Several years ago, a prominent pastor announced his resignation to a shocked congregation.
I knew something about this pastor because he had taught me in school and had once led a retreat for our youth group.
After his announcement, I went online and read comments from people who loved this pastor and appreciated his ministry.
They didn’t buy the public reasons he gave for leaving. They wanted to know the real reasons.
Why do at least 1,500 pastors leave church ministry every month?
Let me share five real reasons:
First, they’re tired of fighting a handful of antagonists.
Most pastors – about 75% – are feelers rather than thinkers. No matter how much they claim they can handle constructive criticism, any criticism wounds them to the core.
There are people in every church who have figured this out. They know instinctively that if they continually find fault with their pastor, he will wilt, become ineffective, and eventually quit.
While these people know the pastor’s values, the pastor doesn’t know theirs.
Regardless of church size, when push comes to shove, most pastors leave a church because of a group of 7-10 individuals.
The pastor of a megachurch once told me that no matter how well things went on Sunday, he received a barrage of critical comments on Monday.
When the criticism occurs week after week, month after month, and year after year, it’s no wonder some pastors finally say, “I’m out of here! I’ve had enough.”
This is why every pastor needs a few spiritual bodyguards who will serve as his protectors and encouragers.
Second, they’re frustrated in their efforts to reach their community for Christ.
If a church truly wants to reach people for Jesus, it will have to make some changes.
It will have to make changes in its worship service(s) … in its leadership structure … in the way funds are allocated … in the way decisions are made … in the way people interact with Scripture.
While some Christians are eager to make such changes, many … if not most … are not.
Too many believers have a vested interest in keeping things the same – year after year – regardless of how effective their church is.
I hesitate to quote Robert Schuller at this point, but I’m going to do it anyway because I believe he’s right. I once heard him say:
“Any church can grow if it puts the needs of the unchurched ahead of the churched.”
He’s not saying that a pastor should ignore the needs of his people. Far from it.
But if a pastor only focuses on pleasing the congregation he already has, few if any people (other than the kids of believers) will come to faith in Jesus Christ.
If evangelism isn’t front-loaded, it won’t happen.
The pastor of a rapidly growing church once told me that as his church grew, Christians were constantly trying to get him to change the church’s mission so that it focused exclusively on believers. Pastors can sense this resistance.
When the pastor is the only one who really cares about reaching the community – and this happens in all too many churches – don’t be surprised if he quietly disappears.
Third, many pastors are tired of being so lonely.
Why is this? Two thoughts:
*For starters, pastors carry around the problems and pains of their people 24/7.
If you’re in a small group, you know about the sufferings of a handful of people. But the larger a church grows, the more problems come to the pastor’s attention … and if he’s a caring pastor, he’ll be thinking and praying about those problems constantly.
And most pastors are legally forbidden from sharing the problems of counselees with anyone else … even their wives.
Many times, I’d be out with my wife, and she’d wonder why I was staring into space … but I couldn’t tell her that I was hurting for someone at church.
*In addition, pastors know they can have friends at church … just not close friends.
It’s simple: a pastor’s primary vocational problems concern others in his church … like staffers … and board members … and loudmouthed antagonists … and the pastor does not want to run down those people to others.
Because if the pastor really opened up about how he felt, his feelings might get around the church … and hurt people … and hasten his own demise.
So he remains silent … and talks only to people outside the church … if he can find someone who will listen.
Christian counselors will listen … but they can cost a lot of money.
Pastoral colleagues might listen … if you can set up an appointment three weeks in advance.
Many pastor’s wives will listen … but the pastor can’t tell her everything.
Many pastors quit because it’s lonely at the top … and they’re tired of being perpetually lonely.
I’ll add two more reasons next time!