Missional Pastoring Head Rattles


Kathy’s Bio: my life = wild & fun.

i co-pastor the refuge, an eclectic beautiful faith community in north denver, juggle 5 kids & an awesome husband who has a bunch of jobs, too. i’m an advocate for friends in hard places, a trained spiritual director (one who’s a little on the loud side) & love to teach and facilitate events, workshops, and groups. i write a little, hang out with people a lot, and teach college classes online because missional living doesn’t pay the bills.

these all blend together and make for one messy life in the trenches with people.

i’m most passionate about community, the marginalized, healing, spiritual transformation, equality, justice, “church”, relationships, diversity, and learning to love and be loved.

You can visit Kathy’s website by clicking here!

Missional Pastoring Head Rattles: By Kathy Escobar

I never set out to be a pastor. In all kinds of ways, this way of living came to me. 24 years ago, when I graduated from college, if someone would have told me I’d be a co-pastor of a small, poor missional community, I would have laughed in their face.. I was on the fast track to a successful business career, having finished my master’s degree and in a job that was centered on climbing the corporate ladder. I dreamed of a cushy life where I didn’t have to worry about money and had a lot of people who did my dirty work for me.

Yeah, God had another plan.

Through many twists and turns he got hold of my heart, first radically redeeming my own painful story and then giving me a passion to play a part in others’ healing, too.

About 8 years ago, I entered into full-time pastoral ministry. I had a position on a mega-church staff making good money with nice benefits. I had an administrative assistant and support people who helped make life run smoothly.

Then, 6 years ago we planted The Refuge, our wild and beautiful faith community that teaches me more than I ever bargained for. Yeah, I don’t have an administrative assistant, a good salary, or “all kinds of people to keep my life running smoothly.” In fact, it’s about as far from that as I can possibly imagine–terrible salary, no benefits, and far more needs than resources.

But it’s also more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed.

It’s also been one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Missional/incarnational pastoring has required me to give my heart in ways I wasn’t used to giving. It has required me to have trust that I wasn’t used to having. It has forced me to let go of things I used to tightly grip. It’s caused me to go a little crazy and become a little more sane.

These are some of the things that rattle around in my head a lot as a missional pastor: (I am guessing some of you can relate).

• “How in the $*#^!%@! did I end up here?” – Seriously, how did I somehow go from corporate business manager to stay-at-home mommy to poor missional pastor? Even when we started The Refuge, I pictured things so much easier, neater, tidier. I pictured more help, more stability, more all-kinds-of-things. I never imagined this much relationship or this much raw, real life. I never imagined I’d be 45 years old and make less money than I did when I was 21. I never imagined I’d care this much about people and change.

• “please God, please God, please God.” – Every day I cry out to God on behalf of my friends. I beg. I plead. I question. I pray like a crazy woman. Often, it feels like everywhere I look I see loneliness, doubt, fear, shame, and practical struggles. I have friends who can’t get a break, no matter how hard they try, with systems of injustice bent against them. I often feel desperate for God to show up, to heal, to restore, to move, to do something–anything–that will bring a sliver of hope or peace.

• “God, grant me the serenity….” The Serenity Prayer saves me over and over again out here. Missional pastoring and unhealthy codependence can easily go hand and hand. Breaking free of controlling others, people pleasing, or having a savior complex is our only hope. Staying in recovery helps me live in that tension in a more healthy way, but it’s always a tricky dance. I continue to learn what it means to accept the things that I can’t change and ask God for courage to change the things I can.

• “How can we get more people to help us?” – Out of almost everything about the past 6 years, the hardest thing is not having more people to help do the tough, on-going work of extending Christ’s love, mercy & compassion in tangible ways. The people who are part of our community are awesome, so willing to love and help, but the reality is that there have never been enough of us to share the load properly. The needs far outweigh the haves. We long for people who would come stay and really play. And more people who may not be able to be part in-the-flesh but will at least help us fund the work we are doing.

But despite these things that rattle around in my head about how hard missional/incarnational pastoring really is, there’s one thought that outweighs them all:

“That was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen”

Yeah, I can’t tell you the number of nights I go to bed with a smile on my face, thinking of a holy moment that happened that day–where someone received God’s love through someone else, where hope pierced through the darkness, where dignity was restored, where shame’s power was broken, where love conquered hate, where community won out over isolation.

Without these moments, I would have walked away a long time ago.

They are sustaining.

They are reminders that Jesus heals in all kinds of wild and mysterious ways.

They keep me going for another day, another month, another year.

They make this so worth it.

  • http://www.journeyifc.com Rick Diamond

    Preach on, sister. This man hears you from over in the trenches in Austin. the beautiful disaster that is the experiment i’m part of. serving it continues to break me and remake me.
    not for wimps.
    thanks for the reminder about the pretty parts.

  • http://www.hansen-rd.com Elaine Hansen

    I’m a big fan of Kathy Escobar’s.. She tells it like it is. Love that about her. Great post, Kathy! Keep it up.

    Living in Christian community is messy – and hard. You walk it out with grace and love.

  • http://www.sarahbessey.com Sarah Bessey

    Kathy, I will not be showing this article to my husband because then he will agree with me that we need to move to Denver just to learn from you for a few months or years or lifetimes. You get into my head and my blood and I see Jesus here, in all of it. I am learning to live like this and it is bloody brilliant.

  • http://www.kathyescobar.com kathyescobar

    hey rick, “beautiful disaster” yep, that’s such a good descriptor. i always say it’s “beautiful & hazardous”. so good to know we’re not alone. what’s the name of your community?

    elaine – so thankful for your friendship across the miles. it’s encouraging, more than you know

    sarah – “bloody brilliant”. you always have the best words. oh if you could see it someday you’d see how truly nutty it is. like so different from what i pictured but so much more beautiful somehow.