Tuesday, May 1, 2007

steve malone

I'm just going to go ahead and write about this. Especially since it seems to be all anyone wants to talk to me about.

steve is leaving red mountain. I've seen this coming for awhile. and he announced it, making it official, this past sunday. "what now? what will happen? do we get a new pastor? who? when? btm are you going to leave too? why is he leaving? what happened?"

it's hard to put a number on how many people have called or emailed me with those questions. some are good friends, who really know and care about steve, and they are just genuinely curious. others are people who just want the scoop. to everyone, I'm saying about the same thing, and it feels worth saying at least a bit of it here:

steve is leaving, by his own choice. and yeah it pretty much sucks. I won't go into the detailed reasons for his departure here on theworstweblogintheworld, but I will say that the reasons are not nearly as exciting and tasteless as the rumor mill would have people believe. and his absence is sad. sad for me, sad for our friends, sad for our church, sad for steve, sad for steve's family.

on sunday, steve said (paraphrase) "when we started this church, one of our founding ideas was 'if Christ's ministry was marked by attracting 'sinners' and repelling 'religious people', then why do most american churches attract 'religious people' and repel 'sinners'? and this question has driven a lot of our philosophy here at our church. and what it has meant is that we have become a church for people whose lives are unraveling, whose lives are coming undone. and what I never predicted is that I myself would observe my own life unraveling, 6 years in..."

wow. I never realized either, how much the gospel could really change things. how much freedom really costs. how much people are governed by their own fears. I'm still only at the beginning of embracing and learning about these ideas, and it looks like things are going to get messier long before they get prettier.

one of the things that has been sad for me to see, is people who seem happy that red mountain is in a hard place. I meet people who talk about us in a sort of "well-you-know-you-guys-kind-of-
had-this-coming" sort of way, and that is sad to me. sad that some perceive us as a reckless church of sin-embracing barely-christians (or something to that affect). sad that people in area churches would feel self-affirmed, or even a bit of joy, amidst our sorrow. sad that people would assume so much about us, when they often, obviously know so little.

how does the cliché go? The church is the only army that shoots it's own wounded.

and yet if I am honest, I know that I would likely have the same feelings if churches I do not attend failed. I would probably be happy about it, and quite frankly, I don't have any other church that I could go to. if red mountain folds, I just probably wouldn't go to church anymore. I think a lot of us feel that way.

I had a good talk with my dad last week. and I told him again about how easy it is for me to get so angry at the christians. it was a good talk, and I'm thankful that I can finally talk to him about some of this stuff. and he said, "brian - you gotta just tune some of it out - you know people will always disagree with you - it's noise - you can't pay attention to it or it will drive you crazy..." and I know that is
likely good advice, from a man who knows me well, and is almost 40 years older than me - but the thing is, I'm just not able to tune it out. I'm not able to pretend it's noise, because people's words tend to matter.

But when it comes to our little church, and when it comes to steve - there really is a lot of noise, from a lot of people whose words really don't matter. that much is obvious.

so. steve is leaving. I think we're all a little nervous. steve was a guardian - he made our church safe for people who are in process - for people who really aren't sure what they think about christianity - for people who have a lot of doubts, for people who are clinging to hope, and for people whose lives are really, truly messed up. hopefully we will continue to be that kind of church. hopefully, we can now turn and love steve half as well as he loved us. hopefully, mercy will rain down on all of us.

God knows, we need it.


Robert said...

I hear you. Our two best pastors left this month. It sucks.

Discovering that the church, its leadership and the gospel are bigger than just the heart of one man may bring a lot of hope to the RMC crew. One thing I've seen in the presbytery here in TX is that there are a whole lot of Steve Malone's out there (philosophically speaking).

Lately, I have been reading Dick Keyes (auth. Chameleon Christianity) new book "Seeing Through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion". I must say, it is worth getting for any of us "postmodern" types.

Matthew Smith said...

Brian, I am so sorry.

Matt Churnock said...

Once again your honesty hits like a ton a bricks. It is sad to hear that about Steve and the Red Mountain body.

Liz said...

more than nervous... lost maybe?

thanks brian.

Kevin said...

My heart is broken at this news Brian.

shawn avery said...

those who know me know that i'm not a religious person, yet i don't hesitate to speak my views on american christianity and its "effect" on the world at large.

i welcome theological debate... especially here in the south...

however, the people that comprise RMC have always been pleasant to be around and i think the approach RMC takes is the closest thing to a true community based church that i've seen.

i've only performed at one church, one time in my life... and it was last easter at RMC. and i would do it again.

RMC is struggling because it matters.

i've met steve a few times and i've always gotten a great vibe from him. a focused, quiet leader for sure. i wish him the best of luck for the future.

great, honest posting brian. see you in 1.5 hours.

Courtney said...

That really grieves my heart for Steve, you, Red Mtn.

I'm on our search committee and we've been without a pastor for 19 months now. I cannot explain how hard those months have been. What I have begun to grasp the least little bit, though, is how much Christ loves the church. I forget so often that it is HIS church, universally and particularly. Knowing that is one of the only things that has kept me going, albeit barely going. And I've almost begun to understand how broken I am.

So that was more about me, but meant to convey my empathy.

Robert said...

Any doubting pagan can go raise support and plant a church. But, to willingly resign on ones own accord takes sacrifice of pride and a certain amount of faithfulness.

Supabloggasuprememama said...

I think thats really sad, btm, and I dont think your church has "failed". I will be praying for yall because I know how hard ministry is, and what all it entails. It's definitely a roller coaster ride, thats for sure. hang on tight.

susan said...

"one of the things that has been sad for me to see, is people who seem happy that red mountain is in a hard place."

I don't know if it helps, but I haven't met one, not ONE, person who feels this way. Not that they don't exist, just that they don't exist under the rocks you would think they would. I don't think the rest of Christendom is against Red Mountain as much as some of the folks at Red Mountain believe it to be. (Much to my own surprise, actually.)


brett said...

i don't know what to say about steve leaving that hasn't already been said. i love steve and i love red mountain, even as a non-attender. this is a really beautiful post, though.

Daniel said...


Sorry to hear the news. Obviously I know nothing of the church really, or of what's happened- but as the others have said, there's a lot of emotion in this post.

I really loved listening to Steve's talks online... I'm sure he'll be missed.

Thinking of (and praying for- if I'm allowed to say that!) you guys.

Much love from the UK.


Brian T. Murphy said...

Robert – yeah I think that we’re seeing that our community is bigger than just one person (which is something I don’t think any of us were very sure about). but it still sucks. and I think that you are lying about there being multiple steve malones in tx. texas is mostly just full of pain, and people who have the word “texas” tattooed across the front of their neck, in cursive. I know this, because I have been to texas once.

Msmith – thanks man. clint says you may be headed to birmingham soon. let me know. would be good to hang out.

Churnock – it’s a weird time. sometimes I miss the days of you running sound for us down at auburn. those were simpler times.

Liz – yeah. but I guess at least a few of us have been feeling lost for awhile now…

Kevin – do I know you?

Shawn – thanks for your comments. I always appreciate your thoughts. I have hope that red mountain can continue to be a place for people in the southside / downtown community, regardless of what they believe. you should come back and play with us again sometime. I always enjoy making music with you. especially with the spots, which is probably the coolestbandofalltime.

I think it’s cool that you said rmc is struggling because it matters. gosh I hope that is true. thanks shawn.

Courtney – search committee. gross. 19 months. double gross. has your church lost a lot of people?

Supa – thanks.

Susan – well, I have certainly met more than one. and my experience is not that christendom is against red mountain directly, (people say nice things, generally, it’s what people do) but that christendom is against some of our core ideas. I think that is part of why some people don’t stay at red mountain very long. I’m not looking for something to whine about and be victimized by. I’m just describing what I have heard and experienced in my own conversations with people inside and outside of our church.

Brett – yes. times like these make me long for a motorcycle and two days / 3 nights on the natchez. perhaps even complimented with a can of orange slices and a july 7 fireworks display in a sea of monster trucks and lawn furniture.

Daniel – thanks man. he’ll be missed for sure. always good to hear from my british friend.

Sandra said...

You don't know me. I attend Christ Community Church in Watkinsville, GA. Matt posted your blog on his blog and I just had to respond. I became aware of RMC through Matt, Aaron and the music we sing alot of in worship. I just want you to know I'll be praying for you all. I was on the pulpit committee for the 18 long months before God led us to Matt and it is a tough time for a church. It is hard to lose a pastor you love, but I think God uses these kind of very hard things to bring change and growth and surprises us with his goodness.

s. wells said...

hi brian, whom i occasionally read and comment on,
i've been through this wounding thing. i've seen my family wounded by the church while they were down.

so i've decided...

my biggest hope in life is to be the kind of person who doesn't talk
but listens.

jeremy m said...

brian, I definitely share your hope that red mountain will continue to be a place of freedom. I know this has been extremely important to so many who are a part of the church including myself. Like you, I don't really know where I'd go to church if Red Mountain didn't exist.

Aaron said...

So I have wanted to post a comment for a few days now, but I honestly don’t know what to say. A friend that also attends RMC described Steve as being broken the other night. That just hurts my heart for him, his family and his church family. My prayer is that God will encourage you guys to live out the Gospel to Steve and this can be a great visual of Jesus redeeming this situation (and I am not sure if that’s the right word).

Benj said...

I'm really sorry to hear this. Steve always struck me as a really perfect fit as Red Mountain's pastor. I hope things get better.

Kevin said...

Yes you know me Brian - I'm Kevin Twit

Corey Nolen said...

brian, your photography skills are excellent. have you gone pro yet?

Brian T. Murphy said...

Sandra – 18 months. wow. and after all that, you guys selected matt? seems like with that much time you could have made a better decision…(I kid I kid…) that is really great that you guys sing some of our songs. very encouraging. thanks sandra. good to hear from you.

s.wells – “i've seen my family wounded by the church” – that sounds intense. thanks for the comment. I think listening more than talking is a big deal. sorry I hijacked your comment section. I just got really excited about the piano teaching subject.

Jeremy – ditto. thanks man. I’m really glad you are with us.

Aaron – thanks. it is easy to say that “jesus is redeeming this situation”…but that is not an easy thing to believe. I guess we’ll just see where this goes.

Benj – yeah. he was. and this seems worth mentioning to you, specifically – steve tells me that he’s been listening to “help my unbelief” and awful lot lately, and that the music has been encouraging for him. thanks for your contributions. maybe someday we’ll finish up this next one…

Kevin – oh. okay. hi there. hey – and thanks for all you do to support our music. really. I increasingly meet people who tell me that you told them about us, or that they heard you mention us in a very positive light. that means more to us than you may realize. I really appreciate your support. we here at red mountain obviously have a lot of respect for you and your work.

Corey – nope. there is nothing professional about my photography. it’s therapy.

Courtney said...

Yeah, we've lost a pretty good chunk of folks- we had some rough years before Scot left though and it had started then. I think RMC and Intown are in pretty different places. We don't know how broken we are here in the ATL.

steve said...

Brian and everyone, thank you for your kindnesses and hopes. I can't tell you how deeply moved I am by all of your words.
This is what I am thinking about: A catholic guy said, "it is only at night that all the lost are found."

Clint Wells said...


Henri Nouwen.

I guess when it comes to coping with our current situation we owe a lot to him for helping us sit in the darkness.

maybe Jesus will show up.

Rae said...

Urgh. Wrenching.

RMC will be okay, Brian.

Matt Adair said...

Brian - Quite the cheap shot. Glad I was wearing my trusty banana cup.

Wes & Judy said...

I don't even know you...but find myself praying for you and the rest in your RMC tribe. Just a thought on this Sunday, as collectively, you all face the future, together...with...and without your beloved Steve and family...

after mastering the winds,
the waves, the tides and gravity,
we shall harness for God
the energies of love,
and then,
for the second time
in the history of the world,
man will discover fire."

...Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Brian, keep writing your heart. It is hard, but it is informing the rest of us about what to do with our own hearts.

...thank you,


Evan said...

This has been about the worst two weeks in my life. I know it isn't the same, but I feel like I have lost the two men that I looked up to and loved most. Steve told me the other night, "there is something about a father that gets in your heart like nothing else."

This comes close. I love you Steve.

Brian T. Murphy said...

Courtney – “we don’t know how broken we are here in the ATL” – yeah we don’t know that here in the BHM either. some of us are starting to see it, but there’s so much more to find.

Steve – you know I love you.

Clint – “helping us sit in the darkness.” – you know what else helps with that? sitting with people, and honestly having no idea what to say, and then not actually saying anything.

Rae – hope so. I know the church will go on. I’m just afraid of it changing.

Matt – banana cup. What is that?

wes – that is a really great quote. Thanks for visiting theworstweblogintheworld.

Evander – I know that this has been just about the worst two weeks of your life, and I’m sorry man.

Suzanne and Chris Jones said...

i copied a part of your blog about our church. hope you don't mind. cj and i went to dinner tonight. we spoke of how much we love the murphy's.

Jeff said...

THis hurts me deeply as Steve is easily and I say this all the time, that he is my favorite preacher and while I was at Red Mountain he was a good leader. It all just goes to show that the gospel really is news that has to be heard and not just the ideas or vision of one man, as great as Steve's teaching gentle spirit, and very well articulated leadership were (are, will be??), the gospel stands alone and it is actualy encouraging to see that if anyone at RMC understands the gospel, that it is steve and he is showing it through his responsibly stepping down. I don't know all the details and I don't need to but my sympathy goes out to RMC and I hope that the membership at RMC will be able to recognise that the foundations that Steve laid were sound and that they won't discredit the mission and philosophies of the church just because of the failings of its leader. I pray that you all continue to carry on great work in Birmingham because RMC has made an unbelievalble difference in my life.

Brian, on another note, I love your music, from the Spots to RMC. You just have a good vibe on the piano. I wanted to let you know that I use many of RMC's songs in our worship services and we have been encouraged by the spirit that you've tapped into to write music specificaly for our congregation as well. If you are still thinking of doing a psalm project in the future I have some that might could work for you. Peace and clearity in this confusing time man.

Willis Blog said...

I'm not sure why but I feel like I need to add my two cents. I met Steve at a funeral, which somehow seemed to really fit where I was in my life at the time. I had just left the Baptist church and was disgusted by the whole thing and lost as hell. Something about him made me want to know more. Steve made me feel like it was okay to be broken and confused, that maybe having all the right answers (or looking as if I had all the right answers) wasn't the point. For one of the very few times in my life I did not feel like I had to perform well or be the Golden Boy in order to have a leader's acceptance.

I haven't been to church now in a long time. I don't know what to say. (Max Van Manen says that half our hearts live on the other side of language.) Brian, I have strong feelings for you even though we've really never talked much. You and Steve and others at RMC are in my heart and prayers.

steve said...

"Half our hearts live on the other side of language." Oh,that's good. That's really good.

Somebody ought to use that in a sermon.

Molly and John said...

wow. I occasionally click over here to read what's on your mind and this just hit me to the core. What an odd place to be in in our little church, our little world. So much to hope for, but so much to grieve. And yet, life just continues. but I long to wait. To wait for this dark time to pass - and I don't think it ever will. God we miss Steve!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, "Earth is crammed with Heaven and every bush afire with God and only he who sees it takes off his shoes. The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries." crap, my shoes are off but it still sucks.

hang in there brian. the stones love the murphys ... when can y'all come for dinner?

virginia said...

hi brian and rmc.

iit's virginia bradley (in brooklyn). i heard about steve's resignation this summer. it tore me apart. red mountain was a huge impact, friend, supporter, and haven to me when i was in birmingham. i still miss steve's sermons. they always blessed me and never ceased to be "just what i needed to hear." i am so sorry for your loss.

thank you for posting this blog. i talked briefly with chris hildebrand about it. i don't know details really, and i'm not sure that i need to. however, it helps to read this blog and find some sort of connection to the situation. it's like when you lose a friend while you were on vacation, and you just want to understand and relate about what happened. sort of a grief question, "why? i don't believe it. i don't understand." this blog has helped me in my small grieving process from afar. thank you.

i'll be praying for you guys. i know my little church
(resurrection) up here will too. after all, we are connected. i guess it's helpful to know that god knows no space and time. that he uses people to effect others whether we know it or not and even despite ourselves. if we are one body, and god loves this body, i have every confidence that when one part is wounded he wants it to be healed. it may be encouraging to know that he could possibly direct other parts to care for the wounded portion, just as we do ourselves. all that to say, you are not alone red mountain. you are part of something that loves you and will fight for you. i pray that we (the church) don't let you down, as so often can happen. i pray we fight. i think you will be surprised to see where your aid comes from. it may not be from an expected or ideal place, but in that comes growing, stretching, more of an open mind, and greater strength and love.

i love you red mountain. may god bless you, protect you, heal you, and encourage you. you are important and dearly loved by so many more than you may even realize.