This week’s topic is Prone to Wander – that moment when you feel like looking online for another church or ministry! Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the church I love… You’ve likely been there if you have pastored a church for any amount of time. The grass looks greener, the people look better, the community more open to the Gospel, the board structure more supportive, and the opportunities more inviting – at the next church!
Maybe you’re there right now. Maybe you have been looking at churchstaffing.com or ministersearch.com, or even simplyhired.com! Maybe you have given up on the church you are pastoring and hope to find a better place. Then this week’s content is for you!
I am convinced that long pastorates are much more effective than short term stays. As a rule of thumb, the decision to stay is almost always the better choice. After all, why are you leaving? Problems? Welcome to ministry! Stubborn people? Welcome to the people business! Opposition? Welcome to the reality that you may be wrong once in a while! While those all may be reasons you want to leave, they will all be waiting for you at your next church. As the Men’s Warehouse guy says, “I guarantee it!”
On this week’s podcast we talk about the dynamics that make pastors want to leave. Yes, on Wednesday’s podcast we will be negative, we will wallow in the muck and mire of self-pity, and explore those issues that make us feel like getting out of Dodge!
But today I want to give you three results of leaving a church too early:
1. People get disillusioned with the church, Christianity, and perhaps even God. They’ve just gotten to know the pastor and his or her family. They are beginning to trust. They know his or her strengths and weaknesses and accept them. They are on the cusp of forming a relational and/or emotional partnership and are almost ready to pull the trigger on real engagement with the church and even in ministry. Finally.
Then a few people start making trouble, complaining to the pastor and to others about the pastor. A few people have left, others have stopped serving in ministry, and the pastor gets discouraged and leaves. Time to start all over again at ground zero! Oh happy day.
2. Young people begin to understand that commitment to the church is not important. As they are at the very beginning stages of forming their understanding about God, the Scriptures, the body of Christ, and their relationship with all three, they get the message that you can just cut and run. The person they have seen “up front”, teaching and preaching, counseling and visiting, encouraging and engaging, loving and leading, all of a sudden, from their perspective, splits. And in their young, impressionable mind they begin to build the understanding that pastors don’t stay. Church is optional, and commitment can be revoked at any time.
Is this rough? Am I being too hard on early departing pastors? Maybe. But hey, we have to think about how our actions affect the very people we are trying to love and serve. Are we hirelings, or are we shepherds who care for and love the sheep? If you leave too early, you will disillusion Christians, and negatively shape young people’s understanding of God, the Scriptures, and the body of Christ.
3. You will not learn and grow as a pastor, a Christian, and a leader. God brings challenges into our lives to stretch us and grow us. Imagine you are a fine suit of clothes. You like being worn, taken out, wined and dined, shown off. But at some point it’s time to wash the clothes, so they can be worn again, and last a long time. Sometimes God has to take us through the wash. There are a number of cycles our washing machines take our clothes through, then, after the spin cycle, we subject them to the heat of the dryer.
Sometimes we need a good cleaning, and God wants to take us through a number of cycles to accomplish in us what is necessary. If we get pulled out before the rinse cycle, the spin cycle, or the dryer heat, we will be less than ready for wear. We must not leave, because if we do, we will be unprepared, ill equipped, and unfit for service in the ministry. Stay in the washer, deal with the problems and challenges, love the people, trust in and rely on God, and see it through. If you leave early, you’ll miss out!
Don’t miss this week’s podcast: Episode 12 - Prone to Wander, What Makes a Pastor Want to Leave?
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