had been to a meeting of the ARC leadership team and they felt I was the one that God had chosen for this time and place at OSLC. Robert encouraged me to apply and see what would happen. I told him I was afraid I might be rejected; he laughed and said I would certainly get a chance, I could at least candidate. So I relented and sent my resume to the call team and waited.
A few days later, I was asked to meet with Jim Dammann, John Starck and John Langhoff in the Pastor’s study. I was told they would not be accepting my resume as I didn’t have the correct qualifications, namely a seminary degree. I was surprised. To be honest with you surprise turned to hurt and hurt to anger. I thought I had done enough to earn a chance, I had a plan to get a degree, and a good one at that, but was not given the chance to prove my stuff, at least in my view.
Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything from the call team, I felt rejected, unneeded, unwanted and was a little put off by the whole ordeal. Several meetings ensued between the elders and me. I was eager to tell them my thoughts and was hopeful for restoration and who would know what else? A few of these meetings involved Missy and/or KC. I was very honest and direct in each of these meetings, critical to some ears. I let my opinions be known, but always in the context of a meeting. Oh how I wanted to say so much to the church, but didn’t.
In the meantime, I was still doing a lot of preaching and was asked by the Elders and KC to return as youth director for the fall of 2008. I readily agreed and dove back into it. At one point, I was affirmed by the congregation and was assuming that I was going to be compensated for my work as per the budget. This became a confusing mess with our leadership team accusing KC of overstepping his bounds promising to pay me. After several weeks of tense conversations it was finally agreed to I would be paid, I would have done it for free, as I had been doing for quite some time, but it was nice to be compensated.
With the mess over whether KC should be our pastor, several of our leaders made assumptions that were incorrect about my feelings. I was disappointed how much of this was handled and said so. I was often critical of our call team, some of it they deserved and some it they didn’t, but I did NOT gossip and had several of my meetings face-to-face, or at least over the telephone. However, the same could not be said of some others. I was told by an elder in one of those face-to-face meetings that my named had been abused.
After I preached that, “Houston, We Have A Problem” sermon so many people told me they were wrong about what they thought about me. In fact, many said they could see I wasn’t angry, and had been made to believe otherwise. Which is why I am writing this, so you know EXACTLY how I feel and why we are leaving OSLC.
Today we voted 41-3 to extend a call to Pastor Mohr, an overwhelming amount of support for him. I pray him well, he is a fine man and I’m sure will make a fine Pastor. However, I think as a former pastor at the church it is important for him to get his own team together, I would be too much of a link to the past. And to be honest, I don’t feel God wants me there any longer, even though if breaks my heart to be leaving.
Missy and I pray OSLC is once again a vibrant and significant place to worship. It certainly has so much going for it, location, debt-load, fine new pastor and great people. There are some challenges you must overcome before you can truly become the church you are capable of becoming, I will be praying you make those tough choices wisely.
We do and will always consider you family and pray you are blessed always! Missy and I were honored to be your pastor and more important to us, your friend. God bless you and God Bless OSLC! Please leave a comment.