Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

I’ve seen it done wrong. I’ve seen it done right. Firing a pastor is a traumatic thing.

I’VE SEEN IT DONE WRONG.

From seven to seventeen I grew under the ministry of Brother Baker. He was a fine man with strong morals and values. He grew the church from about 75 people to over 500 in worship on Sundays. Five Hundred was a big church in the 1950s and 60s.

When I was in high school two very powerful and influential men decided it was time for the pastor to leave. Mr. Powerful and Mr. Influential decided that was time for Brother Baker to go. They schemed and manipulated to blame failure on the pastor. The church family was “hood winked” into believing Brother Baker needed to be replaced.

I had an inside view. You see, I was best friends with Mr. Influential’s and Mr. Powerful’s two sons. I played golf with Brother Baker and my dad every Saturday afternoon.

I watched the pain and lived through the struggles as my pastor attempted to understand what he’d done wrong. I remember him on the golf course shaking his head in bewilderment wondering about just what he had done to deserve the personal tragedy that was inflicted upon him. He had three fine sons. They are now successful business men. I remember the day they drove out of town so angry and bitter. They hated the church for what it had done to their dad. At least two of them have not darkened the door of a church since.

These two divisive men had no business doing what they did. Brother Baker had done nothing to justify their behavior.

WHEN IS IT TIME TO FIRE YOUR PASTOR?

Let me say as we begin: the reasons I give here are the ones I observe in the Christian church today. They are by no means the only ones.

Let Me Give You Several Guidelines.

1. MORAL FAILURE (Exodus 20:141 Timothy 3:1-13)

This is an easy one. There are consequences to this sin for a pastor like no other. They are no longer qualified to serve as pastors.

I’ve fired people on the administration level and felt no need to tell the whole church.

On the other hand, the congregation must be told about church leaders who fail (1 Timothy 5:20). On too many occasions I’ve had say words like these to the congregation: “I want you to know that X can no longer work in our church. He has done something that violates our trust and compromises his ability to continue in his/her job. I want you to treat him/her and their family with love and grace as we work through this difficult time for both him and the church. I will not tell you what he/she did. But, I want you to remember that there is not one thing he did that many of you haven’t done, too.”

This kind of a speech stops the rumors, let’s the congregation know that leaders don’t get away with sin, and assures the congregation that the matter is not being swept under the rug.

2. FISCAL MALFEASANCE (Jeremiah 2:265:31 Timothy 3:3; and 1 Peter 4:15)