“You don’t have to stay! You can quit. You can leave. You can resign. You are the pastor!” These were my words to the younger pastor as he looked at me incredulously. I could have been kinder, perhaps. But why not shock him out of his spiritual spiral? The thirst that quitting quenches is short-lived and short-sighted. I’ll give you four factors that must be considered before you quit.
50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. The average American pastorate last 4 years. 1 out of every 10, (10%), of ordained ministers will actually retire as a minister or doing some form of ministry or non-profit work. Most pastors quit their pastorates and leave the ministry because they are unprepared for conflict, overworked by expectations, overexposed to criticism, underpaid on purpose, and undermined by internal politics.
4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close. Christianity in America has a growing 3,000 church planting deficit every year. So what? Why do we need more churches? New churches, even in old communities, are still the best way to evangelize. New churches are much more likely to do outreach and missions. New churches are more likely to take the risks and dare the different to engage its community and the city.
When pastors quit, churches are in transition. Churches in constant transition are not effective in discipleship, administration, evangelism or conflict management. It takes long-tenured pastorates and long held convictions about the core vision any church to make it and keep it strong and effective. It really comes down to having and building relationships of trust with church and pastor. Some churches will never acquire that with any pastor. Some pastors will never acquire that with any church.
If you are considering quitting here are the four factors you are asked to consider:
QUESTION. Spend some time asking yourself the tough questions about what you are thinking and what you are feeling. Ask the Spirit and the search the Scriptures. Are you in the Father’s will? Are you thinking clear or are you just feeling blue? Most of us in ministry do a lot of feeling. Quitting should not be done from an emotion, but rather from a conviction. If the Holy Spirit has pressed upon you and you must abide His calling, then of course, follow the Spirit. But you can’t quit if you don’t have or ask the hard questions about yourself. Will you allow the right questions to come from those who know you the best, before you quit?
UNITE. Spend more time working on what you and the “they” have in common. Everybody wants something new and improved. Discover what their new and improved is. Create unity around the most obvious thing that needs to be improved. If you are still really serious about quitting, then don’t quit until you have repaired relationships, promoted peace and have shown kindness to your toughest critics. Conflict resolution should be a higher priority when you are winding out of a ministry. Give more attention and time to the institutional leaders. You don’t want your successor to have to enter into a new pastorate having to heal the hurts you left behind, especially in the leadership.
INTERCEDE. Spend much time first in prayer for your spouse, your family, the church, especially the members who support the vision. Your calling includes being a prophetic intercessor. There is nothing to be decided or done in the pastor or the church until much prayer has been invested. Praying for those affected by your quitting will give you greater insights and a keener discernment about them. The Holy Spirit will begin to show you things to come in response or in reaction to your resignation. You may be warned in a dream. You may be corrected in an open vision. You may receive a rhema word. You may receive a confirmation to quit. You must first pray and trust the Holy Spirit for your prayers for other people. The Holy Spirit has the prayers you need for those you love and for those you loathe. You will see people more like how God sees them when you truly pray for them.
TRY. Spend some more time trying to rediscover why you felt called and compelled to enter the pastorate and why you accepted the call to serve where you are right now. I used to criticize “trying”. (I think Star Wars and Yoda got the best of me.) I no longer criticize trying. If you are still trying, then you are not rushing. Good for you. If trying gives you time to work on you, then try. If trying gives you a pause on all that causes you to want to walk way, then try. If trying is you questioning, uniting and interceding in the meantime, then try. When there is no more try, you will do and the Lord will help you do. Try and try again, until you know that there is no more try. We should all war against our impulses to give up on others and ourselves. The “path of least resistance” is real. Travelers and tourists, pastors and preachers beware!
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