Quarter of a Century

I’ve left the professional ministry. I was ordained 25 years ago. I was a student minister before that. It has been a long hard haul. But I’ve gradually come to the realization that I can no longer work inside of the system. I no longer seem to fit within the institution. This is not to say that I don’t believe in the church. I absolutely do. But my relationship to the organization has definitely changed. This blog has always been about my critique of the church… not the good part, but the other. I believe in the right and the importance of Christians to gather. The same would apply to people of other faiths, beliefs, philosophies, etc. But it’s the bad stuff that creeps in and clings to the gathering that I’ve always been critical of.

One of the most deadly influences on a community is agenda. In my opinion, it should be enough to gather together to study the bible, pray, worship and fellowship. It’s when people desire more that things to go awry. To come without an agenda, without a goal, without a dream, without a vision for the church is most difficult. But this is the only way a church will live in a healthy manner. Visionary thinking, fantasizing, kills the church. Even the slightest bit of fantasizing for the church, like a little leaven, will affect the whole lump. It must be renounced entirely.

I plan on continuing this blog as a kind of virtual free-range pastor. I will continue my critique of all things spiritual and religious and institutional. Perhaps I will be even more liberated to express my thoughts. Thanks for all your kind and encouraging words.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • http://societyvs.wordpress.com/ Societyvs

    This might be the best fir for you IMO. However, I am kinda saddened that someone good at their job had to leave because the pressures of the system for conformity were a lil heavy. I guess I want to see someone with more liberal Christian views actually stay in the church at some point (most of us just leave).

  • http://www.carlaroyal.com/ Carla

    I look forward to your continued, and perhaps more liberated, thoughts. Your voice is important. Best wishes, David.

  • DS

    David & Family

    In all the mess is gold, only discovered when ground is broken up and soil sifted.

    I pray that this process is genuinely, long-term good for you and the precious church.

    Here’s to you guys rediscovering your gift to the world all over again.

    Grace to you on the roller coaster change curve!


  • ttm

    I’m curious whether the gamut of emotions you are feeling are anywhere similar to the ones I had when I decided to forgo the institution (not that I was a pastor or anything but I was firmly entrenched a particular ministry within that church for years).

    I felt such a rush of emotions at first. Sometimes a flash of certainty that I had done the right thing and a sense of freedom and fullness. Other times a nagging sense of doubt or dread that my leaving might have hurt others or the heart of God. Even though the emotions have dampened somewhat, I’m still on the roller coaster.

    I guess I’ve gotten used to it and now I just scream with glee through the good times and sqeeze my eyes shut and reach for the barf bag during the not so good. I just wonder if I’m the only one still on ride or if this up and down, come and go thing occurs for everyone who has stepped away from the institutional church for a while or forever.

    You will continue to be in my prayers as the Spirit brings you to mind. I’m sure the journey–however emotions play out–will be an interesting and enlightening one.

  • Mark VH

    We have a bird feeder in the back yard, and sometimes we’ll get a bird back there we’ve never noticed before. We observe it closely, grab the bird-book, and match it up. We’ll find its picture and its name, it’s voice, it’s rituals, its food source, its dwelling.

    From tallest to smallest in our family, none of us needs to be a biologist in order to bird-watch.

    I really dig this blog because it is about principality-watching. None of us needs to be a brilliant theologian to spot and name the powers. It’s a game for all ages. It’s like going bird watching with friends, and you let one another know when you’ve spotted something. Together we notice the powers, we name the powers, we observe the habits of the powers.

  • http:www.underthegrace.com Jeff

    When I left the vocational ministry in 2007 I was beyond ready for a change. Since then, my convictions have solidified. I have a steadier, less fiery, view of the church. Probably because I’m no longer a part of machinery. I’m also not doing the institutional thing. My church-critical voice has largely fell silent which has been a strange experience.

    Blessings on the next part of your journey.

  • http://kaci-jo.blogspot.com Kaci

    I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and I love it. Please continue writing honest blog post; they challenge me to be more authentic daily.

  • http://www.lifestream.org Paul


    You’re in a great but painful place. The pain will pass and His greatness will grow. I understand so much of your struggles with the institutional church. I had to walk away three years ago after 32 years of involvement and ministry. Enjoying the freedom of letting Father connect me when and where He desires. God bless.

  • Elaine Groppenbacher

    I echo what others have written. I am grateful you will continue sharing your thoughts and art with the world. You have helped me through this last year of seminary studies more than I can ever tell you. I am fortunate in that I will not serve within an institutional church structure, but rather will continue as I always have done, that is minister within the context of my daily life. Many blessings to you for your authenticity and courage.

  • http://agministries.org Sisterlisa

    We couldn’t stay in it either. Cyber space is a mission field of people that need your free range teaching. Enter a new realm of ministry with freedom. Blessings to you brother!

  • Rev. David Hicks

    For several years now I have been reading your blog and admiring the truth revealed in your cartooning. You see, after thirty two years as a Methodist pastor, I am coming to the realization that the institution is killing me. The church I have served for most of my life no longer exists. The corporate model is the way to go, and those of us who don’t pigeon hole neatly, well, every struggle has casualties. We shoot our wounded and go on, reduce every career to a series of numbers so that we don’t have to become involved with the struggles and real lives of the parsonage family. What used to be a collegial relationship from the top down is now adversarial. So I too will most likely leave the church this year. I like the words of Will Campbell who once wrote: “I left the church to enter the ministry.” So I wish you well, I will continue to read your blog, laugh and cry over some of your cartoons, and maybe, just maybe, I can find a group of folks like myself who just want to be church, live church, not act church, or agendize church. Hey, we could meet anywhere, no bills for bricks and mortar, any money raised goes straight to the poor, and we may just discover what it means to sing the songs of the Kingdom again. Not an agenda, but maybe a dream with skin on it. Good luck.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Beautiful David.

  • Tiggy

    Wow, I suppose it was inevitable. How did your congregation react? It is a shame when someone like you leaves the church though as you’re the kind of pastor I would like to have. If you still go to church, won’t the new pastor rub you up the wrong way? I can’t imagine you would have had much of a problem over here, at least in the Anglican church We’re not as purpose-driven as Americans. Unfortunately, the non-Anglican church where I go (while lovely in other ways) is run by someone from the business world who always seems to have a bee in his bonnet about what we need to be doing. At the moment, however, the drive is to be expansive – which is fine by me. Expansiveness is one of my values.

    BTW, the police have now decided not to even give me a warning. Which just goes to show that it’s worth shouting and swearing at a policeman if you want to get your own way – well maybe not in North America! I think I intimidated them with my superior logic and cute yet imposing Russian-style hat, though I thought I’d maybe gone a bit far when I said they had a lower order of thinking.

  • Tina McLaughlin

    I feel such a huge sense of loss, at your leaving. I believe your decision is wise, and Godly, and will have good results. I truly wish you well.

    More than anything, I want to encourage you, but the words escape me – the tears are streaming – what can I say? I never would have spent a second week at that church, if you hadn’t smiled and greeted me almost without fail, everytime I showed up.

    What a blessing you are, and have been, and will no doubt continue to be. If you find a new church to call home, please tell me where. I’ve grown so accustomed to having my pastor open, honest, vulnerable, human, ‘naked’, that the idea of being anywhere else is unpleasant.

    I’m sorry if this is less than encouraging, but I guess I figure that it might be encouraging, too, to realize a little bit, just how much you will be missed.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and give you rest. May He lead you by streams of living water, restoring your soul, and giving you rest.

    May you understand the joy He feels, everytime you approach Him…

    I love you, and your beautiful family. Joy, blessings and prosperity to you all.

  • Yarona

    You continue to be a breath of fresh air for me. Some just march to a different drum. You’ll continue to be a drummer with a following. I will follow you on your quest here in cyber space. Blessings and shalom!

  • Carla D

    We Love YOU Dave,

    Adam and Carla.


  • preacherlady

    David…I feel the need to share this. Your next assignment might seem weird or almost absurd and it might be just the right place. Let me explain. About 18 years ago, I left the church I had been affiliated with. It was filled with internal, political junk, the pastor was a drunk, the shelter we ran was a joke…the women were turning tricks on the neighborhood streets…it was a mess. It was a mainline protestant church and I was there because the mainly African- American shelter residents needed a Pentacostal to minister to them. My intent was to begin a ministry of my own. I prayed…I needed a job. There was a greasy spoon at the main intersection of the neighborhood. It was run by racketeers who used it as a front for gambling machines. To lure people in, it had incredibly good and cheap food. Most of the neighborhood stopped in every day. The week after I left the church I was in there having breakfast and the owner approached me. His morning waitress had quit…did I want a job. I told him I’d let him know the next day. I prayed…God said take it…I was furious…I wanted ministry and I got the local greasy spoon with gamblers. We attract what we respect, and within a month the place became a hangout for ministers…all denominations. The Catholic priest came in after 9 o’clock mass every day…the faculty from the seminary down the street started coming in…well, you get the picture…there were about 20 of them in all. And then, Michael, who lived under the bridge started coming in, and of course, there was the collection of seniors who came because of the inexpensive food, so it became a neighborhood social center. I probably did more effectual ministry in the two years that I was there than if I had founded a church. (Instead, one of my customers did, in my living room.)I was asked to speak to the seminarians about practical Christianity…when the Jewish, racketeer owner’s grandchild was dying he came to me for prayer and counsel. When a customer died we had a memorial service. Michael never had to worry if he had money…he was always fed…(along with some others)…someone knit him a hat, scarf, and mittens for Christmas…someone else paid for his dinner. We got him off the street and into an apartment (unfortunately he couldn’t sustain it…he had been a big time actor and became an alcoholic…turned out he was bipolar and was self medicating. Several trips to rehab and he still can’t stay off the sauce.) No matter how absurd the job may seem, it might just be your rightful place of ministry. It took me almost a year to get over my anger at God…in fact it wasn’t until they asked me to speak at the seminary about putting the gospel into everyday terms that I realized that I was making a difference. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that a restaurant counter, a bus bench, a stinky, dirty bar,a motel(thats a whole other story…went for a week…stayed 5 years.)…are all places for ministry. We have church to learn how to behave in those places. The highways and byways are the places that need us. When you hit the streets with a bag of sandwiches for the homeless, or set up music in the park, there’s no board or hierarchy to change the agenda…ministry happens and love abides.

  • John

    Finally, you are free to create the multi-site video screen mega-church you’ve always dreamed about.

    Seriously, now that you have some time, you might think about writing a series of “naked” themed books to reach a broader audience with your wisdom. N. American religion needs your unique voice.

  • preacherlady

    John…yeh…I just can’t wait for the Chicago location of that mega church to open. I hope it has seminars about how to turn every conversation into a discussion about Jesus. You know, ask Patrick Kane what Jesus would do if He played for the Hawks.

  • http://pistevo.com pistevo

    seems to me you still have an internet congregation that doesn’t mind and, in fact, applauds your honesty and transparency. cheers.

  • Christine


    It is people like you who give me hope for institutional churches. That there are pastors who can be naked, who can see leadership the way you do, and that there are organizations, denominations that at least tolerate your great and wonderful experiment. So this is sad news indeed.

    I have no doubt you reached a place where this was the right decision. But the fact that it came to that gives me pause. It’s a sad day for our organization, and one of the few reasons why I love it has ended. More and more I feel our little group is alone in trying to stay within institutions while not bowing to them. How much longer will we survive it? Our test, too, may be coming soon.

    Thank you for continuing the blog. You have been such a blessing. You will undoubtedly find some great work to do, some unique way to continue to minister to those who need it most.

    Thanks for trying and for succeeding for so long within the institution. Thanks for pushing the envelop at every turn. Thank you for having the courage to leave instead of giving in when the choice could no longer be prevented.

    Thanks for everything.


  • http://theoradical.net JohnO


    Good for you. I wish you well on where you next land. Not having a vision for church has been the most liberating thing for my time of worship. It has changed every single pre-conception I ever had.

  • http://souldipper.wordpress.com/ Amy MacLeod

    Well done thy good and faithful pastor. Look at all that Jesus had to nay-say! Would you be happy with your son if he just did what you have done?

    Lead on, David. If we are not a congregation, we certainly are a commentgration!!

    You and your family are in my prayers, too!
    With love and respect,

  • roger flyer

    I’m with you in the wilderness…

  • fat radical

    so just to be clear, you have left your denomination, you are no longer leading your congregation, someone else will be doing that, no one is looking to you for pastoral care & the church is not paying you a salary. If all that is true, WOW!
    So what is plan B?

  • Pingback: The Naked Pastor calls it quits « Le Café Witteveen

  • Mimou

    Welcome to the (our) midst! I have kind of been wondering about this & in some ways waiting for it to happen – am not that surprised! I’ve pretty much left the institution too. Have you read Neil Cole’s Organic Church? lots of love & blessings from Finland xx

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks Mimou. Heard of it, yes. appreciate your comment.

  • RKidd


    I enjoy your posts and cartoons! Keep it up!

  • Jenny

    Go in peace, NP. Hope it’s not been too traumatic an experience for you to leave… and that you are finding consolation and peace outside of it.

    I am glad you are going to keep writing this blog, it’s been my ‘church’ of sorts for over a year now.

    Look forward to reading those NP books that someone else has suggested, too.

  • Jana

    Things happen when one is not around to read the blog daily…

    I pray that you will find peace in this uncertainty! Never easy to take such a big step!!!

    Glad to know you will still be around, stirring thoughts!

  • http://www.loreleiarmstrong.com Lorelei

    Every community, every relationship, is at risk of drifting from “I love you,” to “I love you, change!” That is a bad, sad place to be.

  • http://nursepastorfatherhusband.blogspot.com/ scott

    All the best with the next part of your journey. Welcome to the ‘Free-range’ pastor world.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-8922-Skepticism-Examiner Charlie Mc.

    I’m deeply sorry for any loneliness and pain you and your family are going through now. I made a somewhat similar decision many years ago. I wanted to leave quietly, but the church couldn’t allow that, because it caused too much cognitive dissonance. Good people don’t leave “the Church,” and if someone good did leave, what did that say about “the Church?” My biggest frustration was that people could sympathize, but they couldn’t fully understand the price I was paying. New friends couldn’t understand where I’d been, and old friends wouldn’t go where I was going. Especially since I didn’t *know* where I was going.

    I hope your situation is different; I have a feeling it’s not different enough.

    So no advice and no platitudes from here. Just respect. I’ve always connected with your blog posts and admired your courage and honesty. May they serve you well.

  • http://beatonho.blogspot.com/ Jan Bacon

    I go on a computerless vacation and the world turns over. It’s actually all about me, you know ;) I was just getting over hearing that RealLivePreacher.com was no longer going to be working for his church in San Antonio. And now nakedpastor too? I am pretty sure I found both of your sites through Wondercafe.ca of our United Church in Canada. I flip thru many links but the offerings that you both posted have never let me down. Always something to make me think, grow and possibly change. I have never been much of a commenter but I do soak it all up like a dry sponge. I am pleased that my virtual pastors will still be with me at this desk and in my heart and I am sad for the people in your congregations. I am sure they will feel the loss. The Trinity lives in my heart as it does in yours. We are connected and always will be.

  • http://rubyleigh.blogspot.com Ruby Leigh

    Best Wishes in your future endeavor.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks Ruby.