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In my last post on leaving well when you’re a member of a church several respondents pointed out that pastors often leave churches in very poor way. Sadly, they’re correct. We’ve all heard the horror stories about pastors who announce their departure after the morning service and U-Haul arrives first thing Monday morning. Or, we’re familiar with the all-too-painful accounts of pastors who apparently take a scorched earth approach to leaving, destroying everything they touch before they leave. We can add to that those pastors who leave by splitting the church. The pain abounds.

It’s hard on everyone when a pastor leaves–usually. Sometimes congregations are happy to see a man go and seem to do everything they can to ensure it happens. The story is told of the irate pastor who stood before the unhappy congregation and announced in no uncertain terms that he was leaving. Today would be his last Sunday at that church with those people. Then the congregation spontaneously and in union broke out in song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

We don’t want to be that guy or that church. So, in response to those concerns, I want to offer five things pastors should do before they leave their local churches. The aim would be much the same as the goal of members who leave: to leave in as healthy and Christ-honoring a way possible.

1. Talk with Your Fellow Leaders When You Begin to Think Seriously about Leaving

Most of the problems begin right here. Far too many pastors either lack sufficient trust with their leaders or fear man to such an extent that they don’t talk about their interest in leaving until it’s a done deal. That’s devastating for a church’s leadership and for the church as a whole. Showing up with a decision to leave without having allowed the leadership to speak into your life is tantamount to serving divorce papers to a totally unsuspecting spouse.

So, if a pastor wishes to be faithful to his charge and humbly submissive to others in leadership with him, he should share his desires with the leadership well before he has made a decision to leave. This is tricky and requires some thoughtfulness with regard to timing. The pastor shouldn’t “think out loud” about a possibility he’s not seriously considering, otherwise he’ll make his fellow leaders uncertain when he doesn’t need to. Better to not share comments about leaving when you’re frustrated or when you’re having the occasional bout of “what ifs.” Instead, at the point that you think leaving could be a serious possibility, then talk with your fellow leaders about the possibility. Perhaps meet with them individually first so that their initial reactions, often emotional and sad, aren’t first offered in a group meeting of the elders. Prepare them for the group conversation by allowing them to process individually. Give them a general heads up on your thinking and take any initial questions or reactions they may have.

2. Be Genuinely Open to Counsel and Correction

I tend to stay away from the sometimes mystical and authoritative language of “call.” Far too many pastors have led congregations in unhealthy directions or abandoned a pastorate because they “felt called” to do so. Sometimes people use the language of “call” or “calling” as a way to circumvent any hard thinking and testing of motives. We speak as if a “call” ends all debates because the decision was really in God’s realm and will. When, truthfully, God extends and affirms calls through His people and leaders in prayer together (Acts 13; 1 Tim. 4:14).

Rather than making a highly subjective and privatized decision in the pseudo-spiritual language of “calling,” pastors should actively seek the counsel and correction of others. Don’t just take advice; go after it. They should be willing to hear hard things about their hearts and motives. They should be willing to accept the challenge of those who think they should stay, especially their fellow leaders who most likely know them best. They should be willing to lay out their potential plans–as far as they know them–so that their fellow leaders can shepherd them through their thinking. This would be a good time to receive counsel and correction about how they’re leading their families, since wives and children will undoubtedly be affected. These talks should take place over months of meetings, not a meeting or two. The meetings should involve significant prayer rather than fleshly reactions.

Then heed or take the counsel and correction. Don’t dismiss it. Receive it. Make yourself accountable to the leaders by stating your agreements where you can and by explaining why you won’t or can’t take counsel where you can’t. Not everyone will agree about everything in situations like this. But where there’s disagreement and the pastor wishes to take a direction the other leaders advise against, he should humbly explain his reasons and hear again the elders’ admonishment or affirmation. Here’s the place and time to be ruthless with your motives and desires.

3. Resolve Any Conflicts Before Leaving the Church

According to a couple of surveys I’ve seen, the number one reason pastors leave churches is conflict. They feel embattled about a direction they wish to take. They are constant recipients of criticisms. Sometimes their wife and children bear the brunt of unloving and un-Christian attacks in the body of Christ. And a great many pastors feel they have no friend in the congregation with whom they can talk about these things. Most pastors feel overworked, under-appreciated and put down by some of the people they serve. Conflict abounds.

But before a pastor leaves, he should allow plenty of time to mend relationships and settle conflicts in as biblical a manner as possible. In fact, as much as it’s possible, he should plan the timing of his leaving in accord with his being able to restore peace in the ministry. The same things that are required of members who leave are required of pastors. Obey our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15. Go and be reconciled to the best of your ability.

If pastors obey the Lord in this before moving on then everybody wins. Lord willing, pastors win their brothers and sisters over and relationships are mended. You may find you don’t have to leave at all and experience renewed joy in the church family you’ve already invested years of life with. Even if you still need or want to leave, you’ll experience freedom from guilt because you’ve “made every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The church you leave behind will, by God’s grace, be in better repair for their next pastor. Don’t make the next guy do your work in healing the sheep. Position the next guy to begin smoothly, or at least make his own conflicts and mistakes. And your new church family will be able to receive you without the baggage associated with the previous church.

One person in the comments section of the last post suggested churches should contact a candidate’s previous church to see if they left in good standing. I think that’s a wonderful idea and am surprised at how many do not check references or complete background checks before calling a pastor. Many have simply inherited unresolved problems from previous pastorates because men have not left well and have not dealt with their relational demons before moving on.

4. Plan Your Transition and Succession with the Elders

Don’t just pack up your books and disappear into the night. As much as you’re able think with your fellow leaders about how to address the condition of the various souls in your care, the state of the various ministries and major needs in the transition. The church may feel like it’s stopped with the announcement of your departure and you may feel tempted to disengage, but keep your head in the game. Life continues apace and that means people continue to need shepherding, decisions continue to come before the leaders, and time remains (or should be taken) to get things in order for transition.

Hopefully you’ve been grooming a potential successor as part of your ministry in the church. Hopefully you’ve been sharing the leadership so that others have “stepped up” long before any prospect of your leaving was on the table. And perhaps you have a successor in mind. Talk that through with the leaders. Give them your honest assessment of a prospective replacement. Resist the urge to simply speak in glowing terms about the next guy because you want everyone to feel good after your difficult announcement. The truth lovingly spoken will make them free. And if there is no successor on the horizon, help the leaders think through their recruitment strategy. Give them counsel from your unique perspective on what they did well when recruiting you and what they could improve. Let them benefit from your watching this process unfold with many of your friends and associates. Lead through the transition.

5. Express Your Appreciation to the Church and Say “Goodbye” to Friends and Saints

Sometimes pastors fall into the trap of thinking they’ve done the church a favor by being their pastor for some season. We can fall into thinking we’ve made all the sacrifices, borne all the difficulties, and exercised all the patience. But, truthfully, the church has put up with us, patiently prayed through our shortcomings and failures, and sacrificed to partner with us in the gospel. It’s been our privilege to shepherd the people of God–no matter how difficult we found the shepherding or how rowdy the sheep. We were not called to pastoral ministry in order to enjoy a life of ease. We were called to get in the pen and smell like sheep. And we should be happy and grateful for the opportunity to be Christ’s under-shepherds!

Which  means we should be able to step back and express sincere and profound gratitude for God’s people. Paul could do it with Corinth, surely we can do it with out congregations. Before we leave we should make every day an expression of appreciation and thanksgiving. We should do it publicly and privately, in groups at planned functions and in chance encounters in the hallways or grocery stores. We should do this as an act of love and with the hopes that the people would be reminded of God’s grace at work among them and strengthened for the transition ahead.

Pastors should spend adequate time saying “goodbye” to friends. They should make sure their wives and their children have opportunity to do the same. From the time of your public announcement to the actual date of departure, give yourself plenty of time to have dinners, coffees, small group meetings and the like to make the rounds and relay personal appreciation with people. Weep together. Rejoice together. Pray together. Be together so that being apart might be softened in time to come.

CONCLUSION

Well, there’s much more that could be said. A thousand details need to be attended and without question lots of sticky issues addressed. But in broad strokes, here are some thoughts that I hope churches and pastors find helpful in the sometimes painful process of losing a shepherd.


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24 thoughts on “5 Things to Do Before Leaving Your Church: The Pastor Edition”

  1. Aaron says:

    Thabiti,

    Thanks for this great article! I would like to offer a few things, as an associate, but never a senior pastor. This mainly has to do with your first 2 points, the others I would agree with wholeheartedly.

    I know that “idealism” should not be a reason to reject advice (from you or anyone else), but I think point 1 misses the reality that most pastors find themselves in when they feel it is time to move on. There just aren’t safe places for this free sharing of feelings to happen, often. I once shared my desires to look at what God might have next for me, and the denominational district leader told my pastor to “fire him tomorrow and give him 1 months pay”. That was certainly a drastic approach. But, it is a common leadership practice (from the world, I think) to not want anyone on your team who isn’t “all in”. Any discussions or variations on that are viewed as weakness or a loyalty play and should be dealt with swiftly.

    To sum that up, I would say that young leaders especially need smooth pathways in and out of positions (assuming we’re not talking about sin here, or relational brokenness).

    In point 2, the problem is that some of the people in your elder board or fellow staff are precisely the folks who won’t see eye to eye on your future. They actually might be part of the problem (i.e. I need to leave because those people don’t see the future of the ministry the same way I do). So, of course they will disagree with your views. Disagreement often can’t take months of meetings to get borne out because (see point 1 also) those disagreements are the very reason you feel the need to leave. Also, you may feel the tug of the Holy Spirit into a new ministry and your fellow staff/elders may not be very Kingdom minded or may feel territorial about things.

    I know that in both of these examples, people are not treating others as they should. And, we should not make policy or advice based on people mis behaving. However, the reality is that church transitions are made very hard, often by those in leadership; not necessarily by those who are leaving. Long processes can often cause more harm due to increased relational strife and discord when the card have all been played and we probably need to “agree to disagree”.

    I do appreciate your post, and LOVED your last 3 points. I wonder if there will be a day or a church where the first 2 can also come to fruition.

    God bless,

    Aaron

    1. Hal says:

      Right, Aaron. In an ideal world, the advice in this post would be great.

      In this fallen world, the moment you mention (to anyone in your church) that you’re considering a move, that’s the moment you become a lame duck. And, since making a move usually takes months at best, it’s a risk to tell anybody until the deal is done.

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        dear Aaron and Hal,

        Thanks for joining the conversation with your perspective. I’m grateful you would do so, though I think I would disagree with your positions.

        If we acknowledge the many difficulties, deceptions and distortions that happen when some pastors leave churches for others, then we’ve have no remedy but a humble, honest, and straight-forward dealing with those involved. I realize this is a risk for many of the reasons you cite. But we’re not called to avoid risks as pastors; we’re called to lay down our lives as the Chief Shepherd has done.

        I’m well aware of the reality many pastors face. But those realities are in fact the reasons why we pastors have to apply the word to our own conduct and hope, by God’s grace, that the Lord will use our example as a means of producing a different reality. We’ll never see our churches get any healthier if pastors play politics and return dysfunction for dysfunction in their churches.

        Here’s one more reason to deal in a biblical way with those who make church transitions difficult: it exposes the difficulty and the difficult person to the congregation. There will be plenty of opportunity for the people of to see where the problems truly lie and, by God’s grace, make adjustments even as we leave. Otherwise the problem person continues to make the pastor the “bad guy” and hides out for yet another pastorate. But honest, open dealing shines light in the dark corners where such people hide.

        What we pastors really need is not an excuse for dodging a hard responsibility. What we need is faith and courage of biblical conviction to do what’s best and faithful in God’s sight. We should let the Lord sort the responses of others. After all, we’re Christ slaves.

        T-

        1. Aaron says:

          Thabiti,

          Well, I certainly agree with that. I wouldn’t want to dodge hard responsibilities or play politics. You mentioned being wise in your timing in your post. I think that’s the nub of the issue right there. It’s not playing politics to be wise about whom you tell and when. And, the leadership structure of many churches doesn’t allow for open staffing discussions among elder boards. In fact, alot of times, staff are not invited to elder’s meetings. Sometimes there’s a chain of command that just involves the associate pastor, and the executive or senior pastor above him. There’s no third or fourth party. So, if you share your desire, as you wrote, before you’ve fully decided you want to look around. . That could be very unwise. There’s no protection for the pastor there, it’s one person deciding how they’ll react. And, that person might not be a “safe” person for open discussion on those topics.

          I’m not sure that dealing with this in a “biblical way” HAS to mean months of discussions about your thoughts as a pastor or involving alot of the people who decide hiring/firing in a discussion about your future thoughts.

          Certainly long “notice” should be provided. . as you wrote. . you don’t want to slip out the back door or anything.

          I think the devil is in the details and that issue of “timing” is very, very important as a pastor seeks to take care of his family and future. . . and even how he “loves” those in the church who may not understand how a pastor could think about moving on.

          I certainly love the values you express in this post, and I agree with them. We probably disagree on the details and application of those values.

          1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

            Hi Aaron,

            Your follow-up comment makes me realize I had been assuming something with my original post and comment above. I wrote the post with senior pastors in mind, not associates or other staff pastors. That, I think, makes a real difference in terms of who a pastor first tells.

            In my view, senior pastors need to be in conversation with their fellow elders (or deacons if they don’t have elders). They might begin with one closer-in elder whom they can trust. But they need to be careful that they aren’t still avoiding the tougher process of speaking with the entire leadership and (even inadvertently) furthering a split within the elders by privileging one over others. One way or another, the conversation will need to come to all the fellow elders. I think it would be wise, sensitive and healthy for that discussion to come to the elders before a decision is made while there’s opportunity to be persuaded and counseled. Moreover, if it’s a situation where strife is prevalent, then in some sense you’ve already been talking (even if not productively). The aim then would be to change the tone and put on the table something you’ve likely been avoiding or arguing about without specifying: your tenure at the church.

            If a person is not the senior pastor and is not perhaps a part of the eldership, they should talk with their immediate supervisor first and at the very least. They should follow the hierarchy established. They wouldn’t do anything less in a secular organization and should hope in God for more understanding and grace in the church. Again, I agree with you that risks are involved, but they’re the kinds of risks we take when we love the church and want to see it prosper. Otherwise, the church never gets better.

            I agree that timing is critical. But, the key issue with timing is opening the discussion after you feel interested enough to look elsewhere but before you actually decide you will or you’re leaving.

            Grateful for the exchange,
            T-

            1. David A Booth says:

              Thabiti,

              Thank you for your thoughtful article.

              I am grateful that I am still serving at the church where I was first ordained so I have not personally faced the challenges associated with this transition. Nevertheless, I think that it is often much more complicated in practice than your article suggests.

              For example, a large number of churches looking for their next senior minister require an MDiv and five (or more) years of experience. This means that men who believe they are well suited for serving a church of that size must pastor somewhere else first. If a man serving as an Associate Pastor at a church wants to apply for such a position that isn’t a big deal. People generally expect that many Associate Pastors will one day move on to become Senior Pastors. But what if it is the very common situation of a man who is serving a 50 member church who wants to apply to pastor the 250 member church in part – because he would like to pay for his children’s dental care and for his wife to stop supporting the family financially? Following the advice you give above makes complete sense for the first time he wants to apply to another church. But since the 250 member church he first applies to is going to receive 100 or more applications – it is very likely he is not going to be called to that congregation. It isn’t difficult to see how the third or fourth time this man has a conversation with his Elders about pursuing a call to another church that his relationship to the Session and the local church may begin to be undermined.

              I don’t have a good solution to this (very real) challenge and would appreciate any insights you might have.

              Thanks again!

              David

  2. Although there is more I would like to say than I can say in this short post, what I see as the themes that run through Thabiti’s 5 points are integrity and humility. I am a pastor now, but I have also been a deacon and an elder at churches where the pastor left. Humility and integrity were not words I would use to describe the way these pastors handled their leaving, even when one was given the opportunity to do the right thing. Unfortunately, many pastors treat their position as if it is a job, and not ministry, which is why it is so easy for them to leave, and not follow the principles which Thabiti has laid out; because they handle it just like someone would in leaving one secular job for another.

    Even if the pastor is caught by surprise at being approached by a pulpit committee, he should be forthright with those whom he is currently shepherding.

    If you have an opportunity look at the video of Philip Ryken telling his congregation that he was leaving to take the post at Wheaton. There is much that parallels with what Thabiti has laid out.

  3. I loved this list and the wisdom and attitude found within it. The idea of keeping goodbyes very short has been advanced in our day but I have found it to be flawed. Point #5 take time!

  4. Ken says:

    It’s 5 in the morning, I was awaken by a cat fight occurring somewhere between my waist and the foot of my bed at 4:15. I say that so that if I should misspeak in my discourse I am hoping to be allowed a pass.

    I was a lay elder a few years ago when through a series of events a holocaust occurred in my church. I look back at what took place at the time and the series of events that took place within a year prior. First and foremost, I realize that there were a great deal “signs” that things were-a-brewing. I was sniped at, shown disrespect and belittled by both individuals in the congregation and fellow leadership. I added to this soup my own pride, prayerlessness, and insensitivity.

    After a series of particularly poignant issues initiated by a severe lack of judgement on my part, I and one of our fellow elders needed to step down. As a result, I and my wife left the church in a rather clandestine fashion. Choosing to walk rather than talk. I have learned in a practical experiential sense of how not to do certain things. While there was plenty of blame to levy towards a great deal of others for the creation of rather intolerable circumstances, I wished someone would have counseled me both before becoming an elder and prior to leaving.

    Likely, I would not have “joined the team” for various reasons. But I have learned a few lessons:
    1. Be constant in prayer. Not just for yourself and the administration of the church but for the very lives of the pastor/elder and their family. I cannot emphasize this enough. How much pain may have been avoided had diligent God centered prayer been employed. I have witnessed so much devastation unfold in front of me that had I been ardent in prayer, may never have happen.

    2. Openly love and care for the folks in your charge. Openly love and care for those not in your charge.

    3. Model humility. This is a hard on for me cuz I am a lump of unformed clay at times. I realize that I can be as graceful and gentle as a herd of buffalo.

    4. Keep short accounts, very short. Forgive and do not expect or demand forgiveness. I have seen so many demand reconciliation on their terms and so many broken relationships as a result.

    5. Have or employ and exit strategy that will glorify God and promote His agenda.

    It’s been nearly four years now and still I am looking for a church I can call home. I have no idea what God has in store for me and my wife but we are growing but it is very hard and wildly discouraging at times, maranatha.

  5. Alien & Stranger says:

    Some good points raised. In my former church, we had two changes of pastor down through the years. Both pastors and their families left to start or join church “plants” in other countries, but these transitions were handled openly and well. We also went through the amalgamation of our church with another church where the other church’s pastor also left to start a church in the hard soil of his homeland. That also went very well. Of course, one does always get some people who are disgruntled and who leave, but the loss was minimal.
    However, I have also witnessed (and once experienced) cases of how a pastor ought not to leave a church. In one, the pastor summarily decamped overseas, apparently in the opposite direction to the Lord’s calling (something of a Jonah!). He left a lot of hurt and confused people behind him and the church limped along for a while before folding.
    My experience was one of supporting a new church plant nearer to my home. There were some major transitions and adjustments in the pastor’s life around the same time, and, to cut a long story short, after two years he was burnt out and his marriage and family were suffering, so as a crisis situation arose, he summarily decided to close the church down. It was still fairly small, thank goodness, because it meant fewer people got burned. Nevertheless, at the time we all felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under our feet. Unfortunately, a couple of families have fallen away, while the other members, who were more mature believers, found a spiritual home in another local church which had started some months earlier and was flourishing. After joining this church, I realised that the Lord knew what was going to happen and had prepared a place for us.

  6. Betty Ellledge says:

    Thanks for this article. Quote “But before a pastor leaves, he should allow plenty of time to mend relationships and settle conflicts in as biblical a manner as possible. In fact, as much as it’s possible, he should plan the timing of his leaving in accord with his being able to restore peace in the ministry. The same things that are required of members who leave are required of pastors. Obey our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15. Go and be reconciled to the best of your ability.” Unquote. ~~ This article brings me to an experience in a previous church that we left after much prayers and consultation with Christians here (Asia) and overseas. It was so ironic when we met some of these elders/deacons of the previous church recently, they did not even have the courtesy to say a “hello” when we met face to face. An overseas pastor advised us to pray for these people and occasionally should visit our previous church; my goodness, such behaviour pattern of these so called elders /deacons in power, how? The cold reception is enough to kick us to the North Pole..

  7. Steve says:

    I am serving as a chaplain for an assisted living community with overarching corporate ownership. The ministry itself has been encouraging and has begun to bear fruit and I love the people I serve dearly. But after two years things haven’t remotely settled down with my co-workers or upper management. Almost to a person, I work with unbelievers, some of whom are antagonistic to the Gospel and therefore me. Each department head has a different, unrealistic, expectation of my role that cannot seem to be shaken despite public vision-casting or private meetings. My department, services, and even my personal reputation have often fallen victim to sabotage. The corporate environment has been caustic to say the least. To compound things, I have two bosses – one that oversees my on-site day-to-day activities and another from the corporate ownership that helps to form the spiritual agenda. These two are often not on the same page. I have often put-in 70 hour weeks to develop and maintain this ministry in the face of opposition. I am tired, stressed, and am having significant health problems.

    I didn’t go into ministry expecting a cakewalk, but I guess I didn’t expect this sort of treatment from the very people who are supposed to be teaming with me for the good of our residents. I have been trying to give these things over to God and remember that in this world we will have trouble, but He does give peace, but sometimes I struggle with giving it all up to him. As far as conflicts go, I have been open to reconciliation and partnership on any terms; nobody’s taking me up on it. In the end, I hope for vindication, but I would settle for mere professionalism. I find myself in the Psalms a lot.

    Recently, another ministry asked me to submit a resume, and I have done so, but with reticence. I am conflicted. While my health and nerves could really handle a more supportive environment, a change of pace, and the better pay, I am concerned about the residents at the community. Who would replace me? Would this person have the same commitment to the Gospel? Will my replacement lead these suffering and ill people to see God as worth their love and devotion? And if this other ministry does hire me, can I help prepare these people and the new chaplain for the relationship they are entering into?

    I want to talk to my bosses about what leaving might look like, but I believe the moment I breathe a word of it, they will select their own replacement and I will not be able to set the time of my departure. Therefore I have had to try to do things behind the scenes – setting up relationships with local churches to get the support and appropriate volunteers in to care for our residents in order to either help a new chaplain or maintain care apart from him/her. Thanks to perspectives in this article, I think I will start looking for someone to groom to fit this role.

  8. JB says:

    Thank you for the great article! I really appreciate it.

    What happens when you do everything you said above, but your former employer starts to viciously slander you to dozens and hundreds of people after you leave? Publicly, they were fine while I was still pastoring there, but as soon as I left (and even a little bit before I left actually) they were gossiping about me, accusing me of things I never did, trying to wreck relationships in the church and in organizations I’ve been involved with in the past, and telling flat out lies about me to congregants.

    I tried to leave pastoring like you said above, and for the most part I did, but since leaving they’ve only recently started to let up (it’s been almost 3 years), but I’ve seen their nonsense ebb and flow so it could come back any day.

    Any advice would be helpful.

    Thank you!

  9. Kandace Rather says:

    If you’ve done all you know to do to promote peace before you leave and others respond negatively, shake the dust off your feet and go to your next assignment free. This can only be done by having a prayer life that goes beyond a list. When your heart is tender, you are willing to receive correction and you trust that God is your defense, you can lay down the need to defend yourself. Psalm 27:1 says He is the defense of our lives. There is no man on earth who can deter God’s plan for your life when you are completely submitted to Him. Jesus learned obedience through suffering and we for the most part can’t handle a rebuke. This gets into the hard stuff. Loving those who don’t love us, praying for those who persecute us, blessing those who wish us evil and doing it all from a posture of humility. When our soul is entrusted to God and God alone, we will be able to see the responses of man as ways to be conformed more into the image of Jesus.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Thank you for going above and beyond here, Brother Anyabwile. What you’ve done in these two blog postings is provide all of us service. These can be easily heard and almost impossible to do…primarily because we are all so skilled at justification and tolerance…not just toward sin but toward seeking the minimum acceptable level.

    In many ways, you (and your counsel) is a breath of fresh air. Especially as conservative evangelicals, we live in an era where the pulpit has an almost imperial tone to it. The “church week” is built around ramping up to (and crashing down from) the Sunday morning service with each component of the service seeking to serve the all important worshipful state of the preaching event. In the decades since my pre-teen years, my own community, the Southern Baptist Convention, has gone from the state where seminary professors were openly rejecting the authenticity of much of the New Testament to today where it is routinely taken as given the position that whatever comes out of the mouth of the preacher during the preaching event must be heard as the very words of Christ.

    That’s a lot of importance placed within a relatively small footprint. And there is an aura there that many men can find difficult to leave on the stage/platform. The results (good and bad) can be seen in many areas but definitely the subject of this blog post.

    A man who breathes this air too long can assume the preposition that if he says, does, or thinks it, it must be authoritative. So there is no need to even attempt to justify the desire to leave.

    Your statement, “I tend to stay away from the sometimes mystical and authoritative language of “call.” Far too many pastors have led congregations in unhealthy directions or abandoned a pastorate because they “felt called” to do so.” speaks to your heart and I commend that to you (and am thankful to you on behalf of the flock you pastor).

    Once a pastor can separate the man from the office, there is a level of humility possible that can assist in him taking the steps you mention.

    The difficulty I see is in the area of associate pastors. A senior pastor needs to be very flexible and understanding and a super shepherd when those who serve the senior pastor are dealing with a potential move to another church or ministry. If there is a level of intimidation toward church members who seek to leave, it is not in the same ballpark as that toward staff members who are likely to be seen as abandoning the work of the senior pastor.

    This is a tough one and I pray that many will heed your words.

  11. Youth Leader says:

    What if your the youth pastor, and your constant source of struggle and criticism is the pastor and his wife?

  12. Yes it hurts so much to know that my pastor for many years said he would not pastor us any more unless we went to what he said was his new vision we looked around wondering what just happen if what we heard was true he said everything so fast with no time to react that so many questions with no time to ask all I could think about was the people that were crying I was always sure to keep my eyes on the purpose of God only but I was not prepared for what my pastor said I was hurt as much as my family my son lost him self in uncertain my daughter lost her self many other congrats back slided left their calling we went threw alot in our marriage and still till this day the ones that left to our other spiritual grandfather they did not heal spiritual that they struggling we made a decisions to leave after praying about it we spoke with our spiritual grandfather and explain our situation he blessed us forward and we still have the same vision because ministry we stayed the same just not with the family we left with the first time we love them so much but I do believe healing must take place first before we want to fill positions we aren’t ready for we are victory outreach and Jesus for life pastor Ed galindo we forgive you but u got to know u hurt a lot of people may God see u threw this one .

  13. Ricki Haddad says:

    nice article, thanks

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About


Thabiti Anyabwile photo

Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Thabiti Anyabwile's Books