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.
9 thoughts on “Ask The Failing Pastor: Should I Take a New Church?”
Well spoken. It is a difficult vocation. Pastoral ministry is not for everybody.
That’s for sure, and sometimes you don’t know until you try. Other times maybe you just need a break or new scenery.
So you asked me to leave a comment if I have a question for you. Here goes:
Are there moral absolutes that Churches should stand firm on?
Today there was a blog post that described the “The Six Way Fracturing of Evangelicalism” (https://mereorthodoxy.com/six-way-fracturing-evangelicalism/) that correlates very well with issues I’ve been observing in the Church. The writer drew a spectrum from 1-6 of Christians mostly based on political concerns. From Far Right Wing conservatives to those that have just gone full anti-Christian. The 5’s and 6’s have already left the Church, so really the blog was about the 1-4s.
The 1’s and the 4’s are described as fundamentalists on this spectrum, both believing in moral non-negotiables. If we are to adopt the writer’s criteria for discussion, I’m solidly in the 4 range. Probably 4.25 on my way to ex-vangelical. For example, I don’t think I can accept that there is an room in Churches to be willing to condone “just a little bit of lynching”. I honestly believe that all lynching is bad always, and all Churches should be against lynching.
Thing is, I’m a 4 on that issue, and surveys have shown that there is a not small portion of the population that disagrees with me on that. That means there are 1s, 2s, and 3s in the Church that think that at least some lynching should be condoned for the sake of the unity of the Church.
Am I crazy in thinking there should be moral absolutes on this issue?
There are very few if any people in the church who are for any amount of lynching. To think otherwise shows a lack of involvement with church and an overly cynical view of Christianity. I’m cynical about the church too, but no, that’s not an issue.
Two white guys in Georgia armed with guns and a truck running down a random black man while he was jogging and murdering him on the spot.
That really happened. In America. His name was Ahmaud Marquez Arbery. It was a lynching. His murderers were church goers. And I bet there are people in your church that don’t think it’s all that bad.
Also, there were enough legislators in congress to block an anti-lynching bill last year.
The fact that two people affiliated with a church did a lynching does not mean this is a major issue within the church in America. I think your assumption about people in my churchis completely wrong.
I completely agree with the statement toward the end: “Tell the church why you’re leaving. Tell the church why you’re coming…” The best I have done is tell the succeeding pastor the whos, whats, and whys of the church as I’ve experienced it. Most persons receiving this were appreciative.
Where I have failed is by not setting expectations publicly in a new church. Often this led to a less than smooth start as priorities were defined. I had always assumed that churches were intending to make new disciples, sadly this is not often the case.
Most churches exist as a means to remove guilt from the attenders rather than to make disciples.
I appreciate this chat and discussion. Thanks.