Resignation Fever Revisited

March 29, 2006

I received more feedback from last week’s entry called Resignation Fever than anything I’ve written since starting this weblog. Evidently I touched a nerve by raising a topic we all acknowledge but rarely talk about. Here are few sample responses (with all identifying details removed):

I continue to be extremely disillusioned with our home church. I struggle with the fact that previously as an extremely active member, I was called to be a member of the Pulpit Committee and ultimately have been so dissatisfied with our choice. At the time of our search, we considered all candidates in continued prayer; however, the majority of us now all also feel responsible for making a grave error in our choice for a pastor and the direction in which he has taken the church.

Then there was this bit of wisdom:

My first pastor used to say that when young men would ask his counsel about entering the pastorate, he would tell them that if there was anything else they could do, they should. He told them it was a calling and a very difficult albeit rewarding one. Rewarding in the sense of serving God to their utmost ability, even while recognizing that the road would not be smooth. He spoke from great experience as our church had just undergone a huge split shortly after he became the pastor because he did not tickle the ears – he preached the whole of God’s Word.

The first two comments came from church members. This came from a pastor:

Thank you for your piece on Resignation Fever. You are absolutely correct in your assessment! We as brothers in Christ, who served as Shepherds of God’s flock, need to continually encourage each other with this truth: “You go into the ministry because God called you, and you stay there because the joy of seeing lives changed by the power of God outweighs the trouble you will inevitably face. It’s a matter of relative values.”

I received an email from two people who tried to leave two different churches as graciously as possible. In both cases, there were unavoidable misunderstandings. Then there was this:

I’m an associate pastor in a United Methodist Church. I’m also seeing friends fall out of ministry and leave the ministry. I’ve agonized about it myself.

Earlier this week I had lunch with a pastor who had read the entry and shard his concern over the pressures inside many local churches.
In all of this I am somewhat comforted that this is not a new problem. Read the New Testament and see for yourself. The church at Corinth was deeply divided into different groups following different leaders. The church had Rome had a meat-eating faction, a vegetarian faction, a wine-drinking faction, a non-wine-drinking faction, and so on. Paul repeatedly exhorted Christians to work toward unity because it is a precious and rare commodity.
I think it would be well if we told young pastors to expect trouble at some point in their ministry. Most of them will spend time serving people who won’t entirely appreciate their efforts. Sometimes they can work around it; sometimes they will end up moving on to other churches. Occasionally they will end up leaving the ministry altogether. I still think the blessings outweigh the problems, but I’ve been on both sides of this issue, and it would help if we gave pastors a realistic idea of what they will face as they serve the Lord and his people. As they say on the street, “It’s all good,” and when God is involved, it is all good, but it’s not always easy. Two months ago a pastor friend who has gone through a hard time told me he’s thinking about writing a book called “The Ministry is Not for Sissies.”
He’s right about that.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?