Top ten list: When you’re voted out

From June/July 2005 issue of Rev. magazine

Two years ago, I shared with Rev. readers my Top Ten Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Church.

      10. While you’re on vacation, the deacons change the locks on the parsonage.

      9. Three of those negative votes on your pastoral vote come from your spouse and children.

      8. For pastor appreciation month, your church gives you a gift certificate for American Van Lines.

      7. Your picture is on the cover of Rev.—as well as The National Enquirer.

      6. Your name mysteriously vanishes from the church signboard.

      5. Your church newsletters start coming back with “REFUSED” written across the front.

      4. Parishioners who used to greet you at the front door with “Good sermon, pastor,” start asking, “Did you hear that great message by that big-haired televangelist this morning?”

      3. People schedule their surgeries while you’re on vacation.

      2. You experience health problems (you’re sick of them and they’re sick of you).

      1. Your administrative assistant starts answering the phone “Pastoral Search Committee.”

Let the record show that my senior pastor wife has not had her picture on the cover of The National Enquirer, but after sixteen years of faithful service, she’s been told it’s time to leave.

But the Right Reverend Lois has been absolutely gracious—heart-broken—but gracious. Last week in Bible study she prayed for the church to find just the right successor and prayed for a smooth transition between her and the next pastor. I’m afraid I’m still in the stage of calling down Exodus-size plagues on the church board.

So, I have in my right hand, direct from the parsonage filled with packing boxes:

Top Ten Tips for Leaving a Church after You’ve Been Voted Out

10. Make sure you’ve saved all your cardboard boxes from the last move.

9. Resist the temptation to tell the [fill in your own creative adjectives] board or bishop exactly what you think of their [more creative adjectives go here] decision.

8. Don’t tell your children what you think of the [creative adjectives here] board or bishop. Tell them something like, “Just like you sometimes have disagreements with your friends, sometimes pastors have disagreements with the church leaders. But you will find new friends, and Mommy and Daddy will find another church or ministry.”

7. Rejoice that ouster from churches no longer involves stoning . . . or flogging or burning at the stake.

6. Be very public in praying for a smooth transition and wishing the congregation God’s best for the future. (This is not a good time for a sermon series on the Church of Laodicea.)

5. Help the next pastor succeed. You’ve put too much work into your current church to see it falter under the new person. Encourage those who want to leave after this [creative adjectives here] decision, to support the new pastor. That’s the best way they can protest the decision.

4. Mail each board member a box of live locusts. Oops, sorry! What I meant to say is show that you’re a more gracious and much classier person than those who voted you out.

3. Rejoice in your victories. Lois has not only overseen a half-million dollars in building additions and improvements without a cent of debt, personally led nearly one hundred people to Christ, and added staff (full-time youth pastor and daycare director), but has doubled the record for longest pastorate, has set the record for average annual attendance and highest number in one-time service, served on district and national committees, and gained a reputation of having the best funerals in the county. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

2. Realize that even Jesus—the perfect Son of God—had his critics. And rejoice that crucifixion is illegal in all fifty states.

1. Trust that there’s no expiration date on Roman 8:28.

      And we know that in all things, including pastoral votes, God, not boards and bishops, works for the good of those who love him, who have been called to the ministry according to his purpose which is far greater than any of our plans or district decisions (The Watkins New World Church Dictionary).

I still haven’t mastered all ten tips, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some locusts to get into the mail.

Copyright 2005 James N. Watkins

Photo: Huffington Post

Related posts for pastors
“The church is a whore”
Do you really want a “biblical” church?
“Cyber church” has bats in belfry
The Watkins New World Church Dictionary
Dealing with church conflict
Top ten signs your church may be prejudiced
Finding still water in the storm: The Book of Joe
A case for women in ministry
Wounded shepherd: When is it time to leave the flock?
Considering a post-pastorate career

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