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Home > 2013 > March Online Only > Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Part Two)

Knowing when to go

The bedroom community of Irving near Dallas felt like a pair of broken-in jeans and a sweatshirt. No place on earth could have been more comfortable. The congregation at Irving Bible Church spoke Texan. I understood their culture and could meet their needs before they knew they had them. Many of them were students, even a few faculty at Dallas Seminary, so we had no theological differences. Moreover, I had lots of friends in the area. As the church began to grow, Cynthia and I sank our roots deeper. After just a few months, I thought, I could do this for the rest of my life.

Four years later, I absent-mindedly opened the mail. Among the other letters, I noticed an envelope from the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California. Intrigued, I sliced open the letter and began reading. They had been without a pastor for almost two years and wanted me to visit their church and preach one Sunday—an invitation to consider serving there as pastor. In this case, there were no obligations on either side. No expectations. Just a casual Sunday with a possible future. But I was so content in Irving, I saw no reason even to consider visiting some other church—especially one in Southern California.

Around that time, Bill Gothard had just begun his youth-conflict seminars, and I wanted to attend one myself before sending any of our church members at Irving. Because I was going to be in the area, I agreed to preach a couple of my familiar sermons on Sunday. I would be what churches call "pulpit supply." And that was all! I emphasized that I was not candidating; I merely offered to be one of their many guest preachers that year.

As I prepared to leave, Cynthia said, "You might not be looking at them, but you can be sure they'll be looking at you!"

When I returned home, Cynthia met me at the airport with her hands over her ears and a smile on her face. Like me, she didn't want to hear anything that would pull us away from Irving. Like me, she saw no reason to leave; we loved our life and ministry in Texas. Our kids were healthy and happy. Why leave all this? Once we were in the car, however, she took a deep breath. "Okay, I want to hear all about it."

I said, "I don't know how to explain this. The situation in Irving is good. We've tripled in size, we just completed our new sanctuary and we need to pay for it—not a great time for a pastor to leave—and I could see us serving here indefinitely. I can't think of a reason not to remain here. Yet, everything inside me says it's the right time to go."

Again, I'm not one who makes decisions based on intuition. I'm a facts-'n'-figures guy. But I had since learned to listen to my instincts. If I may, my gut shouted, "Go!"

We agreed to have the leadership put me before the congregation as a candidate. A vote of the church members would determine whether they would extend a call. The search committee warned ahead of time that the church rarely if ever voted unanimously on anything. But, without telling anyone, I had already prayed, "Lord, if it's not unanimous, I will remain where I am." I thought, This is a good way to know if I'm making the right decision.

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Related Topics:ChangeDecision MakingDiscernmentFuturePlanning
Posted: March 4, 2013

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Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

Bobby

March 13, 2013  8:32am

Three good lessons for leaving a home and family that you love. That's a terrible last memory, but one that I'm sure other pastors can relate to. Many unfortunate things are said when we are forced to say "goodbye" before we're ready. But that doesn't make them sting any less.

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Chris Rookus

March 12, 2013  5:19pm

I think we (pastors) can be logical and text-driven more naturally but DO tend to wonder what it really is to follow the leading of the Spirit, specifically in things like this that frankly can be argued either way by logic and text. And I think Chuck tells of an experience in this article that explains the practical look of the Spirit's leading. No, it wasn't writing on the wall for everyone looking for that answer, but then again, is this where I look for those answers? No. But I do look here for examples and advice, history, ideas etc... I've talked to many pastors and friends about this topic, and it has been presented in many ways, to stay and remain "faithful to the task" or to "listen to the leading of the Spirit" - tough call - I thought this was helpful! Thanks Chuck!

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Jack Brooks

March 05, 2013  11:01am

This was not helpful on the question, "Should a pastor stay or go?" Chuck only refers to his gut feelings, which aren't authorized in Scripture as a criteria for divine guidance. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1 that he and his team felt the sentence of death in their hearts while in Asia, but they didn't die. Their gut feelings were not God's voice.

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