Joe’s story: The impact of a Transforming Community in the life of a pastor

Pastor Joseph Nieves (TC16) shares how he found the Transforming Center and the impact Transforming Community 16 had on his personal life and his ministry.

After 20 years of ministry, I hit a wall in my spiritual life and discovered that I was burned out. Outwardly, I was doing incredibly well and appeared successful. However, it was all an illusion. Inwardly I was dying, I was empty, I was exhausted and depleted. My emotions had shut down and I could no longer feel, think, or sometimes even breathe. I was dangerously tired and wanted to quit, not just ministry, but life. That’s when I realized that I needed help. I reached out to a counselor and a spiritual director who got me on the path to recovery.  

A stirring in my soul

After two years of intense therapy and spiritual direction, I slowly began to recover from burnout.  During that time, I began looking for resources that would help me deepen my relationship with God and strengthen my soul. That’s when I came across the Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership Podcast with Ruth Haley Barton. The first episode I listened to was Season 4: Episode 9, on May 30th, 2018 titled “Finding God in the Crucible of Ministry.” It described exactly where I was. As I listened to the podcast each week, my soul was nourished and strengthened. Ruth then started talking about the upcoming Transforming Community® retreats which would begin in January 2019.  I can’t explain it, but something deep in my soul began to bear witness that I needed this and that it was the next step in my journey.

“I learned that my soul was more important than my role.” – Joe Nieves

When I arrived to my first retreat, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be in that season of my life. Each retreat taught me spiritual practices that transformed the inward part of my life, which led me to become healthier, stronger, and whole. I learned that my soul was more important than my role, and that the best thing I can bring the world and my leadership is my transforming self. Each retreat felt like I was going into a Holy Spirit operating room where the Great Physician would do a deep work beneath the surface of my life.  It was a sacred time and a holy time as my soul began experiencing healing and strength.   

Retiring from my old way of pastoring

As I grew healthier and spiritually stronger, I did contemplate retiring.  It wasn’t because I was at the age of retirement, but because I was tired. I had pastored three turnaround churches by the age of 46. I discussed this with my counselor, spiritual director, close friends and my wife and everyone felt that it was not the right time. Entering my last retreat, I carried this with me until Ruth began to teach on crafting a Rule of Life. That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to me like a bolt of lightning and said, “Joe, I don’t want you to retire from being a pastor, I want you to retire from the way you Pastor.” That’s exactly what I did. On that day, I retired from my old way of pastoring, and rearranged my life, my schedule and my job description around union and communion with Christ, spiritual practices that open me up to God’s transforming presence and my calling to preach, teach and pastor.  

I am extremely grateful to God for Ruth Haley Barton and for the Transforming Center, because without them, I can almost guarantee that I would not be in ministry today. I am now looking forward to my future with excitement and anticipation for what God is going to do first in me, then through me.  

A generous alumni has pledged $50,000 to challenge you to become a Sustaining Partner with a recurring gift of any amount before December 31, 2021. 

Will you stay on the journey with us in this time of fragility?


FREE BOOK: We will send you our newest Transforming Resource: Transforming Worship by Rory Noland as our thank you when you become a Sustaining Partner with a recurring gift of any size before December 31, 2021.

Transforming Center

We desire to see churches and Christian organizations become communities of authentic spiritual transformation – and that begins with transforming leaders. We seek to strengthen the souls of pastors and leaders, equipping them to guide their churches and organizations to become spiritually transforming communities that discern and do the will of God in their settings. Read more about the Transforming Center.
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Thank you, dear Joe for sharing your truth. We are better because of how we saw God working in you. Thank you, dear Ruth and TC#16 for all we got to be a part of. God is just getting started with us all!

Thanks, Joe, for being so vulnerable with your story. It means the world!

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