This is What Caused Me to Resign From Pastoral Ministry

Over 21 years of pastoral ministry I heard many criticisms and compliments. Some really hurt. Some were ridiculous. Some were right.

But the thing that wore me out, the thing that drove me to resign, was not the criticisms or compliments, it was the mundane apathetic silence.

I shared my heartfelt study of the word week after week largely to be ignored, or worse, people went the opposite direction. I counseled, warned, encouraged, did the things I thought I was supposed to do.

Nothing. Nothing followed by nothing followed by eventual destroyed lives.

There are depths of frustration and sorrow you get to when you know you’re bringing exactly what people need (the Gospel and God’s Word) to solve their problems and yet it gets rejected.

In other words, it wasn’t the personal attacks and criticisms that wore me out. It was watching lives implode while yelling the wisdom of God into the abyss they kept falling further into.

Criticize me all you want. Find fault with how I speak, spend money, dress, and all the other stuff. I don’t care. Not an issue. But please listen to the wisdom of God.

At the same time, some people thought simply complimenting me would have made me continue. Some have expressed regret, “We should have appreciated you more.”

I appreciate that, but it’s not the issue really. No amount of compliments will make up for watching lives implode on a regular basis despite efforts to help.

And yes, I know, God is the one that grows people and I can’t do anything. I know. I get that. It still hurts. As Paul said, “Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” Yet people don’t respond, which is why Paul also said he had “continual sorrow in his heart” by watching his people resist the truth.

I knew where many people were headed and it wasn’t good. I called out to them, begged them, pleaded with them, warned them, comforted them, and I did all that as God by His Spirit worked through me.

I didn’t need a buzz from people to keep me going. I felt a burden from the Lord to serve and teach and pray and do all things for all men so that by all means I might win some.

Eternally I will be judged and rewarded (if deserved) for my ministry. Temporally, on this earth, it looked like it mostly went to waste.

I didn’t need more compliments and fewer criticisms. I learned to not take either one too seriously. What I wanted was to see spiritual life, growth, sanctification, and maturity. With a few exceptions, I mostly saw apathy and lots of sin.

Seeing people grow in Christ would have kept me in the ministry; not more compliments.

I will give an account to the Lord for my ministry. I wanted to do it with joy. Instead I will do it with grief (Hebrews 13:17). This will not be good for anyone involved.


If you’d like to hear more of my accumulated pastoral “wisdom,” I wrote a book. CLICK HERE to get a copy of it, because that’ll make me feel better about myself!

8 thoughts on “This is What Caused Me to Resign From Pastoral Ministry

  1. I hear you. The apathy and ignoring of Ministry after much prayer, Bible study and reflection is lonely and frustrating. At the [liberal] seminary I attended our theology professor cited Fredrich Nietzsche often in our class, “‘God is dead and we killed him.’… Can you live with this reality out in the very church pews you pastor in? If not, this vocation these days might not be for you.” The professors was right. In the case of our existential brand of Lutheran Theology we were taught that we must embrace ambiguity, rejection and much “Northern European Temperamental silence.” Many students did not like this as they sought a more positive, upbeat “spirit filled” experience of church [that they got at church camp, retreat centers, Youth Conventions and Christian Rock Concerts]. But my 35+ years of ministry in low paying, small town/rural Northern European churches has proven my professor to be right. Yet, my ministry has been most appreciated in times of death, tragedy and loss. This is not even “measurable” on the denominational reports to be a “Transformational Leader or Vibrant Church.” So I still strive to be faithful as my creaking bones at age 70 keeps shuffling along while watching TV preachers tell me how “dead mainline churches like mine are” as they celebrate the Harvest and power of the Spirit. Go figure!


    1. You have my respect. Well done. If there honestly had been any shred of evidence in the church that they wanted to grow in Christ, I would have stayed. Mine was a diseased church and I tried for 21 years to get them to grow up. They were not interested. There literally was no point for me staying there.


  2. I’ve been a pastor of a small church in London for 10 years now. It’s felt exactly like this – and the frustrating thing is that where there have been one or two green shoots of spiritual growth poking above the soil, those people often end up going somewhere else sooner or later – whether it’s because they are priced out of London, or looking to attend a church which has a better youth group, etc. It’s so discouraging at times. Thank you for the reminder that true success and failure is judged in His eyes, not our own. Bless you, brother.


  3. There are far too many discouraging comments and events that can lead pastors to leave ministry. My simple encouragement is that there is far more fruit if you stay through it all. As of this writing, I have 39 years of pastoral ministry with nearly 34 years in one setting. Twice, I was asked to resign when new pastors wanted their own team. It get it, but that hurt. There have been people who left because they didn’t like my style of preaching, because they didn’t like our style of music, because they believed we were headed in the wrong direction. My leaving would not have helped any of those folks. By staying, our people have had a consistent model of teaching God’s’ Word, of pursuing a consistent ministry vision, and I have grown along with many others who have remained. Here’s what I have learned: the best fruit comes to those who stay and who grow through the criticism. You get better, the Lord gets the credit, and the people who stay are the ones who embrace the vision and who invest in changing lives. My honest hope is that more pastors from the next generation develop thicker skin and stay long enough to enjoy the fruit.


    1. Kudos to you for staying in that long. I had 21 years at one church. I’d still be there today if I thought they wanted me to be. The reasons you state are the reasons I stayed as long as I did. I also encourage pastors to leave when that’s the right thing to do. No sense being bullheaded to prove a point or anything.


  4. I pray for David, and I remember Jeremiah’s testimony. Please do not give up Pastor David. Remember Christ crucified and it was a such a blessing for the world. Even when you feel unfruitful you are still His servant, He knows how hard it is and be faithful till the end. He wants to see you sacrifice till the end. Our prayers are with you.


  5. Thank you for sharing. I’m not a pastor. Just a female who has felt the loss of relationships after warning people of sin. While I was in the thick of some of that, the book of Jeremiah stood out to me. A key word is “listen.” Those people refused to listen to Jeremiah and God. As I read your post I wondered if you experienced a bit of what Jeremiah went through. I agree – telling people truth and having them not follow it and watch them ruin their lives is incredibly painful. If I as a lay person have felt that, I can’t imagine what it must feel like for pastors. Thank you for sharing your pain with us. I have found your posts helpful. As I struggle currently with trust issues, it’s helpful to hear your perspective.


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