Ah! The myth of greener grass! Many pastors seem to be constantly on the move, searching for that ideal congregation and that opportunity for more peaceful service. There exists the potential for a pastor to fall into a vicious cycle.
The cycle begins when a pastor begins his work with a new or different ministry. He develops ideas, plans, and goals for the ministry. Then he meets resistance upon presenting these new ideas to the congregation. The resistance leads to his discouragement and to his quitting mentally. Ultimately, he ends up looking for a new opportunity. It seems that some interpret resistance as a sign to move on.
Because of the weakness of the flesh, it is not unusual to want to run from difficulty. Some can't bear the thought of confrontation. Leaving an unpleasant situation seems to be the logical answer. If that becomes a pastor's regular response to trouble, then it would be better for him not to unpack all of his boxes.
You can't read far in the Bible before you realize that such a response to adversity would have kept many biblical heroes from accomplishing the tasks assigned to them by God. In fact, given our Enemy, we seldom accomplish anything worthwhile without enduring a great deal of opposition, sometimes without seeing outward results.
In considering whether or not it is time to go, keep several important facts in mind.
1. God determines the place of one's service and the time of its duration. Remember Paul's dilemma in Acts 16. He had plans for places of service that were not within the will of God. During this redirection process God clearly turned Paul away from his own path to the path of God's choosing. We need to realize that the aspects of service must be determined within the will of God.
2. Resistance doesn't always indicate a need for a change of venue. Resistance to new ideas surfaces even among the best of God's people. Sometimes a church may resist spiritual growth and development because of carnal attitudes, false doctrines, or unbiblical philosophies held by members of the congregation. According to II Timothy 2:23-26, these attitudes can be corrected only by patient instruction over a period of time. When the pastor chooses to run from confrontation, the people are left captive to their error.
3. It has been my observation that significant ministry requires years of consistent work. Someone has suggested that it takes five years before a man is really the pastor of a church. During those years the congregation is observing and evaluating the man's maturity, his love, and his fidelity to biblical truth. Once those things are established, he can move forward with a new agenda and ideas. False doctrine and unbiblical practices encountered in a new ministry must be corrected at once. However, attitudes, prejudices, and reluctance to change as the result of past hurts sometimes take several years of teaching Christian principles and demonstrating Christian love to overcome.
So, when is it time to go? It is time to go when God has taken away the burden for a particular ministry. No pastor should occupy a pulpit for which his soul does not burn. If a man does not covet the spiritual growth and development of the people and long to reach his community with the gospel, it is time for someone else to take up that office.
God has gifted pastors in different ways. Some do an excellent job of starting a new church. Other men are wonderful at soothing anguished hearts and calming troubled waters. Others skillfully encourage people toward greater spiritual maturity. To those whose gifts lie in particular areas, it is time to go when those goals have been achieved and the resources and vision for further development are exhausted.
According to Romans 12:1 and 2, you can know when it's time to go by having your life completely given over to God. You should not seek to be conformed to this age, but have a mind that is being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. When you fulfill these conditions, you will know when it's time to go.
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