Friday, June 13, 2014

Think twice before leaving your present place of ministry

A few weeks ago I spent some time with a pastor that was struggling with his call to the church he had served for the past several years.  A few years ago there were some in the church who wanted to remove him as their pastor, but he survived their efforts.  However, things have not been good for him since that time.  Some of the folks who wanted a new pastor found one by leaving their church, but others remained behind.  The pastor said things had not improved since that struggle, and it was evident that the situation was wearing on him.  He was seriously considering seeking a new place to serve.

I could certainly understand his feelings, but I cautioned him to think about some things before making that decision.  Perhaps if you're thinking of leaving your current ministry my suggestions to him may help you.

  • Pastors never escape their problems by going to another church.  Every church has people who seem to think it is their spiritual gift to make things difficult for the pastor.  At the most, you may enjoy a brief honeymoon, but sooner or later you'll meet kinfolk of those you were trying to escape in your new church.
  • Sometimes problems indicate a significant breakthrough is about to happen.  The enemy of the church can sense when something significant is about to happen and will do everything in his power to prevent it.  If you leave you may miss out on a major spiritual breakthrough in your church, and the church may miss it as well by your leaving.  Some of the worst problems we had in the church I served were followed by major breakthroughs.
  • The problem you may be wanting to escape may be the one thing God wants to use to shape you for greater ministry responsibilities.  I have found that God has done most of his work on my character when I was going through situations I would have never chosen for myself.  As painful as they were at the time, they were the springboard that prepared me for greater ministry responsibilities.
  • Smaller churches, especially, are used to seeing their pastors flee every time things become a little difficult.  We wonder why these churches are often resistant to change, and this is one of the reasons.  Too many times in the past they have agreed to some change, and when problems or conflict arose as a result of the change the pastor took off.  These churches need a pastor who will stay and fight the good fight to see needed changes occur in the church.
  • Studies have found that a longer pastorate often leads to a more effective ministry.  In a smaller church it often takes several years for a pastor to earn the trust of the congregation necessary to provide the leadership that it needs to move forward.  Too often, these churches never have a pastor stay long enough for that to happen.  Many pastors will retire after spending 30 years in the ministry and realize they didn't have a 30 year ministry; they had 10 three year ministries, and none of them had any significant impact.
  • It's OK to quit; just don't tell anyone.  As I shared with that pastor, the folks at my church had no idea how many times on Monday morning I quit as their pastor.  I just had the good sense to not tell anyone, and by the end of the week I was feeling better about the situation.  One thing a pastor does not want to do is to get mad about something and quit on the spot.  Sometimes a few days and some conversations make everything look a little different.
None of this means that there is never a good reason to seek a new place of ministry.  Obviously, there are many good reasons, but my concern is for those pastors who leave their church without a good reason.  If God called you to that place of ministry you need to make real sure he is now calling you to another place to serve before you leave.

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