The Top Four Reasons Pastors Leave Their Church

Hey pastors:

That new church you’re taking that looks so perfect?
Some pastor just left that church looking for a perfect church.
@FailingPastor

 

 

By the time I put in 15 years at my church, a guy I graduated with was on his fourth church. He couldn’t find a place that felt right. So he kept looking. He’s now at a church for an extended length of time and feels he has “found his church home.”

That’s good. I am happy for him.

From an outsider’s cynical view, finding his “church home” looks an awful lot like, “I found the place that pays me the most I’ve ever gotten for doing this gig!”

Now, again, I’m a terrible person and I am not the judge. I’m just saying what it looks like.

Did it ever dawn on anyone that maybe one of the reasons there are so many terrible churches is because no pastor will stay long enough to help them repair? Most churches have never seen selfless service in person. Many pastors are in it for themselves, not for the benefit of the church (Romans 16:17-18).

I know a lot of pastors and I listen to their words. They tell me why they are leaving their church.

We need to get more families/young people/old people/men/women but no one is willing to do what’s needed to get them to come.
— I hear this one a lot. There’s a certain market the pastor wants to attract for some unknown reason, and yet no one else in the church seems particularly concerned about getting that desired market. So the pastor leaves because the church won’t get him his audience he prefers. Why not just minister to the people who are there instead of firing and replacing the entire congregation?

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How Long Should Pastors Stay at Their Church?

Pastors need to teach that when life gets hard, faith overcomes.
This is best taught by taking a new church every four years.

Pastors need to teach that love is patient enduring service.
This is best taught by taking a new church every four years.
@FailingPastor

 

 

The average stay at a church for a senior pastor is about four years. Youth pastors last about three.

This constant leaving makes churches doubt pastors. Small churches feel like they are stepping stones to larger churches. No one takes the pastor seriously because they all know he’ll leave when greener pastures show up.

This constant leaving makes pastors impatient and covetous. If their church doesn’t meet their ideals, they leave. They are only truly invested if the church does what they want it to do.

Pastor turnover also undermines any teaching on reaping and sowing, patient endurance, perseverance, longsuffering, love, or any such topics. God will never leave you nor forsake you, but your pastor? He’ll be gone in about four years. Nice.

Practice what you preach, right?

Pastors have been dropping congregations so quickly Christians assume this is what pastors should do. Many people look at me weird when I tell them how long I’ve been at my church. “Can’t find another job, eh?”

I even have a family member who repeatedly says it’s not right for pastors to stay at one church their whole career. This is primarily because they had a bad experience with a pastor who was at their church, and still is, for a long time. If he would have left they could have stayed. So now all pastors should leave after a couple years.

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How to be a Pastor at a Potluck

Pastor Potluck Rules: go last in line, take most of what people took least, and sit with people no one else sits with.
@FailingPastor

 

 

My dad was a pastor and I learned these rules from him. He never told me these rules; he just did them. I was routinely amazed at his ability to be last in line. As a kid, I was top ten every single time! How can you not want to get in line for food?

Then, the stuff he took! Man, I stocked up on desserts and jello salad and cheesy casseroles. My dad would take all the gross stuff. He did that because he knew people would be offended if no one took their food. If it was particularly ignored food, he’d make sure to thank them for bringing it and tell them how much he really liked squid. I kid you not. One time we had a missions potluck and someone made squid. He and a junior high boy ate it.

My dad was a friendly guy and people liked talking to him. He had people in church who were his friends and he’d more than likely enjoy sitting with them and yucking it up. Instead he’d sit with that one family who was a little annoying and difficult to talk to. He’d sit with the old people who could hardly hear. He’d never take much food and he’d eat it quickly so he could make the rounds and sit with people who no one else was by.

My dad was a true servant. He always looked out for other people. Part of this was his inherent nature. That’s who he was. Part of it was actually pride on his part. He was a people-pleaser to the extreme. He pleased people so much he did not get much enjoyment out of life.

But he was still right in much of how he did his pastoral ministry. His potluck etiquette was impeccable.

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No One Cares About Your Theological Opinions

Whenever I’m tempted to spout theological wisdom, I just remember: Nobody cares.
@FailingPastor

 

Social Media has taught us that success depends upon branding yourself. You have to produce content, get followers, retweets, and likes. Get your message out there. Effectiveness is measured by how many people you can prove bumped into your content.

This mentality has come into the Christian world as well. Pastors feel this pressure constantly.

We are told to follow the Big Name pastors out there and we’re basically taught to envy their numbers. John Piper can put some cheesy good morning poem on his Twitter feed and by noon it has 2.5k likes. I put out one finely crafted Tweet succinctly summing up justification and it gets zero response.

I then feel pathetic and dumb. John Piper, bolstered by the 2.5k people who liked his poem, continues to write weird poems as though people need such things for sanctification to continue. He Tweets away, then occasionally lectures people for spending too much time on social media.

Sigh.

I did a theologically minded blog for over 15 years. There were about five people who regularly read it. There used to be nine, but I banned four of them from commenting anymore, so they eventually left.

I put out all kinds of stuff for my church people to use. I speak three times a week, yet hardly anyone shows up. I put out, what I think, is good theological content. Really helpful and inspiring stuff.

No one cares.

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Who to Blame If Your Church Sucks

Whenever I’m about to bemoan the stupidity of people in my church, I remember that their stupidity is why I got hired.
@FailingPastor

 

I mean, seriously, if I had a great church I wouldn’t be the pastor.

In all honesty, pastors who whine about their churches are quite funny. Many of my jokes about people in my church are made up. Many of the true ones are about people who have left. And, yeah, humans are funny, so I poke on some remaining people. But at the core of it, we’re all in this together.

Speaking of making fun of people who left my church. There was a guy who had a problem with my leadership in the church. He told me my leadership style was “my way or the highway.” He then went on to compare me to his jerk of a dad. He maintained that I enforced too much of a difference between clergy and laymen. I found that funny because my approach to church is so far from a clergy laity split it’s ridiculous.

The only difference between clergy and “laymen” is that the clergy are appointed to do some stuff in church. There should be a standard of conduct and faith maintained, but this same standard should be every Christian’s goal. Clergy are not above the rest. We all have feet of clay. All have sinned and all need Christ.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I know this about me. I know my weak spots and have a wife to point out the weak spots I’ve missed.

Pastors will attract people who are similar to them. They just do. If the pastor is intellectual and academic; the church will soon be made up of academics. If he’s hip and cool; then hip and cool people will go to him. There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general this is how it works. I dare say it even goes down to body weight! Fat pastors have fatter churches than skinny ones!

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I Preach the Word and People Don’t Come

PASTORAL ADVICE: If you preach The Word, people will come.

ME: When The Word came, people crucified Him.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I had a guy tell me “Preach the Word and people will come.” I preached on a passage of Scripture that contradicted one of his favorite doctrines and he left the church. I love the irony.

If you preach the Word, one thing you will never preach is “If you preach the word people will come,” because the Word never says that.

What the Word says is stuff like: God’s wisdom is foolishness with man. Men hate the light and love the darkness. They will not endure sound doctrine but will heap to themselves teachers who will scratch their ears. And, of course, the chief example is when the Word Himself became flesh and dwelt among us–He came unto His own and His own received Him not.

Are we aware of what that means? It means people who think they wanted the Messiah didn’t really want Him once He showed up.

John describes Jesus as being the Word of God made flesh. There is much depth to that statement and I don’t pretend to be plumbing its depths here, but at least it means Jesus Christ is as much a revelation of God’s righteousness as the Scripture is, if not more. If people didn’t like Christ, what makes us think they will like His Word?

Try it sometime. You know the passages people in your church have agreed to ignore. You know the ones that will get you in trouble.

Maybe it’s Paul telling women to be silent in church, or wives to submit to husbands. Maybe it’s stuff about repentance and the necessity of good works in faith in James 2. Maybe it’s the Sermon on the Mount or the book of Revelation. I don’t know what it is for your church, but you do (if you don’t know your church’s weirdness, ask people outside your church that are familiar with people in your church! They know!).

What you’ll find is that people, in general, are not at all interested in what the Bible says. That’s why we defend our accepted niche of church tradition. As long as I can quote old, dead guys it doesn’t matter what the Bibles says. And they are OUR old, dead guys! They can’t be wrong!

Preach the Word, in season and out. Do it all the time and watch the people leave. Be prepared to take a pay cut, maybe even be prepared to eventually shut the doors of your church.

It’s not sad to shut for good the doors of a church that promotes terrible doctrine, this might actually be the best thing you’ve ever done for the Body of Christ!

There are way too many churches today and way too many pastors and way too many people pretending at Christianity. Start preaching the Word and weed out the pretenders. Stake your career on it. Go a Sunday without getting paid because there’s no money. See the embarrassment on the treasurer’s face when he tells you not to cash your paycheck. I’ve seen it.

If you preach the Word, I guarantee you your church will shrink. Guaranteed to happen every single time it’s tried. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. Do you have the faith and the guts to do it?

 

 

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness
–1 Corinthians 1:23

Church Growth Advice From a Church Shrinking Pastor

Church Growth fanatics should remember that the plants that grow quickest are weeds.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pastors of small churches are often allured by church growth advice. Who doesn’t want to reach more people? But as soon as a pastor of a small church starts reading this stuff it becomes laughable. Taking my little church in this rural community and doing Southern California suburban church approaches? Riiiiiiight! Pretty sure these church growth antics would shrink my church faster than it currently is.

Get Rich Quick schemes abound. People get scammed in amazing ways by buying into shortcuts. Church Growth and Get Rich Quick schemes sound similar in approach, guarantees, and results.

Ever notice how many mega-church pastors take terrible moral falls? It’s a pandemic, and yet before they fall, all of us little pastors were told to follow their anointed means to achieve spectacular ends.

Why is it that a pastor who has more people suddenly becomes the expert on everything that everyone else must do? What verse in the Bible says, “If something attracts a lot of people it is good and anointed from on high?” There are none, yet there are plenty that talk about popular things being wrong. Remember the broad road with many on it? Remember where that road went?

Since when does popularity equal truth? Since never. Jesus was left alone at the end of His life. Paul stood alone. The prophets thought they were all by themselves, so much that Elijah claimed to be the only one left.

There is zero evidence from scripture that pastoral success looks like lots of people.

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