When my dad was in seminary he worked at a grocery store. The manager of the store promised him a full-time job and promotion after he graduated.
Instead my dad took a little, rural church in Michigan. He spent four good years there developing life-long friendships. It was a great first church. He loved them and they loved him.
So, naturally, he left.
Years later (I was 7 when we moved from there) he told me he left because, and I quote, “the church couldn’t go anywhere.” In other words, it wasn’t going to grow as it was in a town of 300 people.
My dad took two other churches before he died about 15 years ago. He struggled mightily in those churches. He had some success and again made some lasting friends, but he was broken up by those churches.
Frequently he would say, “I should have stayed at the grocery store.” Or on other days, “I should have stayed in Michigan.”
I always felt bad for him that he left a good little church for the allure of the bigger church in a bigger city. Moving up to bigger was nothing but a headache for him.
My family and I think those churches caused his early death. We have no way of knowing if this is true. Churches aren’t known to give people cancer. But stress does things to a guy.
The grass is sometimes greener on the other side of the fence, but most of the time it’s brown weeds that looked green with the right lighting.
I saw the torture my dad went through taking new churches, so I stayed at one church for 21 years before I couldn’t take it anymore.
My dad lasted in ministry longer than I did. I think my church was killing me too, although I have not yet gotten cancer.
The bottom line is this:
If you’re a pastor, should you move and take another church or stay in one place your entire ministry?
I have no idea. More than likely either way it will suck and either way it will have some fruit.
Do what you gotta do and don’t worry about it! No matter what you do, people will judge you and find fault with your decision.
Decide things before the Lord. Don’t blame your move on the Lord though, that would be my one piece of advice. All this, “the Lord is calling me to a bigger church” stuff is just guilt-ridden justification in my occasionally humble opinion.
Be firm in your decision. Don’t make excuses. Don’t lie. Tell the church why you’re leaving. Tell the new church why you’re coming, and not some innocuous, self-righteous blather either. Be truthful why you are quitting and why you are going where you’re going.
If you start off in a new church lying and justifying, you will reap that sowing.
At the end of the day, you probably should have stayed at the grocery store job.