People assume there’s something wrong with the pastor who resigns. It’s been six months since I resigned from the church I was at for 21 years. Although I haven’t heard too many of these comments to my face, these are the comments I’ve heard about other pastors who quit and a few directed my way.
So pastors, when you quit, expect to hear a few of the following:
- There must be sin going on.
Since so many pastors take moral falls—affairs, embezzling, being a jerk, etc.—people assume any pastor who quits must be doing it because of sin. Something more is going on. What is it? Surely someone knows. They dig around, snooping, trying to figure out what he did. Some even ask prying questions of his wife and family, trying to get the scoop on the Real Story of what went on. Clearly resigning from being a pastor is a sign of spiritual backsliding.
- Shows he shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with.
This one I hear a lot. It’s just God’s way of weeding out the guys who are terrible at being a pastor. If they can’t handle it obviously they shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with. Apparently the only people who should ever do ministry are ones who can guarantee success. Curious how that is known before starting? Is observable success the sole measure of who should be doing ministry?
- He wasn’t called.
“People whom God calls don’t quit” is how the story goes. They keep going, presumably until their deathbeds, just like everybody else in the world that only had one job their entire life. I heard this one, “You treated it like a job, not the sacred call it was.” Really? Because I got tired and burned out by lethargic people after 21 years, I’m the one who was wimpy here? The only reason I actually lasted 21 years is because it was more than a job to me. There were easier ways to make a shrinking salary.
- Tried to do it on his own and not with God.
Gotta love this one too. Obviously, since I quit after failing in the church, God wasn’t in it. I must have been arrogantly assuming all along that I was man enough to build God’s church without God. Now I’ve been shown the reality that I wasn’t trusting God enough. Weird, because I remember all the days and nights of crying out to God with tears to stir up the church, to do what I was completely unable to do. This criticism is from someone who has never tried to help anyone ever.
- He cares too much about people’s opinions.
“If a guy truly had his mind set on God’s view of the world and not man’s, he would never be discouraged.” Pastors only quit when they can’t measure up to people’s opinions of ministerial success. Although people’s opinions are largely discouraging and may contribute to many pastors leaving their churches, what about the pastor who quits in light of this person’s opinion? So if your opinion is that a pastor should never quit, and I quit, how is this proof I only follow people’s opinions? No matter what a pastor does, it’s against someone’s opinion.
- That’s what happens when you aren’t faithful to God’s Word.
Presumably if I preached the Word people would come. The Field of Dreams Theory of church growth. If you simply preach the word (which usually means “If you tell me what I want to hear”), the church would have grown huge and everything would be great. Who would quit then? Obviously he only quit because of all his worldly compromise he made while forsaking the truth of Scripture. When the Word became flesh and dwelt among men, those men killed the Word made flesh. People don’t like the Word. Perhaps, and this is just a wild guess, perhaps some pastors quit because it’s obvious no one has any interest in hearing God’s Word?
I don’t know if this is common to other people quitting their jobs, maybe it is, but I don’t think so. I know a guy who has quit two jobs in the past six months, I doubt anyone has questioned his spiritual health. I didn’t.
One of the traps of pastoral ministry is that getting out of it is very hard. The criticism you know you’ll receive for quitting looms, not just from the church but from your mom, your family and friends, and random strangers. I’ve been compared to Jonah several times.
And, to top it all off, many of these criticisms come from the very people you just sacrificed for, the same people who wouldn’t lift a finger to help, the same people who largely led the pastor to resigning in the first place!
In the end, whatever. People can say what they want. It doesn’t matter. If you’re a pastor long enough you know this. I will stand before the Lord with my decisions made inside and outside the church. I don’t think my eternal security is based upon how many years I survived pastoral ministry.
This is a heads up though to all pastors planning on leaving the ministry: this is what will be said about you. Enjoy! Take heart though, these same people were criticizing you in equally dumb ways while you were in the ministry! At least after this one you’ll never hear them again!
In the end, people’s criticisms matter none at all. In one way it’s kind of funny, waiting to hear all the above criticisms. They’ll come. You’ll hear em if you stick around to listen. Pastor Resignation BINGO!
But conclude with the Apostle Paul’s conclusion:
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
–1 Corinthians 4:2-5
10 thoughts on “6 Criticisms the Resigning Pastor Will Hear”
I do not doubt you. It just amazes me that people don’t understand how someone could be called OUT of pastoral ministry in precisely the same way someone could be called INTO pastoral ministry. Best wishes.
The whole “calling” issue is weird to me, the way it’s understood and explained, I think it actually leads to a lot of this judgmentalism.
Wow. It shows you exactly what state these folks are in. In light of these sort of declarations, maybe they should ask themselves the question “do I know Christ as my savior”? I must confess that I have thought ugly things like this in the past and I repent of ever doing this. Ministry is a very difficult job. Big hug for you sir!
People just don’t know. They say stuff, much of it coming out of justification for their own spiritual apathy. I worry more about who says these things more than I worry about what they said.
This is awesome. Thanks for sharing! Still love your tweets and posts, and what I love now is what I loved then. The authenticity and the window into the pastorate that is often unknown.
Your candor is refreshing.
Thanks for sharing your heart, friend. For every person responding to the quitting pastor in these ways, there’s two who understand that it’s ok to move on, just as it’s ok to move on for those of us who aren’t pastors. Unfortunately, you probably hear more from those who question your decision than you do from those who accept it without judgment. I take issue with just one statement. You said the following,
“It’s obvious no one has any interest in hearing God’s Word.”
I would suggest that you didn’t really intend to make such a sweeping statement. “No one”? Surely you meant, “it feels like”, not “it’s obvious”? I know that in the typical Sunday audience a majority of the people are probably somewhat disengaged and apathetic. But surely, there must be some in every crowd who really do want to hear the word of God and who are changed by it’s power and growing in their faith? Have you really come to believe that literally no one cares? Not asking this to criticize or debate, but rather to engage with you during this period of transition and speak encouragement to a Christian brother. I have great respect for your dad and wish you nothing but the best as you venture forward.
Yeah, I might have overstated the point, but it certainly felt that way.