I always used to wonder why pastors leave. If you have attended church for any amount of time, you will probably have experienced this event at least once. There was a stretch, when I was younger, that we had 4 different pastors in a 5 year period. It's also possible that you have never experienced a pastor resigning and may be asking why.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are 8 reasons I have encountered myself or seen in others:
Although you may feel that a pastor has an easy job, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Preaching, teaching, counselling, praying, fasting, visiting, leading, training, and organizing can take a tremendous amount of time and effort. If a pastor doesn't have a strong ministry team and/or volunteer team then he may find himself in a state of burn-out. Burn-out is when you just hit that brick wall where you have nothing left to give and you realize you have been leading on empty. The book below describes this in great detail from a pastor's perspective.
Pastors take on new works or churches with the goal of succeeding in winning people to Jesus. Any pastor wants to win souls. That goes without saying, but everybody has a different tolerance for timelines for that growth. One man may be working on a 10 year plan while another may expect immediate results. Either way, once they reach the end of that timeline, or even before, if the results aren't what they expect, discouragement sets in.
Another type of discouragement is not number related. Pastors invest time training, counselling, and working with people to grow their walk with God or their ministry. Sometimes many years are invested and if somebody decides to give up or turns their back on the pastor, it can be very demoralizing.
3. Financial Issues
We all deal with financial issues at one time or another. Some of us are constantly struggling financially. While there are some well-off pastors that you may see in the media or that may have large churches, the vast majority have congregations well below 100 people. Due to this reason, many pastors are bi-vocational. They work a full -time job to pay the bills but volunteer their time as pastor. It's been my experience that people can deal with financial or church issues but not both. That's exactly what the majority of pastors deal with and eventually it ends up being too much for some.
Opposition comes in different forms but it really all boils down to Spiritual Warfare. The opposition is sometimes from the community or a local group that opposes the pastor or the church for various reasons. Most opposition is from within the church body itself. There have been books written about this topic alone but it suffices to say that opposition makes every small mole hill into a huge mountain. The most mundane decisions are questioned at nauseum. The Bible talks about the wearing out of the saints in the last days. Pastors are always targeted with this attack.
5. Loss of burden
This is a tricky one because it blends in with, or could be a result of the other reasons why pastors leave. It can also be a stand-alone issue so that is why we will include it here. A burden is a feeling or sense of duty to a place or a group of people. Without a burden, no pastor would last long no matter how talented they are. When a burden is lost, a pastor will question if the above issues are worth fighting.
6. Loss or perceived loss of call
The Bible says that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, but that doesn't stop the enemy from trying to convince a pastor he isn't called anymore. That's why we listed a perceived lack of call. A pastor may also feel he is still called to preach but that he is no longer called to that particular community.
Pastor's families make huge sacrifices, even though they don't usually feel called to a particular area. They just follow what their husband/dad is feeling. One home missionary from Arkansas summed it up well when he said, “I signed up for this, but they didn't.” Due to some or all of the above, a pastor may feel that he needs to leave for his family's sake. His wife, in a moment of desperation, may also confront him and compel him to leave for the betterment of his family. A pastor can build another church but he can't build another family.
8. It is God's will
Sometimes, without warning and for no obvious reason to the pastor or the church body, the pastor feels God leading him to resign. I personally went through this. I kept asking God why he wanted me to leave. Things were progressing and we were happy and comfortable with the church and home life. It just didn't make sense.
I remember confiding in my pastor, to which he asked, “When does God make sense?” The Bible says His ways are not our ways. God sees the end from the beginning and we have to learn to trust Him even when we don't have all the answers.
So that is 8 common reasons pastors resign and 8 big reasons to pray for him and his family. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you are a pastor.
This is a topic near and dear to my heart. For more serious topics and some fun ones, go to [http://www.teachablemoments.ca]
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