When Your Pastor Resigns
By: Deji Yesufu
A few days ago, I received a call from a dear pastor friend of mine. This good gentleman told me he had since resigned his pastorate and moved on to other endeavours. The church he used to lead had a certain strong man who made life particularly difficult for this pastor. In many churches, there is either an individual or a group of persons who are the financial backbone of the church, and this person or people tend to want to control how the church is run. In his own case, it was this one man. The pastor left, and the church is trying to carry on with life. Interestingly, this one man who stood against this pastor’s work died after the pastor left. The pastor is gone; the trouble-maker is late; and life must continue.
Pastoral work comes with a lot of challenges. Paul describes it this way: trouble without and trouble within (2 Corinthians 7:5). If one would pastor a people biblically, one should be ready to suffer greatly in the process. This is the reason why hirelings resort to extra-biblical means to empower themselves so that they can stand as tin gods before God’s people and make the people serve them, rather than they serving the flock. But a biblical pastorate is a call to dying and to death. It is the pastor who gives up personal comfort for both himself and his family to meet the need of a congregant. Only to learn later that the same congregant has turned against the pastor.
The Pastor is the one who must lay aside his own health challenges so as to visit a parishioner who is ill. The Pastor brings a sermon to the congregation and get two opposite responses: some people are converted, while others are strengthened in their walk with Christ. On the flip side, from the same sermon, somebody extrapolate a line that he believes was aimed at him to damage his reputation. Those who are weak at heart, having endured this kind of ministry for a while, soon write their resignation and leave the church entirely. It becomes a loss to the two parties: the Pastor has it on his record that he has suffered burn-out and possibly failed in ministry; and the congregation do not have someone to shepherd them spiritually. It is easy to say that another person will be employed until this is done and the church realizes that the former Pastor was indeed God-sent, but they have succeeded at sending him away.
In a time of deep spiritual need; a time when apostasy reign in churches; where false doctrine is at the heart of what many churches teach, if you have a pastor who teaches the gospel, please bear with him – if you lose him, you may never find a worthy replacement. Encourage his ministry, pray for him, and be the one who elongates his ministry, rather than one of those who seek to cut it short. The immense benefit of a biblical pastorate can not be over-emphasized. The heart of the Christian life hinges on our ability to remember. The job of a pastor is simply to remind God’s people what God has done for them, and to encourage them to continue serving the Lord and his people, while placing the hope of eternal life before their eyes continually.
No pastor is perfect. The devil will take your pastor’s weaknesses and blow it out of proportion. Satan will ensure that rather than seeing the good work that the minister is doing, all you see is his mistakes. The devil will ensure that you centre on those mistakes until they become like a mountain such that you are unable to see anything good in him. Soon, you join the group that criticizes the pastor rather than pray for him. You ostracize the pastor rather than support him. And the man of God, who is a spiritual being, will have to struggle to serve you against the weight that such an un-supporting congregation places against him.
Pastoral work is beautiful. Recently, I had the immense privilege of teaching a fourteen-year girl how to pray. It is an art I had perfected over the years and never thought much of it until she asked. After teaching her, I asked her later how her prayer life has been. She said it has literally been revolutionized. She now prays more for others and less for and has now become increasingly more concerned for others and less for herself. In the process, she sees God meeting her needs while she positions herself to meet the needs of others. There are other benefits of pastoral work: there are the “eureka” moments – where congregants suddenly understand a biblical truth. Some of these truth could be as sublime a truth as one that brings a sinner to salvation; others helping people to comprehend gospel realities, and stationing them in a state in life where they can serve God and others more. When your pastor leaves the pastorate, you lose all of these; and a whole generation afterwards may never encounter these spiritual blessings again.
The one time that a Pastor should be corrected is when he may have gotten a doctrinal truth wrong. A truth that has a tendency at producing wrong practices in himself and others. In such a case, the Pastor must be lovingly and carefully approached and shown his errors. If you do not do this, you partake in the errors of the minister. If you do it, you join in saving a minister from a false path. If, perchance, the man of God refuses to see your point, you must then give yourself to prayer and wait. If this erroneous doctrine this minister is pushing is beginning to bear the fruit you fear both in him and the congregation, you must take the step further and approach other ministers who might have his ears on the matter. If he is still unrepentant, you must leave the congregation to draw attention to his errors. However, what usually happens is that many people take actions against ministers not for a doctrinal matter but for practices or mistakes made. They build upon some ill feeling and use those to excuse their leaving the congregation. In such cases, such individuals would have to leave, and then they go on to become some trouble somewhere else.
To ward off some of these troubles, some ministers resign. In some cases, the resignation is with acceptance that they had failed in their calling and must step down from the exalted seat of ministry. In other cases, their resignation is a protest against the congregation’s lack of cooperation. In both cases, the pastor’s resignation is not a good sign. The congregation must then weigh the matter very carefully and ensure that if they ever find a shepherd to lead them again, these issues are not repeated. A congregation that gives its minister full support is a blessed congregation indeed.
There is so much to do for the Lord Jesus outside that churches must resist the temptation for infighting. Except the issues are extremely weighty, most matters in church are not worth dividing over. The divisive person who continually stands against the minister at fulfilling his ministry will receive his judgement from God. A congregation can be Moses’ Aaron and Hur, upholding the hands of their pastor through prayers and support. The Pentecostals have gotten this part right – especially with their generous donations to the pastor. This is not a subtle request for anyone to give to those of us in ministry. We should, however, realize that pastoral ministry is such an immense work and that those who help the minister in doing his work will partake of the minister’s reward. Those who frustrate true pastors and lead them to leave the pastorate through resignation will earn their judgement both in this life and in the life to come.