The teaching pastor who took over for controversial author and Pastor Rob Bell at Mars HIll Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, announced Sunday that he will soon be leaving the church and explained that "being a pastor is not really who I am."
Kent Dobson, who assumed the teaching pastor position at the 12,000-member megachurch when Bell left the congregation and moved to California in 2012, told the congregation during Sunday's service that he will be stepping down from his role in the coming months to pursue a "greater mystery."
He told the congregants that he has never felt right serving in the role of pastor because he has always been "drawn to the edges of religion and faith and God." He has even stated a few times that he doesn't know "what we mean by God anymore?"
"This past year has been different for me. It's been a hard year for a lot of reasons. It's been a hard year just with my job here. My place here has not felt right, that's the way I would put it," Dobson told the congregation. "Like I was wearing someone else's suit that didn't quite fit and I tried to get it tailored and maybe I had shoulder pads from the '90s or something, I don't know."
"I am not drawn to the Orthodox or to the mainstream or to the status quo. I think all churches have to have a center, that's what defines who they are, but I am always wondering out to the edge and beyond, hoping to fall off the cliff from time to time," Dobson added. "All that to say, it's hard to be the teaching pastor and question and challenge the Church at the same time and get paid for it. It feels kind of weird and it has for some time."
Dobson, who has a gay brother, explained that some people have asked him if he is leaving Mars Hill because the church is not liberal enough for him. Dobson, who is an affirming Christian, assured that was not the reason.
"Being a pastor at a church is not really who I am," Dobson, whose father, Ed Dobson, and grandfather were both pastors, stated. "If I pretend to be something I am not, it is not good for me. In the end, it's not good for you I don't think either."
Dobson, who previously was a religion teacher at NorthPointe Christian School and has led tours to Israel, also explained that he gets "restless and a bit homeless" when it comes to "God talk."
"A lot of times I feel like an outsider at my own party," Dobson, who has appeared on broadcasts for the History Channel and Discovery Channel, admitted.
Dobson told the audience that he has no plan yet moving forward.
"I know that if I continue to grow, I must step out into the unknown. I mean this in a straight-up way, I have no backup plan. I have no idea. I don't know what I am going to do next," he said. "In fact, this is partly how I know this is right. No one mailed me a new job description and said that's it. I feel called to a greater mystery that I do not know, that I do not understand but I can hear the call anyway. All the mystery says is step forward."
The chairwoman of the church's elder board told MLive that "there was some surprise and some sadness" when Dobson told the church leadership about his desire to leave the church. Although there is no transition plan yet in place, she asserted that "uncertainty has never kept us from moving forward."