Dear Pastor, So you want to quit? 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

Discouraged

I read a shocking statistic many years ago that 7 out of every 10 Bible college and seminary graduates will be out of the pastoral ministry within three years of graduating.  At the time, I thought it must be an overstatement.  But experience and observation have proved otherwise.  The pastorate has many casualties.

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of writing the names of all his fellow seminary graduates in the back of his Bible.  As they dropped out of ministry he crossed their names off.  In something like 20 years every name was crossed off but his and one other.

So pastor, if you haven’t quit – you’ve surely thought about it, are thinking about it, or have the resignation letter written and ready to turn in.  You’re just waiting for the right Monday morning to do it.

Let me be honest.  I’ve written those letters in the past.  I’ve marked those days on the calendar 3 months out where I’ll quit if things haven’t improved (not recently by the way…lest anyone from my current church is reading this.).  I am currently in a season where I see God’s hand of blessing.  I love what I’m doing.  But I know darker days will come.

Here are eight thoughts about why you should not quit and what keeps me going…

  • The Call – Remember back to the day that you “knew” God was calling you to the pastoral ministry.  The memory of mine is, as they say, “crystal.”  I don’t believe God called me or you to pastor for 3 years, or 5 years, or until I got tired of it, or until I got the job offer from XYZ Christian Company, or until the church bully got the best of me, or __________________ (fill in your own reason).  He called you and me to preach, lead, shepherd, pray, evangelize, and be used in building up the body of Jesus Christ.  Did he revoke that call? Did he redirect that call? Maybe so, but remember your call.
  • The Reward – Yes, I’ll admit it.  The blessings of pastoring keep me in it.  To see a life change, to see a person come to faith, to be a part of a great ministry event, to have someone tell you a message encouraged them.  Those are all great things! Reflect on the rewards.
  • This Too Shall Pass – Sigh.  I hear you.  No really, I do.  Being a pastor can be tough, beyond tough.  Those difficult personality clashes – those well intended but harsh emails you receive – the outright ungodliness shown by someone who doesn’t like a ministry change – the three families that leave because they “aren’t being fed.”  These are temporary.  Look to God, stay faithful in your devotions, get around some Barnabuses.  Remember tough times and difficult people are temporary.
  • The King’s Employ – This may sound trite, but you and I work for the King.  Not a boss, not a board, not a body.  We work for the King of the universe! Dwell on that. Meditate on it. If he employed you, he has the resources to get you through this difficult time.  Remember the King.
  • Eternal Fruit – What we do will last forever.  I realize that every job and career can be used by the Lord (I worked in the secular world for about 8 years after college).  But the “everyday” work you do has eternal impact.  That message you are preparing, that visit to a new comer, that meeting over coffee to disciple a new believer, that call on a complete stranger new to your area.  Those activities put a stamp on eternity.  God uses you and your work.
  • The Enemy – I don’t see demons and the Evil one lurking behind every bush; but we are in a spiritual battle.  There is nothing that Evil would rather have you do than quit, or ruin your testimony, or become disqualified from the ministry.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.
  • The File – I keep a file marked “encouragement”.  In it I put all the encouraging cards, emails, and notes I get from people.  I read back over them when days get dark.  This helps me remember that people really do appreciate me and that what I do makes a difference.  Start a file and put all those encouraging pieces of communication in there for future reference.
  • Persecution – Jesus endured it and forewarned us of it.  In fact, he promised it.  True persecution and opposition are normal in the Gospel work.  We are in a battle.  Paul’s words remind of this on so many occasions. So expect it, but don’t let it deter you – it probably means you’re actually doing something right.

So pastor – you want to quit; but don’t do it.   Find a friend, beg for prayer, be honest with your leadership, ask for help, get counseling, ask for a sabbatical, remember the things above.

What if you’ve already quit?  I understand.  Let me suggest that you take some time to heal and rest.  Ministry challenges can zap you emotionally and spiritually.  I have a friend who pastored for 20 years and took a year off to get rejuvenated. He’s now been back in the pastorate about three years.  So do what you need to take care of yourself and your family.  Then ask the question, “Has the call been revoked?”  Really answer that honestly.  Maybe it has; but don’t let fear, bitterness, or bad experiences answer the question for you.  That call is probably still on your life – get back in the Gospel saddle.  Start small, a Bible study at work or with a neighbor.  Then begin to pray for God’s leading for your next ministry.

What if you find yourself arguing with this article? You’re saying things like,

  • “But, maybe God redirected me to another career.”
  • “But, there’s this other non-pastoral ministry.”
  • “But, my circumstances have changed.”
  • “But, my family is falling apart.”

No doubt, there are times to resign.  There are times to take a break. And there are other valid ministries in which to serve. But don’t let “difficult” times, people, or pressures be the thing that makes you resign.  AND although there are other ministries in which to serve, you need to make sure they align with your calling. Don’t let a way out become a cop out. If God called you to pastor, you will not be satisfied doing anything else.

I truly love the ministry…most days.  My work is God-ordained, has eternal results, and is beyond rewarding.  But there are those days, and weeks, and even longer seasons of difficulty.  The things above help me keep perspective and I hope they will encourage you as well.

Thoughts?

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Are you stimulated by the Stimulus Package

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Okay – the accountant in me is coming out.  I’m game for a tax cut or check as much as the next guy; don’t get me wrong.  But I question the impact this upcoming $825 billion is really going to have on our economy.  $825 billion is a lot of money – even for Bill Gates.  But in comparison to our overall economy it’s a little over a penny on the dollar.

For comparison….

The US Gross Domestic Product for 2008 = $57,400,000,000,000 (that’s trillion – give or take a few billion).  The stimulus is 1.4% of this.

The US Personal Income for 2008 = $48,300,000,000,000.  Thus the stimulus equals 1.7% of this amount.

Is adding another trillion dollars to our national debt really going to do that much for our economy?  I’m questioning this philosophy of borrowing our way out of an economic crisis.  Isn’t debt what got us in this mess to begin with?

But hey…send me the check.  I’ve got four teenagers; I’ll find a way to use it!

President Elect Obama Talks With Jesus

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Dear God, Thank you for the opportunity to lead this great nation.

You’re welcome.

Whoa – you answered.  That’s new.

Yes, I thought you could use some more direct communication from me over the next few years.

Wow – I’m talking with God.

You were before also. 

Uh,….good point.

Now – how can I help you?

What advice do you have regarding my new assignment?

Protect life.

Oh…abortion; I thought you might have an opinion on that.

I said life; you brought up abortion.   Forget about abortion for the moment.

Okay, you’re the boss.  I mean, um, er, … you’re God.

Back to the life question – shouldn’t the president protect life?

That would seem to be a part of the job…

You don’t sound convinced.

I’m responding carefully.

Very wise. Consider the constitution…“We the people…”  – that’s about life

Makes sense.

“A more perfect Union…”  – that’s about life

Really?

Well, a union of what? States – people live in states – people are living.  It’s about life.

Good point.

Thanks.

“Justice…” – that’s about life.

“Domestic Tranquility…”  – life.

“Common defense…”  – protecting life.

Yes, yes, and yes.

“General welfare…” – life.

Okay.

“Blessings of Liberty…” – for who? Living people – life again.

I’ve never thought of the Constitution that way.

You’re whole job is about life; so is the job of the Legislature and Courts.

Well, when you put it that way, I agree.

Good.  By the way, abortion ends a life.

I thought we might get back to that.

You were right.

What about a woman’s right to choose. 

Complete fiction.

How so?

Read my book, the Bible, and report back to me where you find this concept?

Let me put it on my list.  I’m pretty busy right now.

What about an unwanted pregnancy?

Unwanted by who? Who said I didn’t want it?

What about rape?

What a terrible crime.  There’s a special place in hell reserved for rapists.

So we have an exception.

No.  Simple answer – two wrongs don’t make a right. No matter how difficult this situation is.

What about babies with deformities?

I have a reason for everything and you said the key word, “babies.”

Shouldn’t the parents have some choice in this?

In what?

Whether the baby should come into this earth or not?  I mean a deformed baby.  What kind of a life will it have?

She will have a life, no matter how short.

But isn’t quality important?

Quality according to who? Everyone on this planet has some differing level of “quality of life.” Consider for example the wealthy Swiss banker compared to a black child in the slums of Nairobi.  Should that child be deprived of life because of an arbitrary standard of quality?  Should I allow that child be snuffed because of his economic conditions?

Abortion and infanticide – that’s a little different.

Not according to me.

I understand all the issues, difficulties, crimes related to difficult pregnancies, etc.  There are some truly difficult situations that are hard to understand and deal with.  However, my solution is not to end a life; but to be there, through my children, in these situations.  If a person will come to Me, I am able to provide help, direction and purpose even in difficult circumstances.  I love the mother, father, and baby more than anyone can imagine.

What about if the mother’s life is in danger?

Sin has made every pregnancy dangerous.

What about…

What if, what about, coulda, woulda, shoulda…

What about what I want?  You know – Me! God! :

·         The Maker of heaven and earth.

·         The Giver of life in the first place.

·         The One who breathed life into Adam.

·         The One who came to earth as a baby.

·         The One who died on the cross for all mankind.

·         The One who rose from the dead.

·         The Giver of eternal life.

Life was my idea.  Does anyone care what I want?

Sir, God – I really do care what you think.

Then read my book about this topic.  Read it in its context.  Read it for yourself. Don’t make it say something it doesn’t – like many others do.  And when you’ve come to what I want, adopt the right position and stand firm.  By the way, it’s not the position you currently have.

Many of my voters don’t like your position.

I love them anyway – but they are wrong.

I ran on a platform supporting the right to choose.

A change to the right position is never wrong.

Sigh.  This would be difficult.

Keep coming back, I’ll give you courage.

There are so many issues at the moment: the economy, Iraq, the war on terror, education, the inauguration, transition plans, staff selection, immigration, and on and on.

The protection of the most innocent person imaginable takes priority to all other issues.

I inspired another leader to say it best, “For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows very well. ” (Psalm 139:13-14)

This would be tough.

More than you can ever imagine.  But it would be right.

My constituents won’t like it.

But I would and that’s what matters.

 

(Fyi – I believe God’s sovereignty has led to President-Elect Obama being our next president.  Although I disagree with him on this issue, I am praying for him.  He has a very difficult road ahead and I’m supporting my president as he prepares for office to tackle the enormous responsibilities before him.  I think it is historic in a very positive way that we have elected a black president.  It reflects the true opportunity in this great country in which we live. The picture at the top of this article was snapped as I was driving around Kansas City one day.  It was intriguing and prompted me to write this article.)