Ministry Monday: How Soon is Too Soon to Move On?

I got a call from my friend Rick last week. The pastor of a medium sized church on the east coast, Rick seemed discouraged. “I’ve managed to be successful in shrinking my church in the years since I’ve been here” he said. His church is still far more than a mere handful. But the fact that fewer attend today than when he first came has prompted Rick to question whether it is time for him to make a change. He is coming to the area for a visit in a few weeks and he wants to talk it over with me.

 I am not sure what I should tell him. Rick is a good pastor, at least, by my estimation. He is serious about his work. He cares for his flock. He isn’t afraid to say the hard thing when it is necessary. He is a man of integrity. He is a church builder not a career builder. The word I would use to describe him is “steady.”

 Unfortunately, steady is not very appealing to today’s church. We would rather have dynamic instead. Ours is a Corinthian age which prefers the silken color and flash of Apollos to the plain cloth and reliable stitching of Paul. I suspect that Rick’s ministry is more in the Pauline tradition.

 Pastors often leave one flock to serve another. Some do so because they sense a call from God. Others because they have been forced by circumstances or the ill will of the congregation to make a change. A few are building their resume. How do we know whether we should stay or go? Some years ago I heard Warren Wiersbe say that there are no small churches, no big pastors and that it is always too soon to quit. I think Wiersbe is right. It may be time for my friend to move to a new field of service. But it is too soon for him to quit.

 What would you say to Rick? How do you know whether it is time to move on or not? Are the attendance figures enough?

P.S. Beware of Mondays. I’ve sent more resumes out on Monday than any other day of the week! Many years ago a wise mentor told me to never make a life changing decision on a Monday.