Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Dear pastors. It's time.

Pastors. You are leaders. You are shepherds. You are humans.

 I am one of you. I love you and I hurt with you.  I love the church. I love God's people. I love you and want the best for you therefore I am compelled to pen this blog.

I write this as an open letter to any and all pastors and church leaders.
(This is a follow up to my last month's blog: dear-witnesses-observers)

Due to recent events in a prominent church here in America, I'm compelled to write to remind us, to remind you, me, all pastors, leaders and elders of  the church, God's people small or large, organized in any way, whether it be in a living room or a building of fifty thousand..that we are called to truth and integrity. This is how Jesus invites us to live and the way we live will always affect others.

Truth is rising in the shadows.  My heart is so heavy in so many ways as is yours pastors because  you carry the stories of so many, let alone the burdens of what we see happening in the American church today (and in the news, politics, etc).

That is why we need to speak out and address the toxic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, evil words and actions taking place in our world whether they happen in public or in private. We need to address what's going on in our country and our states and cities.

These atrocities (racial biases, sexual harassment, inequality in the workplace, LGBT bullying)  every day in our schools, workplaces, communal spaces, and yes, even churches.

 This is the great work of God entrusted to us. To take care of people, to help those who feel voiceless, support those who are weak, to hear those sharing their pain, to acknowledge their stories even when they don't make sense or we can't connect with them. It's our job to seek justice on their behalf.

Our silence is profound.

 Our silence speaks louder than any sermon, scripture, or Sunday school lesson.

Stop this insanity. 

Stop making excuses. 

I'm afraid that spending all our time preaching the good news of the Bible that we've missed opportunities to be the good news to the real human beings who need our love, comfort, support and healing.

On behalf of people of color, the LGBTQ community, and women everywhere who have been ostracized, rejected and especially those who have been abused, coerced, or manipulated in any way sexually---it's time to admit, it's time to change, it's time to do right,  it's time to do better!

If this year, or two has taught us anything it's the power of the people. It's the power and radical movement of those who bind together in the name of justice to bring truth to the light.
It will always come. It will always find a way.  Pastors listen. Open your ears to hear what the Spirit is saying and have eyes to see what the Spirit is doing. Stop spending all your time planning and preaching your sermons,  overworking to grow your church's Sunday attendance while running your staff into the ground, taking advantage of your volunteers..while overlooking the needs of the human beings who need us to make a real difference in their lives.

As of Wednesday August 8th, Willow Creek, a church in which I have admired, participated in, followed, and been shepherded by--has come forward to admit their wrongs (linked above) and address their deep grievances against women who accused their lead/founding pastor of sexual misconduct. After years and recent months of denying these allegations publicly and calling the victimized women liars...they are finally taking responsibility..they are listening, repenting and the current lead pastors even resigned as well as the elders have stepped down as they call their lead pastor to accountability.

I have friends on staff there and I have reached out to them.

 I know this must be devastating.

I've been a part of four churches in my life and I've watched pastors and leaders fall into adulterous relationships, I've watched pastors be fired for misconduct, and I've watched pastors go to jail for horrendous crimes of sexual nature. No one wins in these situations. I do not gloat or gossip about these experiences. They are painful and hurtful for all involved.

What's happening at Willow Creek right now is the right call-- that should have happened long ago, but I'm grateful to see that justice is being served. It's heartbreaking because I count myself as a pastor and follower of Jesus and I'm disappointed in us, in the tribe I belong to. We are better than this. It should have happened sooner and better. As I look back I'm thankful that MANY did speak up and counsel their leadership to see the truth...and now they can admit it and start healing and bettering their church, leadership systems and accountability.

If you are in ANY way aware of pastors abusing their power and authority, report it now. Call it out. And if in any way you or anyone you know has molested, abused, and/or sexually abused anyone in any way...alert the authorities.

These are HARD calls, but these are the RIGHT calls. Because the truth will come out.

Other leaders take note.

I don't care if it happened one year ago or forty years ago, get honest. If you have had an affair breached sexual integrity in any way, don't let time keep going with out seeking help, confessing and surrendering your platform of leadership. Stop preaching Sunday after Sunday. You need healing. You need help. 

 If you know someone who has, DO NOT KEEP THAT SECRET FOR THEM.
Stop making excuses. Tell the truth.

God is worth it. God will make it right, it will be painful, but it's necessary. You are worth it and God will work this out.

On another note. The church is both an organization and it is a business. Why do we wait so long to do the right thing?

Fire people.
Fire toxic people who don't treat people well.
 Fire people who abuse their power.
Fire people who hurt others.
Fire people who don't do their job,

Stop making excuses.

 I don't care if you a church, you should be doing your due diligence to review your staff and pastors and make adjustments, ensure people reach their goals or...bye bye!

Yes, we are a people of grace but some times the most graceful thing we can do to someone is let them go, so they can move on, mature, grow, and heal into the person God wants them to be. I've seen way too many people stay in in jobs, volunteer roles, or positions of power because people were too scared to speak up. While in the mean time the church has suffered. The kingdom of God suffers. Pastors, do better.

I say this out of love

And by the way, huge kudos to pastors who grow young leaders and coach others, sharing the pulpit with others, appointing women and entrusting youth. This is true leadership. Kudos to those of you men and women doing the right thing. Standing up for the oppressed and risking your jobs and lives for it. I see you. I thank you. I am inspired by you. History is being made. This is a new reformation pastors. Believe it. Live it.

The life and character and love of Jesus is worth this.

Pastors have the courage to lead.
Leading means being humble.
Leadership means admitting when you're wrong.

God still loves you, even when there are deep consequences
God is the true leader of his church.
We are not God. You are not God.
Step down. It may be time.

Ok. That's my two cents.

I will write my next blog to those who have been hurt and victimized by church leaders or those who claim to follow Christ. My heart hurts with you. I'm sorry for your pain.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Dear witnesses, observers and those watching church leaders....

 I posted this on Facebook on 7/6/18. It spurred on a great piece of feedback that inspired me to write a three part blog. This would be part one. I am addressing any of you, of us who are watching the news and reading articles, and listening to discussions, and witnessing the actions of church leaders from many different denominations react to the world's issues as well as walk through (and/or avoid) scandals of all kinds. This is to those of us caught in the middle. We aren't the victims and we aren't the leaders, but we are being affected. (I will write more, or attempt to address those directly affected by these actions (refugees/abuse victims, LGBTQ community, immigrants, people of color) and then to leaders of the coming blogs.


In light of many stories breaking lately in our world I wanted to say something to my friends who are waking through pain, hopelessness, discouragement &/or betrayal at the silence, senseless words and/or inappropriate behavior of pastors, priests, leaders and those who represent God in any way relationally, politically and in all forms of leadership: Although we seek their wisdom, elevate their statuses, and tweet their quotes... churches are made of humans who are capable of neglecting truth and justice, hurting, abusing, sexualizing, marginalizing and slandering others both intentionally and ignorantly just like anyone else. We don’t want them to ever “fall from grace” b/c we expect they live at higher standards than others but they are susceptible to destructive choices and often cause a bigger ripple of hurt when they do. It's hard to watch these things unfold. We can feel so helpless. As a faith leader myself I want to apologize to you for your dissatisfaction, disappointment, trauma and/or pain from church leaders in the past and present (and some day if I haven’t silence, words and/or behavior will most likely let you down, hurt, or piss you off too-if I haven’t already). Don’t let the church (which includes me) or any person(s) in “church work” hinder you from God—God will never reject you, hurt, lie, forsake, use or manipulate you. I pray you can heal, move on and forgive those that have harmed you as God works to heal and restore them too. God loves you.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Congratulations & Condolences

This has been such a sacred....and strange season of life. 

Not only am I leaving my job in May, but we will move out of our house at the same time (we've lived in the same house for ten years, it's all our kids have known).

Transition/change a beast. ....or a..... &%^$*#  
(insert your expletive of choice if you're of the swearing persuasion).

Joking aside, I really do love change. I love new things. I love trying new food, meeting new people, visiting new cities, and switching up routines. 

(Although when I find my favorite cafe, I plant myself there, make it my office and mark my territory like a dog).

But season of life has been REALLY strange. Everything about my life is changing and what has been defined is being re-defined. What was put-together is unraveling. It's a wild space in which to live. I actually like it, at times. But where it gets difficult is when I "try" to explain it.

Since I resigned to leave my job after twenty-years, people have wanted to talk about it... and of course I jump at the chance because I'm living this story and want to blab about it.

Here's a couple ways these conversations start:

#1-Congratulations, you must be so excited to start a new adventure!


#2-I'm so sorry, it must be so hard to leave without knowing where you're going to work or live.  

And HONESTLY.... it's both. Yes!

Congratulations and condolences are in order.
Because it is both exciting and sad, thrilling and scary.

After having these conversations day after day, with multiple people...I can get  in my own head. Usually I'm OK with the unknown, but there will be these random moments where I think, "What am I doing!!????" I should have this all figured out by now!"

 I can get drained having the same conversations over and over (that's partly why I'm blogging to get the info out there) with not a lot of specific things to say about the future. But the up side is... talking helps me process. (I'm an external processor).

And Sometimes, I feel angsty because I wish I could have more sit down conversations with people instead of just writing blogs :)

AH!!! It's crazy-making.

But in this time of the unknown for the future, here's how I deal with my discouragement or exhaustion:

Remember from my posts a few weeks ago?

I'm an optimist, sometimes to a fault! I believe things will always work out, that's how I live (read: cope).  I believe God will work this out. I really do. (While I work hard to follow up every lead and prepare as best I can).

Here's the reality of time: I still have three months of work and then another month or two after that to pack up our stuff, find a new house to rent and move our family.

 I don't really know much more after that. Lots of people say time will go by so fast, and on my end it just feels like it is dragging on. Have you ever heard of LONG DAYS, SHORT YEARS? Ya, that!

But here's some more hope that keeps me expectant!

Richard Rohr describes this time as LIMINAL SPACE 

"...where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor."


I know I need openness and patience. 
And I am anxious to see this new world revealed. 
I want to grow in this time! I want to be full of peace, not bitterness or worry. I can't wait to look back and see the beautiful and amazing things God does!

Thanks for reading!

What season is it for you? 
Congrats? Condolences? 
Both? Liminal Space?

King Solomon said:
There is a season for everything, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to hurt, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  a time to cast away, and a time to gather together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;  a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 

Ecclesiastes 3 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stories can heal the world. A short 3 minute film.

❤️ Stories can heal the world! Don't be defined by your pain! Don't let your past stand in the way of your future. 🚀 Every minute of your life is worth something and is part of a greater narrative! You were created for MORE! (All these words have impacted my life)!

 Proud to be in this 3 minute short film from my filmmaker friend Lydia Isnanto! (I share this with the blessing of my mom who was the first one to see it!)

Friday, February 09, 2018

Jumping into the arms of Hugh Jackman..I mean...Jesus (Big news Part 2)

Part 2 of 2 (make sure you read what I posted yesterday).

We have this saying around our church. 

We say it on Sundays at the end of our gatherings: May you jump into the arms of Jesus…. (Let me stop right here).

I like this image.

I like the jumping out, the soaring, flying... into God’s loving arms. Because the way I see it when you jump---the next think you do, after a big warm hug, is take his hand and go out into the world to brave all it’s adventures, pains, hopes, and uncertainty...with him.

Twenty years ago almost exactly, I jumped with Jesus from Illinois to Redwood City, California to come serve as an intern with a church, PCC,  in California. It was a dream come true. I graduated college, filled my sea green Toyota Tercel up with all my belongings (basically clothes and CD's. I didn't even have a cell phone, but I did have a word processor ) and drove myself out to sunny California, (something I had dreamed about since I was a young kid).

And my LIFE WAS CHANGED by God in so many ways.

I’ve served, led, been healed and formed in this same church community that I've been a part of since 1998. I grew up here. I've spent HALF MY LIFE HERE!!! What?? I met and married my wife here. I started my family here. Wow. I feel so encouraged with all that God has done and the kingdom work we’ve accomplished with my friends and colleagues here. I served in India, Africa, Italy, and Mexico. I got my Masters, I got ordained, I officiated so many weddings, baptisms, dedications, and funerals that I can't even count. Truly, overwhelmed just thinking about it. I have to include some pictures to illustrate just how much fun I've had!

My favorite part is that new dreams have been birthed in me over my twenty years, and new paths have been forged for my future.  

My world view has broadened in my travels around the world. My theology has grown and been expanded. I’ve been able to explore and experiment with my skills and abilities in the arts, and it seems God has brought me full circle to dreams that he planted decades ago, something long buried in my heart. (More on this in the coming weeks).

So here’s the big, exciting news!
I resigned from my job with PCC.

Writing that out is so weird. I've had this ONE full time job for half my life!
I've never had to "resign" before. It feels so final and sad, and it kinda is.

But I am so full of hope and excitement for the future.

It took a lot discussion and prayer with my wife, trusted friends and mentors.

It’s time to JUMP once again, and move on to the next adventure.

It all became clear in December. Not the Christmas gift I was expecting, but it was the perfect timing.  Our church is growing and changing and I, along with our lead team
of pastors have been working hard to move our organization to what we believe is our future. I got to help shape things and cast vision and I thought I would be
on that bus headed there right along with everyone else.  But God used things in the process in the later part of 2017 to make it obvious to me that I had completed my mission! Pray for our church as we move through these changes. It's right...but still hard.

But God spoke so clear to me. It was a matter of hours that I knew. And so I made it official.

I resigned.

But...We are not sure exactly where we are going or what we are doing….yet.
That’s the crazy thing.

(But thanks to Hugh Jackman, and what I know of God's character, I'm expecting the end to this story is going to be amazing).

I had always figured it would be obvious when it was my time to hang up my PCC hat. I always thought like other normal people I would safely jump from one job to the next... I wanted things to be secure for me and my family. But God was clear with us. Step out. In faith. Trust. JUMP!

In some way I think it's perfect.

Practice what I've been preaching my whole life. Practice what I see so many others who have lived a life of faith and modeled what scripture encourages us to do.

Hebrews 11:8
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

OK. So I guess we’re doing that, too!
We will follow God's leadings,  even when it doesn't make sense.

Sounds good in theory but it's really hard.
I may end up waiting tables (which honestly I like) or working at a production company. I could be consulting or starting other churches, or doing the weekend speaking circuit. (Need my services? Let me know :). I could end up in San Francisco or working in LA.

We don't really know.
See the tension?
Great hope mixed with anxiety...mixed with anxiety.

We live in a home owned by our church. Which means we have to move on and OUT, literally.

We have many perks that come with my job that allow us to live in the most expensive place in the world, and we have to give it all up.

Imagine explaining this to our kids. Lots of curious and strange questions for us and for our kids.

When will be get a house? When will daddy get a new job? When did God tell you? Can I keep all my stuffed animals? When will we know where we’re moving?

We don’t know. But what I do know is…God will provide AND I’ll work my ass off to provide for my family!

I’ve realized to be my best self….(sounds Oprah-like, I know) I need to be writing, performing, directing, and producing media, art, films... my own original stories! I need freedom to express my creativity and tell stories that can reach a larger audience. Over the past five years I've been able to create and develop many film projects and it's reinvigorated me for a career change.

Just watch some of these videos. This is what God has created me to do!

If you read my last post about Sundance and how Hugh Jackman 
wooed me into dreaming again....  you can see how this is all working itself out in me.

And I must respond.

No matter what I do or where I am, I’ll always live my life as a pastor. I see my life’s mission to wake people up to hope and bring new life to dead places in our hearts, lives, and world. I believe my work, whatever it is I am doing, is to comfort and encourage people into God’s forgiveness, freedom,  love, and acceptance.

I didn’t always see that I could do this in my filmmaking...but as I look back, I see God working this out in my life over the past five years (more on this in the coming blog posts) and I can’t wait to see more of it!

So for the next few months, I’ll be in transition.
My kids will finish out school and we’ll be looking for a house to rent somewhere, somehow.

I have some feature film scripts I am working on and looking for investors, and I’m applying at local companies that have producer and media jobs!

I’m also going to jump back into going on acting auditions in SF for  film and commercials.

I’ll still be working on staff with my church until May.
I’m grateful to spend my last days creating one of my favorite gatherings, the Good Friday service, producing great story videos and some other creative projects on the PCC campus as I wrap up my twenty year experience! I will always love the church and be a part of God’s family, whether in Redwood City or beyond. His hope has moved me so much and I pray it for us all to be healed as we participate in the healing of others!

I’ve tried to reach out to as many people as I can to share the news personally, but I know I won’t be able to do it with everyone. Please know I’d love to share more and answer any questions you have. If you have job opportunities, let me know. If you want to invest in some films and start a film production company with me, let me know. I’m serious. I have a LOT of stories to tell.

Let the next adventure begin.

-Tony Gapastione

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Hugh Jackman HIJACKED my life (Part 1 of 2)

I have had a man-crush on Wolverine since he debuted in the X-Men movie in 2000.
So much in fact that I dressed up like him for three Halloweens in a row. It was a little obsessive. (Apparently I expected you to use your imagination and see those imaginary blades coming out of my knuckles).

But, man this guy, (Hugh Jackman not Wolverine) wrecked me ONCE AGAIN. In December when I sat and watched his latest movie: The GREATEST SHOWMAN, the re-imagined story of P.T. Barnum's Circus....WHICH is a musical...

And I know, I know... I just lost a bunch of you reading this.  But bear with me.
I've seen it three times, and the soundtrack has been on REPEAT in our house for months.
(My kids constantly singing and dancing around is one of my favorite things lately).

This movie MOVED me. It changed me....and really it encouraged me for my future. 

Here's why.

It's a magical story of a dreamer. (I might be a wee bit of a dreamer myself... so I relate).

This film was about someone who visualized something beyond himself. He didn't have much, but he took what he had and spun it into a wonderful, colorful, world-changing reality for all those around him,especially the misfits and marginalized of society (perhaps one of my favorite themes in the story).

Yes, he did it with a song,  dance and a cane....and for some that's a bit cheesy...but if the music doesn't move you, then the story will, if you let it. 

Here's how it moved me.

As I sat in my little sanctuary, the movie theater, munching on kettle corn, I slipped my hand into my wife's... as the tears streamed down my face.

I felt understood. I felt alive! I felt desperate for this kind of life. (It also happened to parallel real life things happening in my life and work and future, more on that soon). It felt like my story, the story that God has been writing in my heart since I can remember.

The movie tugged on my heartstrings because of the love between this husband and wife and their daughters. Gosh, I never wanted to start a circus more in my life. But that's not the point of this blog reflection.

Here's the point.

I've come to realize, even more during these months since I saw the moive.  Not only am I a dreamer, but I am an optimist...and to a fault sometimes (I can easily idealize and hope TOO much that it can feel like I'm not living in reality).

But living with such hope and expectation keeps me alive when I feel put in a box, when I feel creatively starved, when I feel I've hit my ceiling. Dreaming and thinking about the future will always ground me and lift me up when I fall into dark emotional pits or seasons of uncertainty. Maybe it's my coping mechanism!!?

Here's some meaningful lyrics that I've been singing over and over.

I close my eyes and I can see
The world that's waiting up for me
That I call my own
Through the dark, through the door
Through where no one's been before
But it feels like home

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I've lost my mind
I don't care, I don't care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

'Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make 


This is how I see it! Dream about the world you want to see. Create your destiny don't just sit on the couch and pray about it. Set goals and run after your dreams. Do NOT give up on them!

 Being you, living beyond your brokenness, self-imposed labels or societally imposed identities is one of the greatest challenges but most fulfilling decisions you can ever make. (and you should definitely watch this behind the scenes clip of the making of the film and music).

But keep this in mind.... these dreams come with a cost. The journey is full of pain  fear, temptation, and even sadness for the heartbreak that comes with pursuing those dreams. You might have to give up sleep, jobs, homes or the expectations others (or even you) have for your life.

 And it's not always easy being married to someone like me..(cough cough)..I mean Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum)...because it feels just like WALKING ON A TIGHTROPE. Just ask Michelle Williams (playing Charity Barnum), who had a wonderful song and portrayed the complexity and hardship of partnering with the PT Barnun, dreamer-types.

 So, I'm grateful for Hugh Jackman and those Wolverine claws that he's dug down deep into me. I'm thankful for good stories. and yes, I'm thankful for cheesy musicals.

Tomorrow I'm going to share more in depth...but I have some big changes coming in my life for our future.

Check back here for the story.