It was, as Steve Marsh describes it, when he was at the ‘top of his game’ that everything began to fall apart – something for which he is, four years later, incredibly grateful.
The congregation in which he served, preaching four services, was 2400 members strong, with 1600 worshipping on a weekly basis, and a $5.3 million budget.
“I thought I had finally gotten to the kind of church where God could most use me,” recalled Marsh in his candid telling of the story.
There were good things happening – he had forged a relationship with the mayor of Wichita, and together the church and city worked together to better their community in an event that now draws more than 6,000 volunteers citywide.
“Of course I trusted God – but I also knew that I was ‘pretty darn good’ at what I did,” shared Marsh. Looking back now, he sees that he was as much about ‘managing his image’ as he was about the ministry being done.
But it got to be too much. He couldn’t hold it all together. Cracks began to appear in his attitude and performance.
In October 2010 Marsh was asked to resign for a variety of reasons, but all related to his need to project the image of ‘super pastor.’
It was a blow that knocked him off ‘the top of his game’ but knocked him into something far greater.
“It has taken me the past four years in the wilderness to come to terms with the fact that sometimes ministry was more about me than the people – I had begun to believe my own press,” he continued.
He wasn’t a bad minister or a bad guy – God was using him and people liked him. But it was a wake-up call for him to become aware of something in him that had become misguided.
“Why did I have to pretend, to present, that I was perfect?” he wondered.
“I wish I could have given myself permission to know that being vulnerable with my frustrations or concerns could have been okay,” he shared. “I had a fear that by telling elders or others that I really didn’t know what I was doing, that it would have been my ticket out the door.”
Looking back, Marsh sees how important the past four years have been. “I had to come to terms with myself – the person who God was always loving, but that I could not love in that way.”
“Now I feel so free from performance and more able to do my thing from a place of gratitude and grace and loving people in a way I have never been able to do before,” he shared.
Four years to the month of his forced resignation, Steve Marsh was installed at Geneva. “I’m thrilled to be here.” Though Marsh realizes that God has been involved in every call he has received, he also knew that his own maneuverings played as large a role. “This time around, there is none of that,” said Marsh.
In fact, Marsh said no to the PNC of Geneva twice before actually accepting the call. “There was that part of me that really wanted to make sure that it was God calling me,” he explained.
“What sold me about Geneva was their authenticity, their transparency, their vulnerability and commitment to working together in conflict and a willingness to lead out of brokenness – I realized how much I wanted to walk with these folks,” Marsh shared.
The call to Geneva is not about serving a ‘big’ or ‘successful’ church – but about a mutual willingness to admit to struggle and brokenness, and to minister together from that place of shared vulnerability. “The more honest and authentic I was with them, the more it bonded us together.”
“I want to love them and have them love me. Let’s go for it!”