My curiosity was piqued when reading the article by Thom Rainer, “Six Reasons Your Pastor is About to Quit.” I found it to be a good list, but the article in my opinion, was incomplete. Here are Thom’s six.
- Pastors are weary from the pandemic, just like everyone else.
- Pastors are greatly discouraged about the fighting taking place among church members about the post-quarantine church.
- Pastors are discouraged about losing members and attendance.
- Pastors don’t know if their churches will be able to support ministries financially in the future.
- Criticisms against pastors have increased significantly.
- The workload for pastors has increased greatly.
This list could fit many professions in our communities. It’s a time of struggle, adjustment, uncertainty and ambiguity. These make it hard for any of us. Certainly pastors face a unique struggle. What’s different, you may ask?
In church life, people often categorize their disagreements in biblical terms. If we follow what the government tells us, we are either doing what Romans 13 instructs us, or we’re on the road to idolatry and giving up our God-given freedoms. If we disobey the government’s orders, we are either disregarding God’s authority as directed through the state, or we’re standing with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. This puts the pastor in the middle of a no-win situation.
People can disagree with their boss and still do what s/he asks. But few will approach their pastor like that because our church preferences have somehow become part of our spiritual identities. We are either liberal, or conservative. We are either contemporary, or traditional. We either accept the Bible, or deny it. We are either right, or wrong. And if I’m right, we know what that makes everyone else.
With these added burdens, the last couple of days I’ve been asking pastors I serve, “Why are you staying?” If there are these reasonable reasons to quit, why would they stay? This was a list they gave me. They range from practical, to deeply spiritual, and all with a desire to serve the Lord and His church faithfully.
1. I have kids in college. This is a very practical answer. It may not sound very spiritual unless you recognize this pastor is not only serving a church, he’s serving his family. His family has real needs. And sometimes God uses those human needs to keep a pastor rooted in a community. God used real physical thirst, to speak about living water. God used fear, to show he could be trusted. God used human weakness to make his power available. This shepherds his family and meets their needs, just as he does the congregants of his church.
2. I’m confident of my call to this ministry and place. One pastor said, he wouldn’t leave because he knows God placed him where he is. In a world of turmoil, that confidence can only come from God. Like a marriage, he understands that God placed him where he was for better, or worse. When God called him, he may not have known what the future would hold, but God did. So, he’ll persevere in his calling.
3. My people don’t need another change. I might be most impressed with this answer. Here is a pastor who is tired and weary. His soul may even be a little dry. And I know he’s receiving criticism he’s not used to getting. But like a parent, he’s thinking about the needs of his people. They have experienced so many changes, they don’t need him to lay one more on them. He is cautious about laying his burdens on them too. A change in pastoral leadership would be a major upheaval for his family, for his church and for him too.
4. The church needs to hear a clear “leadership voice.” There are times when a board, or even when the congregation need to be able to speak. But in times of crisis, we often need to hear one voice. It doesn’t mean that person makes all the decisions. But there needs to be a voice the people recognize. We need that voice to be steady and sure. It doesn’t need to be loud, but it needs to be heard. It needs to say, “We are going that way.” “Follow me.” Hopefully, the pastor has had opportunity to build trust. If he has, the people will be more apt to give him the benefit of the doubt. And they will be grateful that there is one who is listening, learning and leading.
5. This season may provide the opportunity for change we’ve been working toward. Some pastors, though feeling tired, are asking God to provide new opportunities for mission. They are hopeful. They ache for their community. Some pastors, with their leaders have seen that changes to ministry have needed to be made. Since their church can’t go back to “normal” this might be the opportunity to do a few ministry experiments. There are times pastors and church leaders wait for an opening. They wait for when their people might be ready and open. Some are believing this may be that time. So, they pray strategically. And they prepare to stretch the faith and the minds and the hearts of their people.
6. Let me add this, some pastors are sticking it out because they are afraid. Not all pastor stay because they have hope. Some pastors are stuck and alone and find themselves waiting for God’s new voice. So, they wait. Like Elijah, hiding in the cave, not wanting to walk to the opening because they don’t know what will happen next. They are hanging on, without vision, energy, and feeling distant from God. They don’t know how to make things happen and are tired of trying.
Praise God if you have a pastor who is staying. Pray for that pastor and his family. They are bearing the burdens of their own families and of the family of God. They serve, knowing they have a Savior who redeems the pains and struggles of this life for the blessing and benefit of eternity. Pray for their courage, their safety and for God’s provision. And if you’re able, do what you can to lighten the load and increase the hope in your own church.
Why are you staying, or quitting? What rings true in your experience? Feel free to comment, like, or share this article. AS ALWAYS, THANKS FOR READING.