This is the second post in a three-part series. The previous post can be found here.
As we discussed in the previous post, “longevity” is a trait we gravitate toward when seeking to fill any ministry-related role. When a leader leaves, we face misconceptions people may have about that leader or church. Through part of my story of resigning from a church I thought I’d serve indefinitely, I highlighted how an apparent break in longevity could be part of God’s plan to strengthen Christ’s Bride. In my case, it was one of the most shepherding things I could have done.
In this post, I’ll expand on the principal reason I left by discussing another that is closely related: I was tying up financial resources that could be used for reaching the lost and making disciples of all nations.
Walking a Tightrope
The church I helped plant is a body of believers devoted to reaching some of the most unreached, underserved, and economically and socially oppressed groups of people on the planet: the culturally Deaf community and people with other disabilities/different-abilities. This is a diverse body where the Deaf can worship, serve, and live in community alongside the Hearing, and therein become more like the church we see in Revelation 7:9-10, worshiping before the throne of God.
Though many dear brothers and sisters in this demographic faithfully and joyfully give to the church as Scripture calls them to, it is nearly impossible to financially sustain such a mission/ministry without several forms of external support. Statistics show the majority of people within this demographic are unemployed/underemployed and struggle to survive each week on the financial assistance they receive.
In the early stages of planting (and especially with the people group we wanted to reach), there was a LOT of work to accomplish: teaching, shaping, fundraising, and working through melding two cultures on a shoestring budget. This was new ground that had never been broken before and with new ground comes a lot of unknowns and things to figure out. So the church stretched its budget to bring me on full-time to help with these initial needs.
Fast forward to present day and, by God’s grace, there are many gifted and actively involved congregants who could voluntarily take on my day-to-day duties. My salary could easily be used by the church to reach others and spiritually build up the Bride of Christ. Knowing the church needed these funds to fulfill its mission, it seemed selfish and fiscally irresponsible to continue drawing from the very resources that could strengthen the church and expand God’s Kingdom in that community.
Knowing Your Limitations
You might wonder why I didn’t just stay on as a lay elder to maintain the shepherding responsibilities of the flock. In some contexts, this option could work, but it wasn’t the case for me. Between folks who are gifted to serve in our church not stepping up because of my presence (see the previous post) and my own family circumstances, I couldn’t be faithful to God’s people or my responsibilities to my family if I had.
To be clear, my departure did not leave the church without a shepherd or spiritual guidance. Our church has other gifted pastors who faithfully lead the flock to know and treasure Christ, to cling to His Word, and to take the gospel of Christ Jesus to the community around them.
Something to Consider
Although longevity is something pastors should strive toward, I encourage you to be mindful of what is “best” for the spiritual well being of the body, as a whole; particularly if you are a pastor with a specific role, like Worship Pastor or Executive Pastor. If you find you are a “duplicate part” of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), or if you discipled folks who can easily take on your non-pastoral duties and free up financial resources, it could be time to prayerfully consider, with your elder team, whether God is calling you step out of your current role to further his Kingdom.