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Saturday, December 1, 2018

An Interview with Tom Whitesel

    During my 17 months of recovery, God did several miracles in my life. I have never personally experienced the uniqueness and frequency of God’s moving, as He did for me during those months of recovery. I'm happy to share them with you now. 
    - Pastor Tom Whitesel

     Q.On your Websites, you mention that you experienced burn-out while in ministry. What led to your burn-out?   
      A. I started working a second job, to help the church with expenses. I received health insurance from my second job so that the church did not have to pay my insurance. I thought it would last about 1 year. It ended up being 5 years. My body eventually shut me down. I had nothing left. I unexpectedly had to resign from my church position of over 20 years. Since it was all unexpected, I had no plans of what to do next. I had no job lined up. My church had promised me 6 months of pay to help me recover. After a month of my leaving, attendance and finances had dropped so much, that they told me that they could no longer afford to keep their commitment to me. I had barely begun the process of recovery and I was in no condition to be looking for another job in ministry. So, I had no job, and no money coming in.

Q. What did you do next?
A. The day after I resigned from my church, a local pastor called me just to see how I was doing. He did not know me well, but was concerned about me. He wanted to have breakfast with me to talk about things. He was heading out of the country and his schedule was totally full for one month. We agreed to meet in one month. Our scheduled meeting was THE DAY AFTER my church told me that they could no longer keep their financial commitment. I did not really want to tell the pastor that my former church could not keep their commitment, but he continued to press until I told him about it. As we were finishing breakfast, he told me that during his prayer time earlier that morning… God had let him know that his church was going to need to step out on faith soon. After hearing my story, he told me that he knew that I WAS THE ONE that God was referring to in his prayer time. He told me that his church would finish paying the rest of the financial commitment. His church supported me financially, every week for 5 months so that I could continue in my recovery!

Q. What were your first steps toward recovery?
A. Through God’s leading, I found a Christian therapist, who I met with serval times. Secondly, I signed up for a website that offered me a free E-book once a month. Each month for about 6 months, the book that I got free, was amazingly the very book that I needed to read.

Q.. You weren’t pastoring at that time. What was it like to go to a church and not be the pastor?
A. [It was very humbling. But I was in no condition to lead others. I would wait until church would start, then sneak in while the lights were low… and then leave before the service was over, so that I did not have to talk with people. For nearly 6 months, I did not feel it within me to sing during church, nor did I take communion when it was offered.]

Q. Did you want to become a pastor again?
A. [It took a year for that to happen. I was mad. I had no desire whatsoever to get back into ministry.]
[As the weeks passed, I began to heal. Therapy was so helpful, plus there were major lessons that God was teaching me about myself - areas that I needed to grow. One of those areas was my personal prayer life. In brokenness and desperation, God taught me how to pray. This had a major impact on my recovery]

Q. How did you come to the point that you desired to look for another job in ministry?
A. [About 12 months into the recovery. I began to apply for several positions. To my surprise, it became clear that churches were looking for younger pastors. (I was 52). I applied for many churches, but could not get very far, even though I have so much experience and have had a great track record. I soon became convinced that I WAS TOO OLD FOR MINISTRY. That type of thinking led me into anger at God, as well as depression.

Q. What happened next?
A. [Several months went by. I kept applying for churches, but was not hearing anything. I was working two jobs. My wife as as well. In reality though, it wasn’t about my age. The delay was because God wanted to teach me more lessons of growth. I didn’t realize this until later]

Q. How did you finally end up back in ministry?
A. [I learned several major things while in recovery. After each major lesson, I figured that I was now ready to go back into ministry. Yet, there was one more thing that I needed to do. I needed to forgive someone who had betrayed me relationally. This person had played a major role in the circumstance that led to my stress level of working two jobs… become unmanageable… pushing me over the edge into burn-out. God literally put that person and I together, officiating the same funeral of a former parishioner. God made me have the conversation with the person that I needed to forgive.]

[After that conversation, more miracles began to happen, as God began opening doors for me to get back into ministry. A church from Virginia called and seemed to have genuine interest. Yet, I was still convinced that I was too OLD. The church wanted to do a Skype call with me. I told my wife that they would never be interested in me… because even though I could SOUND young over the phone, once they SAW me on the Skype video… they would get the impression that I was too old! I believed that with all of my heart.

Q. What happened next?
A. [My wife felt so bad for me, that she privately prayed that God would show me some kind of sign that I was not too old. The very next day, I was in a park, and a total stranger approached me, and through our conversation… he told me that God had led him to come and talk to me. The word that he told me were: “You will go on to touch many more lives for God”…. -I will elaborate on this story much more]
[That same day, another church called, and within 10 days, I had 5 churches that were seriously interested in me!]
[I ended up telling 4 churches that I had decided on another church. I accepted the Senior Pastor Position in a church in Michigan.

Q. How are things going now?
A. [From my first week at the new church, things have gone amazingly well. - there is actually a story that happened that first week, which connects to my time of struggle and recovery]
[The church here in Michigan has seen major growth and the blessings of God in my four years here. We have grown by about 100 people.]
[After being at my new church for a little over a month, I was able to go back and visit the church  who had supported me for 5 months. The pastor allowed me to share my story (available on my Podcast). The cool thing was that the church did not know that they had been supporting me. I was able to tell them and to thank them for what they did. It was amazing.
[My websites are devoted to teaching people to live day to day and trust that God will take care of them as He did me.]

You can find Pastor Tom online:

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