Why Have so Many Pastors Been Resigning Lately?

I have seen a couple statistics that a lot of pastors have resigned in the past year. I don’t know whether the numbers are true or not, is it really more than usual?

Whether it’s true or not, I am one of the pastors who resigned. I can at least tell you my reasons for doing so. Here are some of the current contributing factors that make the pastorate something to resign from!

  1. Material Prosperity
    There has been a time of prosperity over the last ten years or so in America and the church and Christians got carried along with it. New churches sprang up and older churches built bigger barns. This is a giant underlying issue that is the root cause of many of the following reasons.
  1. Lack of Disciples
    Actual godly Christians are few and far between. Our Church Growth techniques have worked, but what you attract them with, you keep them with. The modern church, although appearing to be huge, has about 33 actual godly Christians. Slight exaggeration, but essentially true! There’s lots of noise and activity along with very little edification and spiritual growth. The modern church looks big and impressive, but it is hollow. It is a giant loaf of bread with lots of leaveny air pockets and very little dough.
  1. Church Now Exists to Entertain
    It is unbelievably hard to be a pastor attempting to make disciples and preach the Word in season and out while people leave your church to go places that offer more polished music and kid’s programs. All the hip pastors who will take moral tumbles at some point in the near future, do quite well before the moral failings do them in. Read Jeremiah or Ezekiel to know what this feels like. The consistent preaching of the Word is mocked and rejected while false prophets claiming “Peace, peace” when there is no peace, attract the crowds. The people you’ve sacrificed for in an effort to edify them leave for these pleasure palaces of churches, sucking the joy and life right out of ministry.
  1. “Busy” People
    While the 33 godly Christians go to church, all the other people are out being “busy.” Pastors hear people say they are “busy” approximately 754 times a week. It’s probably true too: worldly people are indeed busy in the world. When everything the church offers is rejected because people need to hunt, fish, work, attend youth sports, go on vacation, or skip church for various other “busy” reasons, it creates massive depression. At the same time, people joke about binge watching Netflix. How come so many can binge watch Netflix while being too busy to go to church? Odd.
  1. Pandemics
    The Covid pandemic and subsequent response to it has caused people to skip church for “health reasons.” Some of this is legitimate and is not condemned in those cases. However, the amount of people who can’t go to church for “health reasons” who post photos of what they did with their friends all weekend was/is quite large. The excitement in people’s voices when they actually had a legitimate reason to skip church was nauseating. I can attest that the people who skipped church for Covid were largely the same group who skipped it the year before because they were “busy.” Their Facebook profile lets me know they are still busy, just happy to have a legit sounding excuse now.
  1. Financial Freedom
    Perhaps another issue, and this one might hurt a little, is that everyone seems to have money coming out their ears right now. The government is handing out money like candy on Halloween. There have always been pastors itching to get out of ministry (for many of these stated reasons) but couldn’t afford it. Perhaps our stimulus money and extended unemployment allowed many pastors to finally take that leap.
  2. Politics
    Churches are dependent on money to a frightening extent in our day. Churches have built large buildings and support impressive shows, er, church services. These things cost money. Churches need rich people. This forces the church and their rich people to be mindful of earthly things like politics, which increasingly controls everything. We need lower taxes on one side and we need the government to provide living wages on the other side. Fights ensue. The amount of time I listened to church members argue politics before and after church would make you think politics was our main focus at church. Politics has overtaken the church. This does not create a proper environment for edification.
  3. Pandemic Decisions
    To mask or not to mask was THE question and was a recipe for fighting, division, and skipping church. Pastors get sick and tired of making decisions that will guarantee half the church will be mad and leave no matter what is decided. Everyone knows what is best for the church to do and everyone has a different opinion. You hate people if you mask; you hate people if you don’t. You hate God if you cancel church; you hate God if you don’t cancel church. Everyone’s an expert. I got to the point where I felt, “Fine, you people know everything; go for it. I don’t need this.” And I didn’t.
  4. Disrespect
    America has always been disrespectful to authority and this trend has gotten worse. The past couple years the disrespect of politicians, police, and various other authorities has been on full violent display. People take this same attitude toward pastors. Unless you are an extrovert, people-pleasing pastor acting like everyone’s best friend and you never take a stand on anything, churches view you as their own private punching bag. I have been shocked at some of the stuff people have said and done to me over the years. Although any one single incident bothers me very little, over the course of 20 years, it does get old. It’s just unnecessary and unhelpful.
  5. Pastoral Futility
    People are largely not in the church for spiritual reasons. It’s just another part of the world for most. The world’s junk is brought in and defeats the entire purpose for meeting as a church. The main reason I resigned is because what’s the point? Everything I was doing seemed futile, misunderstood, and easily rejected by the people I was doing it for. It leaves a guy feeling like there’s no reason to continue. Why bother, no one’s listening anyway? The Word of God is not heard over the deafening din of the world’s clamor. I have no interest in trying to yell louder. After over 20-years of being a pastor, I had to get out for my own spiritual sanity, to get me to a place where I could again hear the still, small voice of God.

I resigned last year because in large part the church is made up of people who really don’t want God and I didn’t want to be around that anymore. I don’t know how else to say it: today’s church is not interested in hearing from the Lord. Why talk to walls anymore? I couldn’t find a compelling reason, so I resigned. Was this the right decision? Not according to many, but I will stand before the Lord with it and only His opinion counts as He is my judge.

My hat’s off to all those pastors still slugging it out, faithfully teaching the Word of God week in and week out. Your reward will be in heaven, as it surely will not be here. Fight the fight.

11 thoughts on “Why Have so Many Pastors Been Resigning Lately?

  1. I am getting ready to do research for my doctoral dissertation as to what effect conflict and the inability to resolve it has on a decision to vacate ministerial vocation. Would you be willing to be a subject for an in-depth interview in order to contribute to the data for my research?

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  2. got here largely via an AP story on clergy departures. We docs have a parallel egress but for a different reason. The synagogue story does not seem a whole lot different with the exception that we have a heritage of disagreement without enmity. Our congregation, probably demographically and financially down to its final ten years, has the full spectrum of American and Israeli political positions but we have avoided any enmity or sending anyone to Herem ( our exile) on account of this. We also have a very long heritage of Jews functioning at the upper tier not being entirely convinced of God, so a broad spectrum of theology is tolerated, yet the educational mission of Scripture and Commentary remains unchallenged, leaving the Rabbi an important purpose. In many ways, the success of a synagogue, and I assume a church, is more the creation of a viable community that makes people feel that they are contributors and not just consumers. Of course we have avid participants, machers, and benefactors but success depends more on breadth of participation and having a stake in the programs that get generated. At present we seem to be contracting in this element but other places have clergy and leadership more motivated to serve as cruise directors, making sure everyone splashes around the pool. Perhaps the best Jewish work on the challenges of congregational clergy would be Berel Wein’s Tending the Vineyard. He’s a prolific Jewish historian and commentator who also gave up his congregation to become a teacher but never gave up the desire to have people connect to Jewish thought. There are escapes but there also opportunities to repackage.

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    1. There should be a family identity in the local gathering of believers. I think we’re missing this as our society fragments into it’s groups based on external factors. People don’t want to fit in a group; they want autonomy, to be able to do what they want, believe what they want, and skip when they want. Being dedicated to other people means obligation with the possibility of sacrifice. This is too much for our American anti-authority and don’t tread on me sentiments. It is also just the continuation of the selfishness of human nature the Bible very clearly shows. There is nothing new under the sun!

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      1. Excellent points. One of my churches is cohesive, the other is not. It stems from years of dysfunction, apathy, and desire for autonomy, rather than good of the community.

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  3. As one of those pastors “still slugging it out,” I just want to thank you for your honest reflections here. They are timely and needed as we all discern God’s plan for the church moving forward. Please continue your good work here, and my prayers will be with you as you discern new ways to serve our Lord.

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  4. I needed this. Thank you for expressing exactly what I’m experiencing right now. I’m a second career pastor and one of those “slugging it out” in a two church charge in which one church (the smaller one) is thriving and the other is dying for many of the reasons you cited.

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  5. Thank you for your post. I submitted my resignation as a campus pastor two months ago and agreed to stay on through the process of finding my replacement. Big mistake. Should have submitted the letter and left for the beach. I share so much of the experience you have presented, even born to a mom and dad who were in ministry in Chicago. I’ve now served in the same community for 26 years in 3 different churches, this last one for more than 9 years.
    Covid decimated it, went from 124 in the weeks prior to the covid scare sent us to Facebook video hell, to an average of 25 on Sunday morning and very few attenders online. But when we contact those who were there, they still claim to be part of the church even though they haven’t attended for more than a year yet, as you described, I see the posts of all the activities that are involved in. I just want to comment in all caps “SERIOUSLY???” I deleted my Facebook account so I couldn’t use it to passively aggressively vent my frustrations and be the smart aleck that I can be.
    I didn’t realize how depressed I had become until things began to fray in my life and family had to point it out. I was doing crazy things trying to get people back to church. I just cant do what the modern American church attender wants from a church an a pastor.
    I take sick encouragement from all that you went through knowing I wasn’t alone:) Thanks again

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    1. Thanks, I think.

      It’s tough to see the inconsistent decisions of people in your face all the time. One of the hardest aspects of modern pastoring. Gets old and rips your heart out. Hope you get to the beach sometime!

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