Over the past 15 years of pastoral ministry, I have contemplated quitting at least 3 times. The first time was when I had to dedicate a tiny baby who had passed away after being born three months premature. The second was when my wife was diagnosed with cancer, which I describe in great detail in my book. But the time I most seriously considered quitting took place in the living room of a church member.
He and I had been in almost constant conflict over the course of two years. I was at his house to try to figure out what the problem was, and how we might fix it. With my head in my hands, I poured out my heart to this man I considered my brother in Christ, sharing all the woes and fears that I had faced that year: the break-ins at my home, my wife’s cancer diagnosis, our meager attendance at church. My voice choked with emotion, I confessed to him, “I really could use a break, you know?”
He looked at me, and with a flat voice dripping with contempt, muttered, “You are just so . . . emotional.”
Speechless, I stared at him. I realized then that he didn’t see me as I saw him, as a brother in Christ. I was his enemy, worthy only of his derision, not his compassion. As he met my stare with a stony one of his own, I pledged to myself, “That’s it. I quit.” For months and even years after this experience, I struggled to comprehend why this man viewed me with such disdain. The only thing that I could discern was that his entire small group seemed to collectively hold a pretty dim view of me as their pastor.
For a long time afterwards, I thought that my experience was unique. But as I spoke with other pastors, I realized that this narrative was an altogether common one. ...1