Thursday, May 23, 2024
Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeAll The NewsHEALTHY CHURCH: Why Leave A Church?

HEALTHY CHURCH: Why Leave A Church?

      There are many reasons that a pastor might decide to move to another ministry such as opportunity, an open door, a bigger congregation, a chance for full-time ministry and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. There are other explanations as well that must be navigated in the minister’s heart and quiet time with the Lord. A greater concern is the prospect that your well has dried up and the stark reality that you cannot give what you do not possess. Remember, doing things for Christ must flow out of your being with Him daily. Do not allow the motivating factors to be discouragement, criticism, difficulties or the prospect of “greener grass.”

      In Pastoral Transitions (A Seamless Handoff of Leadership), Author Dr. Gary Smith said, “The leader who is transitioning out must first devote as much time as necessary to hear from God on this issue. However long it takes and whatever spiritual activity is needed must be granted so that he can discern God’s heart for him and the church. Fasting, prayer retreats, sabbaticals, discussions with his spouse, open communication with close friends and confidants, appropriate literature, wisdom from leaders who transitioned successfully, as well as others who did not — these all must be priority for the pastor who wants to see a good conclusion.”

      The importance of hearing God’s voice clearly in this matter cannot be overstated. Slow down, seek counsel and be still before the Lord. This process should never be hurried, frantic or rushed. Notice the admonition of Scriptures. Psalm 23:2 tells us that our Good Shepherd leads us beside “still waters.” Psalm 4:4 (HCSB) reminds us, “reflect in your heart and be still.” Psalm 131:2 (ESV) says, “I have calmed and quieted my soul.” Psalm 46:10 challenges us to “be still and know that I am God.” One Hebrew word for “be still” means to let go of your grip. God does not want us to proceed with what we think is best but to discover what He knows is best.

      Pastoral transitions matter for the pastor leaving and for the congregation that is navigating the challenge of the passing of the baton. More often than not, the baton gets dropped. The importance of this process being handled wisely and with humility is the only chance of there being a seamless transition that maintains the momentum and/or forward movement Christ desires for His church. Frankly, the methods many churches and pastors follow can actually set the church back when they are overly focused on resumes, qualifications, likeability and status. Once a bad decision is made, it can be years before you recover.

      If you are not careful, it can be treated more as a job interview than a man called to ministry being called to a specific place of service. Many churches and ministries try to fill a spiritual position utilizing man-made methods. Yes, utilize the tools, if they are applicable, but never bypass the process of prayer, fasting and being still before the Lord. There is an old adage that says it is better to want what you don’t have (a pastor), than to have what you don’t want (the wrong pastor). Some churches have almost never recovered from the wrong fit because character, competency and charisma are important, but so is chemistry.

      It begins with the man of God who is unwilling to climb the ladder by seeking larger churches or bigger and better opportunities but rather seeking God’s face and His direction. It also requires a congregation looking for “God’s” man that will lead and shepherd them in a biblically compassionate fashion. The nation of Israel suffered from their choice of Saul because of how impressive he appeared — he was handsome and stood a head taller than everyone else. In this process, take time to “be still” by letting go of your grip which tends to add man-made requirements more than God-given necessities.

      Dr. Gary Smith continued, “The most important ingredient for a successful transition, by far, is humility. I have asked those on all sides — the outgoing pastor, incoming pastor, laymen, staff — and all agree, where there is humility, there is success and God is glorified. James 4:6 declares, ‘God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.’ And, if ever there was a time when church leadership and God’s people needed grace, it is during transition.” A pastor or a church navigating God’s next steps must spend the necessary time discovering God’s agenda and then doing everything they can to join Him there.

      Make sure you utilize all of the tools available today in this process such as background checks, personality tests, resumes, references, questionnaires, interviews and track record. Several of these tools are more important today than ever before but never forget that nothing can replace the experience of knowing the new leader over several years. That is why you need to check the references of their references. Pastors you need to talk to the those who have served the church as pastor in the past. No matter how many sermons are reviewed and interviews are conducted, you can never know for sure how he will lead under pressure.

      Here are some great questions to ask about the potential candidate:

      • What has his leadership style been where he has served in the past?

      • How has he loved and reached out in the community where he now lives?

      • Has he served living more outwardly focused than inwardly focused? Remember, a change of scenery does not guarantee a change of character.

      • How has he lived out the Great Commission by making disciples and developing leaders? Is there evidence of this happening because we have a saying at BMA Global when we assess potential missionaries — “fund fruit not fantasy.”

      Pastors, make sure your motives are pure and be still before the Lord by letting go of your grip. Serve faithfully where He calls you and submit to His calling on your life and His leadership in the process. Criticism will crush you if you are not walking with Him continuously, and praise will corrupt you if you do not remain humble. Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Guard the good deposit through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

      For more content, email me at for a copy of the Senior Pastor Transition Checklist.