Leap of Faith; I have Left the Pastorate
Last summer, 2015, I made the decision to step out on faith and leave the pastorate. My wife was in agreement with me that it was time. After 30 years of ministry, 25 of those as a pastor, I am now back in the secular work force. I knew it was right the moment I made the decision. I was just telling someone the other day that I’m too young to retire, but too old to put up with the headaches of being a pastor any longer. Overall, the people in my last church have been good to my family and me. I was their pastor 20 years, and I loved them and the church. We are not from here, but this community has become home.
There is a small group in the church, all in their 70’s and 80’s, who went out of their way to make things difficult for me. In recent years, they expended great energy spreading negativity and running me down to anyone who would listen. I did not deserve that. They hold enough sway in the church that they were able to block any change or initiative that might have resulted in church growth. They make statements like, “We need these young people to get involved; we aren’t getting any younger.” That sounds good, but they don’t mean it. They want to run the church and they will hold tightly to their control until their last breath. I love to preach and I love people, but I cannot fight these ridiculous battles anymore. I cannot fight battles over the budget, music, who gets to use the activities building, bulletin announcements, whether I am visiting shut-ins enough, and whether or not I am keeping enough office hours. I no longer have the energy or motivation to keep fighting the same people over the same issues again and again. So, I am out.
Here is what I have realized these old folks running the church want; they want the church to grow (actually, they don’t, but for the sake of argument, let’s say they really do), but they don’t want the church to change. They also want me to use the same methods for growing the church that were used the last 50 years. I believe that even if I could grow the church using the rigid criteria the Sr. adults ascribe to, they still wouldn’t be happy, because any growth is change and they hate change. Incredibly, the church has seen some growth, but this has made this group even more hostile and bitter. So, they increased their attacks and have continually worn me down with their complaints, schemes, and meanness. I am simply worn out with being a pastor and I cannot do it anymore. I am emotionally scarred, exhausted, and I had to get out – for my own sanity.
I took on a part-time job a few years ago to pay down medical bills from my wife’s battle with cancer (she survived and is doing well). The company I work for part-time offered me a full-time job. After much prayer, my wife and I decided it was time. We took a leap of faith and I announced my resignation to the church. Most people, those who support me, were stunned and saddened. Spiritually discerning people knew the real reasons and how this hateful group of Sr. adults had worn me down. It’s going to be financially tight, but God is faithful and will provide. I also look forward to supply preaching and doing ministry as the Lord leads. It’s been refreshing to visit local churches and worship with the weight of the pastorate off my shoulders. I feel like a new man.
What I’ve done is not for every pastor who is as burned out as me, but having done it, I feel liberated in ways I could not have imagined. The decision came after months of earnest prayer and planning. I know many pastors reading this want to get out of the pastorate. For me, it was the right thing to do. I’m sharing all this to encourage you and tell you it can be done. God has shown me there is ministry outside a church staff position. My leap of faith cut my income considerably, but as I said, my sanity depended on it. So, to those of you who are where I was, God bless you, and I pray God gives you strength to remain or that He opens the right doors for you.
Thanks for letting me share and God bless you all.