An Interesting Deconversion Story Of A Pastor

This story was left as a comment on a previous post. I identify with a lot of it, and I’m sure many of you do, too, so I thought I’d post it here.

From Shok The Agnostic

What would cause a pastor of over 20 yrs to leave the ministry? My reasons and story are uniquely mine. Maybe you have been in my shoes in one way or another. I started out in the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions of showing up early and leaving late from every church meeting I ever attended. As a result, as soon as I was asked to do anything, I always said “yes.” In our churches, the way into ministry was through apprenticeship, for higher learning was suspect as not being spiritual enough for true ministers.

I was as sincere as anyone I have ever met. My motives were honest, simple, and trusting that I was truly following God. I was led to believe that my calling and gifts would make room for me in the kingdom. It sounded good to me, and I bit into it hook, line, and sinker.

Soon I was the anointed worship leader, Christian school administrator, elder, assistant pastor, building coordinator, TV host, hospital visitation minister, home group leader, secretary, board member, and anything else that was needed on the staff of the largest charismatic church in our four county area. I was “in.” I was busy, and I was burning for God.

Sometimes weeks went by without one night at home with my wife and children. I was too anointed to need time at home, right? Does it sound familiar yet? As life unfolded and people kept encouraging me to keep on fire for God, or at least burn out trying, my wife developed asthma. To make a long and painful story shorter, let’s just say that it was assumed that because this happened we were losing our anointing or walking in some secret sin.

Weary and burdened with asthma and the disdain of those who once saw us as their leaders, we began to question everything called “ministry.” I am leaving out a ton of details for time’s sake, but as the 20 years went by, we found ourselves losing any desire for involvement in formal ministry. Instead we enjoyed spending time with those who had nothing to do with church, such as Lou, the bassist and head of the satanic church in Laramie, Wyoming. We loved our time with each other and our kids. One thing led to another, and since October 2000, I have not been in the formal ministry. This has been a disappointment to my father, as well as to those who knew us as church leaders.

These days, I find myself with more respect for myself as a person, with more love for my wife Tammy, with our three grown kids and their sweethearts, and with our grandson. I also love all the good people I have met through the Elks Club, the Chamber of Commerce, my current work in real estate and bus driving, the local bowling and golf leagues, and our downtown community parties.

In short, I have become almost everything I used to preach against. What has become of my theology? I have experienced everything my charismatic background had to offer, and found myself lacking love for myself, my family and others. Since I have left organized religion and de-toxed since year 2000, I find love increasing in every way. I think I am reduced to love. If there is a God and that God is love, then I’m into that.

Previously, people were a burden. Now, I love spending time with anyone, regardless of his or her belief system. People are no longer a project to bring to conversion, or a possible warm body to prop up a church program, or a parishioner who might tithe regularly so we can grow the church. I am done with pimpin’ the program.

It’s healing just to write a bit of my story. Do I miss the ministry or attending church? No. I wouldn’t trade my life for what I now have. How could I afford to leave? I drove trucks, waited tables, delivered pizza, installed cabinets, worked in a factory, sold houses, drove school bus, and worked at a golf course. Some of this I still do. If you are dying to get out, it isn’t easy. It’s a process. It’s embarrassment at its highest in the church world. But what the hell, it’s so worth it. I’m just starting to live and love.

Thanks for listening.

Shok the Agnostic

26 thoughts on “An Interesting Deconversion Story Of A Pastor”

  1. yes that is me … thanks for posting it … i was very taken by the frankie schaffer post … he was someone i did know of as well as his father … life is short and you just never know what’s around the next corner … but i surely have enjoyed life on this side since 2000 much more … thanks for your blog also … i recently started one of my own on this journey … thanks again

  2. While it is not clear to me that this person has abandoned deism, I do see an interesting (to me at least) twist of context. This person has changed from being an unbeliever to being a believer except the object of belief has been switched. He has transitioned to a belief in personal/human values after spending years not believing they were worthy of attention and priority.
    It would be interesting to know if the transition included an awareness and acceptance of (belief in) scientific explanations of the unfolding of the Universe and the immutability of natural laws as developed by processes of rational inquiry. As an evangelical these would have been topics of “unbelief” since they are inconsistent with the Biblical presentations. Is the spotlight of “unbelief” now trained on the Biblical presentations?

  3. “He has transitioned to a belief in personal/human values after spending years not believing they were worthy of attention and priority.”

    … yes that is a true ovservation

    “It would be interesting to know if the transition included an awareness and acceptance of (belief in) scientific explanations of the unfolding of the Universe and the immutability of natural laws as developed by processes of rational inquiry.”

    … and yes again this is also true about me

  4. Yikes…except for a few minor details, I could have written this post right out of my own life story….

    Almost scary…and at the same time comforting to know I am not alone in this journey. Thanks for posting this.

  5. “I am leaving out a ton of details for time’s sake, but as the 20 years went by, we found ourselves losing any desire for involvement in formal ministry. Instead we enjoyed spending time with those who had nothing to do with church, such as Lou, the bassist and head of the satanic church in Laramie, Wyoming.”

    Yes, I would say there are just a few details missing there. This sounds like a Seinfeld episode.

    “What happened? Well, I was a pastor at the local church, then yada, yada, yada, I was hanging out with satanists.” ;)

    Anyway, Shok (or is it Schoch?), although I spent a relatively short time in a leadership role at the local Pentecostal church, I can identify with your experience. I also recall a number of folks there who seemed to be headed for ministry burnout.

    I know some kept their faith and moved on to a less demanding lifestyle. But, since I’ve lost contact with most of that crowd, I may never know whether or not some of them ended up agnostic/atheists like myself. Either way, I wish them well.

  6. “Yikes…except for a few minor details, I could have written this post right out of my own life story….

    Almost scary…and at the same time comforting to know I am not alone in this journey. Thanks for posting this.”

    … fw … u r not alone my friend
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “Anyway, Shok (or is it Schoch?),”

    … Steelman… it’s both … Last name is Schoch but I often write as Shok the German and have a blog called Shok the Agnostic

  7. Wow, I am the female version of your story. I was a Baptist minister’s wife, and you pretty much told the rest of it. (Okay, except I only spent 3 years in the ministry and ended up divorced.)

    I would love to read your blog!

  8. Laura … I have a friend who was a baptist minister for over 25 years who said the only difference between his story and mine was that our group spoke in tongues and his didn’t … we often eat chicken wings and share a good pitcher or 2 of beer and swap stories … there is live outside the confines of our past :)

  9. Hey Agnostic Mom and Readers,

    My dad, William Lobdell, wrote a book called Losing My Religion and it comes out this Tuesday. It’s his story of raising a family Christian and then losing his faith because of reporting for the LA Times about Religion. I think all of you readers would like it. He has a blog over at

  10. It is amazing how feel free from the burden of following what you did for years. My experiences were very negative which led me to live for myself and my family alone. But I have this constant guilt about not being able to believe in God like I have since I was a kid. On the other hand, I keep using the work ‘Confused’ because I cannot completely stop believing in God, either. I wish I feel like you someday.

  11. Deepa,

    I truly hope peace comes your way. I understand living for yourself and family. I have had a wonderful wife and 3 grown kids who are very close to each other. We all grew together during this process. I am lucky in that regard.

  12. It was very emotional for me reading your story. I never had that problem. I had been always an atheist. I had always looked at religion as an applied social subject similar to political science. In both subjects people get hurt not only emotionally like in your case but many times even physically.

    I call myself in blog world Ibn Verga a 15th Century wandering Jew, rationalist, sceptic (15th century type atheist) who wrote the book asking similar questions to yours.

    Question I have, why are you calling yourself “agnostic” ? Do you believe in Pascal wager?

  13. First of all, let me say, I am an agnostic.

    But I still find this disturbing…

    “Instead we enjoyed spending time with those who had nothing to do with church, such as Lou, the bassist and head of the satanic church in Laramie, Wyoming.”

    You enjoyed spending time with someone who had nothing to do with church that was someone who had something to do with (a satanic) church?

    If I were a believer, I would guess you are being led astray.

    As an agnostic I believe the existence of a supreme being is a possibility, however, having something to do with the enemy of a supreme being would never be an option.

    Do I sounds like a bigot?

    I don’t think so.

    There are certain attributes that come with that territory just as I could not have anything to do with a Nazi.

    Whatever made you leave your church, there must have been some good people there that you abandoned.

    Good luck to you, I won’t be back.

  14. Ibn Verga

    my definition and understanding of calling myself an agnostic is found in this statement “Agnostics are often seen as a middle ground between theism and atheism” … hope that helps define where I am at for your understanding … I basically no longer know and often find myself saying I don’t know when it comes to theological stances I once espoused.

  15. Thanks for sharing. I’m agnostic to so many decimal places that I identify myself as atheist. Schoch, I hope you enjoy a long and happy life without any strange, unfortunate circumstances that might get attributed to retribution by the believers. ;-) One thing though, I’ve always considered Satanism as just the flip-side of the same lead coin. It comes from the same mythological brew, reflects a similar hierarchical structure, and fills the same “existential void” with ritualistic behavior… am I right?

  16. breakerslion, you may be right about satanism … i know little about it … i only know the guy we were friends with was very talented and fun to listen to and watch play bass in his band … he taught my wife several bass lessons and introduced us to his mom as good friends which was an honor to us … people are people and the label of satanist is probably one of the most scary to the church world … u may be very right on in your understanding of it … I only understood my friend on a friendship level

  17. Wow. It looks like quite a few people have said this, but I can also say…uhm…that’s pretty much ME. I was a minister’s wife, one of the womens’ ministry leaders, on worship team, etc., etc. for a rather good sized charismatic church in Missouri.

    The only thing I can’t say is that I’m now an atheist or agnostic. I’m still Christian. I never had any issues with Christ, just with God’s seriously screwed up KIDS.

    My beliefs have evolved in a different way. I see the Church as having become so hate-filled, intolerant, and hypocritical that it’s just repulsive.

    Most that claim “Christianity” wouldn’t know the teachings of Christ if they bit them in the face. They’re so swayed by all the doctrines of man that have been “interpreted” into scripture, that they have no room left for love. They’re too busy judging everyone and trying to take specks out of other peoples’ eyes when their own eyes are full of logs.

    I can say that I share a lot of opinions and viewpoints of both atheists and agnostics regarding many things, and I’m certainly not your atypical born again believer. I suppose I don’t really fit any of the belief system labels completely. Oh well. I hate labels anyway! :)

  18. I suggest that you consider why you are thinking of yourself as agnostic. Like so many agnostics (as well as atheists and deists), I think you are falling into the trap of assuming a false premise; i.e., there is a defined term spelled “G-o-d”. Before someone can claim they accept that “God” exists or does not exist, the term must be defined. Since a formal rigorous definition does not exist, it is quite impossible to make either claim. The agnostic position arises because it is not quite clear what one is either accepting or rejecting.
    Why not consider the position that states that since no such definition of God exists, it is impossible to be atheist, theist or agnostic? Such a position is referred to as Igtheism. If you question this position, I would challenge you to seek a definition of the term God. Let me add one criterion. The definition must be falsifiable. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability )
    Have fun!

  19. Unfortunately, churches are very much prone to group think. If you’re not on “fire for God”, aka “sacrifice family for God”, then the higher ups in the church believe anything bad happening to a religious family is God’s will and they probably deserve it. Why? Because they better dare not question the will of God!

    You can still have a belief in a higher being while staying an agnostic. It’s called agnostic theism. What is agnostic theism? You believe in a higher being, something to that effect, but you have to be humble enough to accept that you have no idea or knowledge of what that being is or could be.

  20. As a Southern Baptist minister/church planter – I can totally relate to the grind that is labeled “ministry.” I have some walk away from the apparent disconnect one finds from what “church” has become when compared to what Jesus teaches. Essentially, the Christian faith boils down to this: love God. Love others. And as you go, make disciples. What was this turned into? Laws instead of grace. Rules instead of love. Arguing in anger instead of relational-mentorship. I am pretty sure many in the church would be first in line to crucify Jesus if he were to come today. Things are that backwards in many places. If the church was busy loving, every seat would be full. As it is, the church has lost it’s message and people are not dumb. Anyone can see the hypocrisy. At the same time, if people could taste the wine of Jesus or drink from his well (thinking metaphorically here of course) instead of the programs church provide as a substitute – I believe people would come back for more. It’s that good. Anyway… thank you for allowing a believer to post here.

  21. Hey, David, thanks for your input. It’s nice when Christians like you contribute without feeling a need to call us all back to god.

  22. I am deeply effected by the honesty and insight some of these experiences give me. It takes a lot of courage to admit to some of the stuff mentioned here. Particualy when a whole way of life, socialy and economicly has to be sacrificed.

    I have found friends outside the church, who have blessed me very much too along with those inside.

    I was once in the ministry and fell away, doing all the things and more that I did before conversion. I still believe but it is a different ball game for me now. I hit the conversion ground running full pelt, went for all the experiences and so on, but life and me revealed another truth. I cannot avoid being me, good and bad and I there is much in this universe I cannot do anything about-it just happens, I have no control or right to control it.

    I have much to learn, my religious ego does a great job of avioding the issues,ie, that I am not perfect, cannot be- I can make good and bad decisions- so does every one else. I have to learn to live with this, and not think to hard. To admit honestly that I have a long way to go is not easy. This means I have to accept others imput in my life who know more and have something to say to me in my life, rather than thinking I have the all the answers to give to the world- which contains many folk who have come nowhere near to some of the negative stuff I have done with my life. just because someone is not a Christian does not mean they dont have some kind of wisdom to pass on to me at times and these folk have been very nuturing and generous in my journey.In the past it has just been like me to react badly and arrogantly to them- I am a Christian realist, none of us have the right to turn people away blinded by our own self righteousness- “Let him who is with out sin cast the first stone” is a very telling text for me.

    Its a great pity that there is not some kind of non-leagalistic, unconditional loving and supportive ministery our there for people who start to have the honest questions about Faith, like when real life is suffocated- family friends, natural talents, achievements that are I believe are what we are given to serve our fellow souls.

    As the above writer indicated, there was no time for what things should have mattered, what message was actually being played there? little wonder he was cattapulted away from the ministry.

    What I have learned is this, I am human and can become very obssesive and become my own worst enemy filling my life with every activity trying to justisfy my existence and feel better about myself- a dodgy complex to bring into a legalistic framework. Tre peace and self worth comes another way not may way!

    There is too much nothing buttery around, if you have doubts, fears , just critisisms illness and much else should it always be seen as something negative or demonic? Sometimes the stress of living with these kind of assumptions is worse than the problem itself.Is it just possible that the same things happen to everyone for basicly the same reasons? and just maybe its the way that they are dealt with that matters,not always why it happens in the first place? A good man once said to me, “Its not the problem that is the issue, but rather the way you choose to percieve it”

  23. Hello, It’s been awhile since I wrote this and just wanted to say hi. Yes I am still very much enjoying life and will never go back to what I came out of. It has been a great journey for me, my wife and 3 grown children. We all are still very close as a family and I have absolutely no regrets of having left the church system. It was great to read all the comments above. You many also like my daughters blog. http://pkstories.blogspot.com/ she has a unique perspective having been the Preachers Kid. Often her 2 brothers and my wife will chime in on their perspective of our past life. Thanks again for the opportunity to share a bit of our story. My wife and I have moved away from the community where we spent so many years and are on a wonderful adventure here in Arizona.

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