I don’t believe the true role of pastor can be fulfilled as a hired hand. If it becomes obvious that’s all you’ll ever be, it’s probably time to leave.
2. You Can No Longer Trust the Church Leadership
I won’t work with people I can’t trust.
In one church, I started as most pastors do, with very little salary. The church had been through tough times. Tithes had dried up. But I was told, in writing, that if I hit certain ministry and fiscal goals for the church, they would pay me a wage on which I could support my family.
When the time came, the church hadn’t just hit the goals, we had exceeded them. But the church leaders broke their promise to me. One of them told me, “I don’t care what you have in writing. You’re not getting an extra penny.” Yes, in those exact words.
It’s not about the money. It’s about trust. And no, suing them didn’t even enter my mind. God save us from displaying that tragic spectacle to the world. Like Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7, I’d rather be cheated.
But if I can’t trust the leaders, I won’t work with them. At some point their lack of truthfulness would undermine my integrity, too. That is something I will never allow. And neither should you.
3. Your Family Would Pay too Steep a Price
The details of this one are still too painful to relate, but I’ll say this. Disagree with me all you want. Tell me to my face and let’s deal with the issue. But when you do something to hurt my kids because you disagree with me . . .
Pastoral ministry must always put God first, family second, church third. It’s not always easy to be in a pastor’s family. And there will always be a price to pay. But there are lines that should never be crossed.
4. You Love them, But Don’t Like Them
The “should we leave?” meeting is one of the hardest conversations a pastor and spouse will ever have.
Shelley and I have had two of them (three, if you count the assistant pastor position I left to become a lead pastor).
At one of them, we realized that staying and helping the church turn around would be long, painful and costly to us and our family. After assessing the situation, I blurted out “Well, that’s it, then. I don’t like these people enough to do that for them.” I didn’t know I felt it until I heard myself say it.