The decision to
leave a church is often filled with emotion. Here are
some suggestions that may bring some clarity to the
is a matter of God's calling. Even if the church is
growing and ministry is meaningful, when God pulls at
you to leave, pay attention. If that pull is strong,
clear, and persistent, it may well be the Lord's signal
that it is time to leave. Seek counsel from a trusted
friend before deciding. A multitude of counselors offers
safety (see Prov. 24:6).
Circumstances sometimes make it necessary to leave. For
example, family health problems, special education needs
for children, financial necessities, transfer, and
safety for your family.
If the church has outgrown your ability to serve
effectively, and you see no opportunity for your skills
to grow and develop further, and you become a hindrance
to the future growth and ministry of the church, it may
be time to step aside. On the other hand, you may have
outgrown the church. If you stay, you will stagnate.
Leaving, therefore, is not arrogance but simply good
stewardship of God's resources manifested in you.
Anyone can burn out. When
your energy, focus, enthusiasm, and joy are emptied out,
a decision is needed. Be careful that the decision to
leave is not made in haste when burnout is involved.
Perhaps a leave of absence for recovery and renewal is a
possibility. If so, take it. If the church is impatient
with your renewal time and you can't give any more
energy to the ministry there, consider starting the
process for leaving.
churches have conflict. However, when conflict over your
ministry and leadership is dividing, damaging, and
destroying the fellowship and mission of the church,
leaving is an option. Some churches are pathologically
dysfunctional and can damage you and your family. You
become the scapegoat for their anger and frustration.
Leaving can be justified. Don't remain until you or your
family are seriously hurt.
Sometimes the length of a pastor's stay can reach a
point of diminishing return. When you and the church are
slipping in vision, enthusiasm, and zeal, and staying is
creating a negative backlash, then relocation may be the
best thing for you and the church.
When unethical conduct such as lying, cheating, sexual
misconduct, or stealing has destroyed the people's trust
and support, the wise decision is to leave.
Doctrinal unity is essential for a
healthy church. If your theological and doctrinal
beliefs are fundamentally counter to that of the church
to the degree that it threatens the fellowship of the
church, then integrity may call for you to leave.
Ministers must make a
living to minister. If the church cannot provide a
livelihood, then you must either leave or enter
bivocational ministry. Caring for your family is a high
and biblical priority. Thousands of wonderful ministers
are bivocational. Don't hesitate to consider this
honorable way of doing ministry.
In the final
analysis, no one of these factors, taken alone, should
cause you to leave a place where God has called you to
The Holy Spirit of God may overrule every
suggestion in this article and instruct you to stay just
where you are. Do your best to determine prayerfully the
will of God, and follow His plan. These suggestions may
help you determine what He wants you to do.
(Adapted from Nonis Smith, "When Is It Time to Leave?"
MBC Pastor's Manual)