8 More Signs It May be Time to Leave Your Church

Yesterday, I dealt with some “positive” signs that it may be time for pastors to leave their churches. Today, I talk about some negative signs to consider.   

  1. The salary the church offers simply can’t provide for your family. I seldom recommend making a decision based on salary, for fear that it suggests not trusting God; on the other hand, the line between trusting God and hurting your family can be a fine one indeed. You are responsible for taking care of your family. 
  2. You’ve lost the confidence of leaders because of poor decisions. It happens – and young leaders are especially susceptible here. Leaders make what they believe at the time are good decisions, but they really aren’t the best for the church. After a while, the task of regaining the confidence and trust of other leaders is almost too daunting and time consuming.
  3. Despite your best efforts, deep-seated movers and shakers (who, often, are themselves undiscipled) are not on board with your leadership. No leader should reach this conclusion hastily – certainly not without strong, intentional, patient leadership to get others on board – but some lay leaders remain entrenched, with no intention to allow any leader to change their congregation. 
  4. Godly leaders believe the church needs new leadership. With this sign, everything rides on the word “godly.” If leaders whose spiritual walk I genuinely trust believe it is time for me to step aside, I hope I would not ignore their combined spiritual wisdom. 
  5. You no longer support the church’s fundamental doctrines. In my own Southern Baptist tradition, the churches I’ve pastored affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message doctrinal statement. They hired me knowing that I, too, affirmed that document. If I were to change my position on those doctrines, I would feel compelled to be honest with the congregation that hired me when I believed differently.
  6. The church has taken an unbiblical position despite your leadership. If the church reaches a conclusion you believe is unbiblical in spite of your leading otherwise (e.g., teaching that Jesus is not the only way to God, or refusing to deal with blatant sin), you likely cannot lead further without continual conflict. Even your attempts to change their minds again will be draining.
  7. Conflict and criticism are harming your family. I’m especially concerned about spouses and children who sometimes bear the brunt of a pastor’s daily heartache. There is nothing godly about weakening your family’s faith because you choose to “hang in there.” 
  8. It’s time to retire. Not many pastors I know step down easily after serving a church for a number of years. I have known several, in fact, who seemingly stayed too long without an intentional transition plan – and their departure was not always positive. 

What other reasons would you add to this list? 

6 Comments

  • Tracey says:

    Dr. Lawless, do you have a list like this for the church member? I have a friend who is considering leaving their church and I have been praying for God to give clear direction. In your experience, is there any counsel I could or should offer? (By the way, I enjoyed our time with you at FPO. I realized after you left that you were the author of a book a friend gave me for Christmas. I brought it to FPO with me to read before we are sent out. “NOBODIES FOR JESUS”. Your sessions have been my favorites! I hope to see you again one day. We are also from NC.) GOD bless you.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Tracey. I haven’t written that kind of list yet, but I’m working on it. Hope you enjoy Nobodies

  • Shae says:

    The sad thing about #6 is that whatever sin is not dealt with within the church the next pastor “inherits”. That could explain the short tenure of pastors these days: an endless cycle of godly pastors in an unrepentant church.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Shae. Good point. 

      • Shae says:

        let’s say it’s time to go – do you tell the congregation why you are leaving? do you spill your guts or use the generic “God is leading me somewhere else”?

        • Chuck Lawless says:

          How you leave is, in my opinon, more important than how you came — so I would do my best to leave on a high note. While there may be a right place to share your concerns before you leave (e.g., perhaps with an elder or deacon in some churches), I would not “spill my guts.” Thanks, Shae. 

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