Common Reasons Pastors Abandon Ministry
The most common reason Pastors abandon ministry is they were never "called" to begin with. I am not saying this is the only reason, only that which is most common. How could I possibly know this? As a Preacher, first, called by the Lord God, and Pastor second, it is impossible to “quit” and remain cognitively and spiritually intact. What the “self-called” do not understand is how relentless the Holy Spirit is. More simply – God never let’s go in the sense we understand. He never visits us without leaving something behind. Whether it be good, or not, is up to us largely.
Preacher/Pastors are called to serve the highest court in the Universe. However, this is demanding speaking from personal experience. As a result, many decide to abandon ministry altogether. The Prophet Jeremiah, as well as Elijah, made just such an attempt - read how they worked out for them. If a church leader quits and remains cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually intact, they were never called to begin with!
Some of the most common Pastor quit are:
1. They were never called. This is the most common reason for abandoning the Lord's charge regardless of what you have heard.
2. Accepting too much stress. Pastors get stressed, and eventually burned out, because they acquire stress God never assigned. This leads to difficulty remaining in ministry longer term.
3. Real feelings of isolation. For the true-called Shepherds, this is a very real and understandable. I am isolated, but the Lord has called me, so He is always with me. I also attempted to make friends with other local Pastors, but have found them most untrustworthy.
4. Unrequired conflict at church. There is “required” conflict in the Spirit realm, and then there is the “unrequired”. The required comes as a matter of people's anger at the preached Word and being confronted by leadership. The unrequired brand often comes because Pastors are most effective at robbing people of their free will! More simply – they “beat sheep” instead of “leading sheep”. As is true in any abusive relationship, the abused eventually strike back.
5. Acting like God. Although they would never admit it – 95% of church leaders truly believe they are “more special” than other gifts within the body. They have no biblical proof of this, other than ignorant sheep who "faint" in their presence. I experience this regularly and find it is sickening. In trying to be “everything to everyone”, leaders wind up burned out, without the ability to be “anything to anyone”.
6. Overcome by personal sin. Not much comment here because this can happen to anyone, at any time, whether called or not.
In summary, there are certain reasons Pastors quit, and chief among them is they were never called by God to begin with. I know this seems harsh, but as I said earlier, God is relentless and there are life altering consequences for walking away if assigned to the work. For those who walk away and never feel led to return, praise the Lord! You are one (1) of the self-appointed regardless of even "pure" motives for "going".
Pastors Abandon Ministry Due to Health
Pastors abandon ministry because of health reasons as well. This is real, relative, and should not be mocked. Even the “crooked Pastors”, and “uncalled hirelings”, suffer in this way. Although I do not wish ill health on anyone, whatever it takes for the Lord to drive away the “chaff”, I approvingly support. Yet this occurs with Jesus's real followers as well.
Church leaders are human beings even though many mistakenly believe otherwise. God promised us no immunization to the stresses of church leadership. If Jesus Christ wasn’t immune to “great stress” (the night He was arrested), can we expect anything less? He did say: "a servant cannot be greater than their master", correct?
Here are catalysts which cause health issues with leadership:
1. Less faithfulness to God and more to others. Whether long hours, high expectations, member issues, or ongoing internal conflict, faith struggles are real. Shepherds lose faith, and too often carry weight never meant for our shoulders. I have been guilty of this as well. For example, our church recently had a longtime member pass away. For many months, we did not see her because we were not let into the home. We did not go back, expecting a call from the family if they needed anything. Nevertheless, they never called the church. Her daughter said, even after I explained the situation: "we still should not have to call. You should have kept knocking on the door." Wait, what? They were hurt, and I sat there feeling as if I had done something wrong.
2. Failure to seek out someone to confide in. The only friends I have, outside of the Body of Christ, are old Marine Corps buddies. As indicated above, I do not, for very good reason, trust local Pastors, so who do I confide in? For me, it is a professional counselor! Yes, I said it, and our church just finished a sermon series on mental health in the church. There are Christian counselors but more importantly, real Preachers are skilled enough to filter any unbiblical advice.
3. Battles with “pew pastors”. Congregants are neither Pastor, or church leader, yet believe they should lead us. Those who refuse to be led by these "blind leaders of the blind" are fired and destroyed. Most of these battles revolve around personality, finance, and church direction. This wears on leaders because they are gentle souls with a fear of the Lord God. This is not always true but in my vast experience, it is 90% of the time.
4. Family problems. What occurs in church always, without exception, leaks into our homes. This causes confrontation with our spouses. They want to protect us, don’t understand our mission, and add further stress when only trying to help. Further, an unbalanced lifestyle will eventually show up in one’s health which also matriculates into the home.
5. Fear of our family being harmed. Personally, I do not care about being threatened by others, or being a "punching bag" for God’s people. I was born for this however, I draw the line when this extends to my wife. While I will never say “I fear someone harming her”, for me, I fear what I will do when it occurs. This struggle causes blood pressure and anger issues as well.
6. Moral or ethical issue failure. My confidence is in the Lord Jesus, but my flesh, well. We have so much to lose when these things happen, and if I fear little else, this I do! As with anything, there are “levels” to failure.
In summary, church leaders abandon both God and ministry over health-related issues as well. Mostly, in my experience anyway, this comes with age. Although I am sure younger leaders do this, all I have witnessed are elderly Pastors whose health is failing. Let me be clear – they have not abandoned the church nor God. As a great man once said: "I may give out, but I will never give up”.
What Happens When Pastors Quit
When Pastors quit, they face a future of ongoing struggle, regret, and self-condemnation. But this is a complex question with many scenarios. For this section, and to offer truth, I will only speak for what I would go through having done something so catastrophic. These are just the "knowns", and do not include the "unknowns" which would accompany this choice. By abandon, I mean the preaching, not the Pastoring. Pastoring is simple a platform to carry out the real anointing - preaching!
Here are things I would suffer if I abandoned the Lord and my life’s purpose:
1. Instant regret. Life has shown me that short of death, “regret” is the toughest emotion to manage. Worse, we know what God’s Word says about “casting all our cares upon Him because He cares for us” and we did not. Letting other people down is one (1) thing, but the Creator of the Universe, who entrusted us with a message few others ever receive? Oh boy.
2. Probable massive depression. I offer “probable” because depression is not something I deal with very often. Perhaps only twice in more than five (5) decades of life, and even then, it was fleeting at best. FYI – I have another “affliction of resiliency” which serves as an anti-dote to staying down too long (aka depression). However, walking away from the purpose of my birth (Preaching) would most likely push me there once again.
3. Lifelong shame. Even if I recovered from abandoning God and His people, which is not likely, the shame for having done so would be overwhelming. However, some who walk away have been given clearance by the Lord to do so. Let us not forget His command, to His disciples, with respect to “shaking the dust off their sandals”.
In summary, there are consequences for leaving a church and walking away from the Lord and His people. I am sure church leaders could add to the list. Nevertheless, do not give up on God because He will never give up on you (as the song says).
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