Don’t quit!


Almost 17 years ago, in 1990, I stepped into the pulpit of the church I started in Greensboro, North Carolina and resigned.  I was tired, exhausted, and I had nothing else to say.  So I did what I had talked about doing — I quit.  Don’t quit. It’s not the solution you think it will be.  Here’s why I quit and why you shouldn’t:

  • I always wondered if I could make a living doing something else.  Well, I could and did — I made a very good living.  But what I really wanted to do — in my darkest moments and in my best times — what I really wanted to do was pastor a church.  Trust me, if you’re smart enough to be a pastor, you’re smart enough to make a living doing something else.  But you will not find it satisfying, fulfilling, or energizing.  God’s call is powerful. 
  • I was tired.  I had started a church in an unchurched area of Guilford County, near Greensboro.  We met in the Airport Marriott Hotel for 3-years, grew to over 300 in attendance, hired staff, bought property, built a 13,000-square foot worship center, and dealt with a lot of stuff along the way.  Members saw my exhaustion and suggested I take 3-6 months off.  Instead I quit.  I should have listened to the people who loved me and were trying to help me.  I wanted to be superman, but I couldn’t fill the suit.  Get some rest, take some time off, go on vacation, see a counselor, but don’t quit.
  • I thought I could get back into the pastorate easily.  I found out that minister friends of mine lost interest in our friendship when I was no longer a pastor.  Prospective churches would always ask, “Why did you leave the pulpit?”  Pastor search committees were not interested in someone who had quit.  I spent 12-years waiting for the opportunity to get back in vocational ministry.  Don’t quit.
  • I thought nothing I did made a difference.  Almost three years ago I returned to the church I started for the first time since I left in 1990.  One woman stood up during the service before I preached and said, “I have been praying for 14-years that you would go back in the ministry.  Tonight my prayers are answered.”  Others stood and spoke of how much Debbie and I had meant to them.  We all cried.  Someone cares what you do and has been blessed by it.  Don’t quit.
  • I thought God had given up on me.  Clearly, that was not the case.  I had given up on God.  Or at least, that’s how I felt.  But during all those years away from the pulpit, I knew that my years in ministry were my best years.  Now I’m back, which is a long story in itself.  I still get tired, discouraged, and fed-up sometimes.  But I won’t quit again.  Don’t quit.  It doesn’t solve anything. 

If you’re thinking, “Well, he doesn’t know how bad things are” — believe me, I do.  Call me, email me, or make some time to come see me before you quit.  The kingdom needs you and you are making a difference.  Don’t quit.

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39 Comments

  1. In 1987 my wife was accused, twice of abusing our 3 year old. In the summer of 1988 when my wife refused to come home from the mental hospital, I became the single Dad of a 4 year old.

    That’s when I took an extrended leave of absense from the ministry and when my son was about to go off to college, and I was ready to return to the ministry full time, my former denomination told me I had resigned, which wasn’t true, but that was their line and they didn’t want me back.

    I’ve been divorced for several years now and even though we are probably not from the same denominational background, I and empathize with you 100%.

    And I’m still looking for a full time place to Pastor with a salary.

    In the meantime I’m preaching anywhere people will listen.

    God Bless.

  2. I tried reading the bible… but someone told me to start reading the new testament first so i can easily understand the book… back then i was halfway the old testament but i stilll followed the advice… now i lose my interest in reading it.

    —–

  3. Chuck,

    Thanks for these thoughts. We recently moved because of my daughters health. She needed to be closer to her doctors. Besides, we were going into debt because of medical bills. So, I stepped out of pastoring and into stay-at-home dad. My wife, an engineer, returned to her former company with good health insurance which takes care of our needs. But, now a year and a half later, I am still waiting for God to call me to a church.

    It has been a good time for our family, but at the same time, I have missed pastoring. Our family was like yours, tired, discouraged, and in need of a rest. I did quit. But, I did it for my daughter.

    I too have experienced the same experiences you have faced. Why did you leave? Pastor friends falling out of contact.

    Why is this? I still have trouble understanding why churches and pastors can be almost cruel when their own are hurting or in need of help.

    I am now in talks with a great church not too far from our home. I have had the opportunity to preach once and I will preach for them again on the 28th.

    You are right though. There is nothing like being a pastor. It is the hardest job, and the best. I especially like what you shared about whating to know if you could make a living doing something else, and that if you are smart enough to be a pastor that your smart enough to make a living doing something else.

    Again, thanks for your thought. I have taken time to read several of your post. I have enjoyed each one. I plan on adding you to my blog roll, and stopping by now and again to discover what you are posting.

    Blessings! Taylor

  4. I was called to preach in 2000 after years of being thought of as “the praise and worship guy.” It took me by surprise because I have a tendency to stutter. Isn’t that just like our Lord?

    Interestingly enough, I was not called to pastor a church. Nowhere in the Bible can I find where it says that the pastor does all the preaching. The problem is that every pastor, at least that I know of, does all the preaching. I am now ministering in my calling at the local prison.

    As far as quitting the ministry: after many years of complaining about the people and the work, God relieved me of all ministry duties for three years. I have never been so miserable in all my life. I will never complain again about what He asks me to do, no matter how hard it is.

  5. Sometimes we Christians are lousy people. We make mistakes and our God who loves us deeply welcomes us home with open arms. But often our brothers and sisters do not. I promise I will try to take what you have shared here to heart and listen to my pastor when he talks about being wiped out, and I will look for ways to support him and the rest of the ministries in order to bring glory to God.

  6. Taylor, blessings on you as you reconnect with a ministry opportunity. Your quitting because of your daughter’s health is different than my situation, and I certainly understand your decision. God does too , in my opinion. He’ll open another door…sounds like He’s at work on it.

    1. When is the time to quit, and what if you are asked to come back to lead a ministry? what should you do?

  7. This is such a great post!! I’m so glad that I read it and am so glad to be meeting you, pastor. I hope you don’t mind if I place a link to your blog from my blog that is intended to encourage church planting pastors and families.

    Thanks so much for this post!

  8. Dear Chuck,

    I am in the midst of finally making my decision to quit the ministry for good. The Church committee has discussed extensively about my request and desires for me to take a break of 6-months and come back. But I have lost interest in serving the Lord. I am hurt, sad and often felt betrayed by those I ‘brought up’ spiritually. I am in a delimma. I DO love Jesus but I hate His people!!!!

  9. Al-Tan – how can I serve you my brother? You are in such a hard place…I will definitely pray for you during our prayer meeting tomorrow night. Feel free to email me so that I can be here for you: pastor@thelight-house.org.

    Hang in there my brother – I’ll do whatever I can to stand with you during this time.

    Bless you my friend.
    Josh

  10. Al-Tan,
    I would urge you to take the generous offer of your congregation for a 6-month sabbatical. Things look dim now, but with they are allowing you to step back, and get a new perspective. I have been where you are, and like you wanted to quit. I did quit, but that is not the answer. Take a step back, talk to others you trust, and see if things do not look different in a few weeks. If at that time you are still convinced you need to leave the ministry, then do so. But, I would urge you to accept this interim step. Let me know how I can help you because, believe me, I understand the pain you’re in. -Chuck

  11. Dear Chuck and Josh,

    Thanks for the on-line fellowship. Your affirmation of my pain is deeply appreciated. I think, at this moment and sadly, I am almost ‘lost-at-sea’ spiritually-speaking. I can’t see a way out of these doldrums in my life and ministry. I’ve endeavor to love and serve the Lord but I think I’ve failed too many times and am angry with myself, others and ‘almost’ G**. Do pray for me if it helps.

    Sorry…my words are very depressing at the present time, I was not always like that. I guess I allowed the deep-seated sorrow and bitterness linger too long in the depth of my heart, pretending that it is grace not to confront and rebuke, which has let me to this. Yesterday, I had a frightening thought of committing suicide but I guess I half-came to my senses in time. Thanks again.

  12. Al-Tan, let me urge you to get some help immediately. I take very seriously your mention of suicide. Let me assure you that nothing that has happened is worth this level of discouragement. You need help regaining a more balanced perspective on whatever your situation is. Whatever it is, it is not the end of you, your ministry, or the contribution you have to make. There are people who love you and care for you. But only you can take the step to immediately seek professional care for your distress. There is no shame or weakness in asking for help. If you do not know who to ask, as a trusted friend, or family member to help you get help. Call your doctor and tell him you need an immediate referral for help. Please do this, as I am very concerned for your on well-being. Let me know what your next step is, please.

  13. My friend – know a group of people in Denver, CO will be calling on God for you tomorrow night and one thing I am utterly convinced of is that God answers prayer! I’ve been where you are as well, but know God will lift you up in His everlasting arms and grant you peace. I’m standing on the promises of God for you and am so thankful for your service to our Lord thus far. I praise God to have “met” you and can’t wait to hear about how the Lord has intervened in your heart and circumstances.

    Standing with you from Denver!
    Josh Carroll

  14. For that matter, I’m taking your Name before the Lord tonight and expect to receive that which I bring before Him “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mk. 11:24)

  15. Dear brothers (if I may call you that),

    I have pastored a mere 10years as an ordained minister and I think i have nothing else to offer to the church body. The flock dun seemed to grow physically nor spiritually and I feel my sermons (painstakingly prepared) are falling on deaf ears. I hear voices all the time urging and nudging me to do something bad and it’s all getting to me. I dun want you to be too worried, I know God would help me in the nick of time. The feeling of wanting to end-it-all has been weighing on me beginning 3 years ago, but God has proven good all the time. Maybe, it’s the season that I am going through that seems to aggravate my present emotions. Sometimes, I wonder if I hallucinated about God calling me to the ministry. But then…I would feel tremendously guilty after-wards. Guess what? I am preaching on a series “The Church God desires” from Jesus’ letters to the 7 churches, and I am already hypocritical each time I tell the flock not to give in and up but I am doing the opposite.

    I want to get some help but I am not ready to pour out the depth of my soul. Been on medication previously and had severe allergies.

    Thanks again for the support. I hope I didn’t cost anyone anxiety or needles insomnia.

  16. I agree with our brother Chuck that you could call upon a trusted professional that can help you sort through your feelings of failure, depression and emotional lethargy. It sounds like you’ve been beat up pretty good and you need a sensitive, spirit-filled, wise counselor to help you unravel some of the mysteries that your mind has created…especially as it pertains to your self-loathing. Can I please remind you that you’re precious in the sight of God and that you were crafted with such care and nurture that our minds can’t possibly ascertain. You’re a precious person…to God…and to the rest of us. We need you my brother! Our Lord said it best, ‘the laborers are few’. You’re one of the few, precious and chosen. You’ve just beat up a little too heavily…nothing God won’t help you to reverse…He is in the business of breathing life back into the dead (Ez. 37, and Lazarus). I hope you don’t mind that I shared your struggle with my 8yr old daughter and we prayed together for you this evening. I will share with our small group of prayer warriors tomorrow night (again, if you approve) so that we can call on our God on your behalf. God’s strength begins where ours runs out…I know yours has and I know it’s just a set stage for God to show up and lift you up, comfort and encourage you. He LOVES YOU my friend…and so do we!

    Standing together,
    Josh Carroll

  17. Dear Josh,

    I am touched by your kindness. I guess Jesus was right when He said “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” Anyway, I dun consider myself a noble servant much less in the category of ‘few laborers’ but I do know that I was once passionate about Jesus Christ and His word. I am hopping on one leg spiritually day to day hoping to find my bearings. I know somehow I might get to see the light before long. I only ‘pray’ it wouldn’t ruin my spouse and 2 children as I undergo my bitter journey. Anyway, thanks for praying for me. Talking to Chuck and you does go a long way to release some emotional pent-up feelings.

  18. Dear Chuck,

    Thank you for posting your message. As a young pastor, I often felt inadequate and incompetent to do the job. Member’s conflicts and critiques took all my energy, quitting is always in my mind. However, your blog has gave me enough reasons to continue this ministry. Thanks again!

    Denni

  19. i have also considered quitting and stepping down from the pastor position. i have only been preaching for about three years now, have seen an increase in membership and attendance, but we recently had some trouble in our family, and i went into a revival at our church with some troubled spirits. anyway, i am remarried, a thing that is greatly looked down upon in my part of the country by other preachers that feel i should not be doing it. i married at a very young age, and was only married ofr about a year when it ended in a bitter divorce. she was a non-believer, and when i wanted to start back to church she wanted to leave me. that was 20 years ago. i have been married now for 8 years to my wife and we have four children. as i said i entered into the ministry about 3 years ago but was called to preach when i was 15 but ignored it all this time.
    at the revival we just had, the assistant pastor (who was actually my former pastor that mentored me) recomended two evangilists to the church. i knew one of them from a previous meeting so i gave the go ahead for them to come out and preach the revival. these men ripped me to shreds the entire revival, preaching passages from ezekiel 13, galations 1:6, danything related to false prophets and teachers because somehow they found out that i had been remarried. i was so angry and discouraged that i stayed home the last night of the revival, and now i have to face the congregation sunday morning and either apologize or step down. now i feel as though i let down my family, the church, and God.
    I was half tempted to deliver a sermon from 1 kings 21, where ahab wanted nahors vineyard and sent the two men to accuse him of blasphemy just so he could have the vineyard for a herb garden. it would have fit well considering these evangilists are from a church just down the road from ours.
    As for the being remarried part, i feel that there are no second class citizens in the kingdom of heaven, especially according to romans 8:1 there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, and i feel that 1 tim 3:2 rrefering to the husband of one wife is an idiom meaning a one woman man, which i am.
    Not sure how to proceed, thanks for your prayers and your advice.

    1. Dear Brother,

      My heart aches with you in this situation. The betrayal and dishonesty you have experienced must be very difficult to deal with. But, of course, you must deal with it. Without knowing more about the situation, here are some suggestions you might want to consider:

      1. Did the church know of your previous marriage when they called you? If so, then I would simply state to the congregation that they knew of your situation and that you have a loving wife and family to whom you are committed. If they did not know of your previous marriage, you must apologize for not revealing it to them, and ask for their forgiveness for failing to disclose this information. You might explain the circumstances as you have done to me, but now is the time to be very open and honest. If they want your resignation, they will ask for it. If not, then you should continue as their pastor.

      2. I would suggest you not use a sermon to strike back. This only reduces you to the level of those who dishonestly betrayed you. A sermon should be a message from God, through the life of the preacher, to the people of God. Sermons are not to be used as license to even the score.

      3. I would talk with your associate pastor. Does he know your situation and does he feel that you are wrong to continue in ministry. If he does, then it seems that both of you should not serve the same church together, as you are not on the same page. You will have to decide which of you should go if that is the case, or if you can resolve this between you for the good of the church.

      4. If the church does ask you to resign, you might consider what lessons could be learned and applied to future pastorates. Certainly, you must be completely open with another church about your marital history should another church approach you about being their pastor. You might also want to select your own revival preachers, or do so in consultation with your church leaders. I had a similar experience to yours once. A revival preacher I did not know, but invited on the recommendation of a friend, took me to task from the pulpit for allowing some of the women members to wear slacks to church. Long story, but I had to clean up after him and apologize to the church for his remarks. I don’t know how you feel about that issue, but my point is I never invited another preacher that I did not know after that.

      I hope this helps, and please let me know how this goes on Sunday. My prayers are with you during this difficult time. -Chuck

  20. Bro Chuck
    I pastor a small country church, I have been there for 5 years and have done everything that God has placed on my heart. I am also a Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent, maintenance man just put new roof on church, and keep the church yard cleaned and mowed.
    I have a full time job 40+hrs a week and a family.
    I have been praying for over a year that God would let me know what to do. Since I have been there many has quit.
    To me if a pastor is in his place the church should increase. The people that are in the church is great easy to love. That is one reason I have not left yet, but if God can send a pastor were the church can grow that would be great.
    If I do not change my mind by 6/6/ I am going to stand down from the pastor of the church.
    I love Jesus Christ with all my heart and I love them people with all my heart and I only want what God wants for that church.
    Please pray that God will lead me into this what ever it may be.

  21. Derrick, my heart aches for you and your situation. You sound like a kind and loving pastor who is giving his all to the church in which God has placed you. Not every small church is going to grow because of factors beyond your control. I cannot tell you what to do, but I can say that God may have placed you there to pastor these people and help them through this difficult time. But God will lead you in your decision, and I will pray with you that His will would be done in your life. Let me know how things go. -Chuck

  22. I have been if full time ministry for 7 years, pastoring a church I planted. My daughter committed suicide at college in January. I and my family are devastated and I find it difficult to continue in ministry. The church gave me three months off, but I find my faith has been shattered since I prayed for my daughter for so many years and this is how it ended. How can I continue to lead others toward faith in Christ when mine is so weak right now?

  23. Don, I am saddened by your loss, and my prayers are with you and your family. Grief is a process that involves time, reflection, and much disappointment. Right now I would gently urge you to let others minister to you. Apparently your church recognizes your need to be away from ministry for 3 months. Take that gift and use that time to walk this very difficult path. Grief and loss often cause us to re-evaluate our faith. We feel real disappointment, even anger that God has let us down, has not acted as we asked Him to. Some of our questions have no answers, at least not in this world. But please focus on the healing for your family and yourself. Like the father in Mark 9:24, you might be able only to pray, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Let me know how I can help as you move through your grief and mourning. My prayers are with you. -Chuck

  24. Hi Chuck,
    I’m glad I read your post, though still really depressed. It’s interesting to know that I’m not the only one who is going through this, but at the same time, it’s sad to know that this will always be happening.

    I happen to be working under a particularly large protestant denomination and the place where I’m at… the officers have just boiled, fried, and barbecued me over and over. My wife is expecting in November and I’m thanking the Lord for a daughter, but at the same time the stress and criticism that comes by way is almost unbearable already.

    As someone put it – I love the Lord with all my heart, but his people are killing me. Being a musician/singer/songwriter as well, I have started to entertain thoughts of doing ‘ministry outside of pastoral ministry’.

    But… I’m not totally convinced in my heart that its the thing to do. Well, just letting it out here since everyone is 🙂

    1. Brother, I am sorry to hear of your disappointments in ministry. Too often politics and practices borrowed from the business world prevail in church work, which is a sad thing. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Let me know how things go, and how that new baby is doing when he or she arrives!

  25. Wow. I am glad to have found this site, but I am saddened that so many of us are in this situation. I want to ask you experienced pastors something. I am concerned for my husband. We’ve been married 21 years. He is 41 and we have children; he works a full-time job (usually 45-50 hrs. per week) and in addition, he is preaching three sermons a week and teaching a ‘tween Sunday school class. He is a fantastic guy and rarely lets the stressed feeling be known to others. He’s always been this way. I think he is overly stressed and possibly depressed. He took over a struggling church four years ago. Since January, our situation has been just crazy. My family, who lives across the street, has been burdened with my father needing surgery (who has already been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, cancer, and diabetes) and my mother now needs a liver transplant, and one adult sibling who has moved back home due to divorce. I started having panic attacks (which seems completely ridiculous to me for someone who loves and follows the Lord) and I just attribute this to stress. During this time, my husband changed jobs, too (he was working for a car industry which has since gone by the wayside). It just seems like so much for one man to deal with. We are struggling within our church with families who just cannot get along, and we lack in areas of need – particularly teaching. It is primarily my husband, myself, and one sister-in-law who teach. We have ladies that help us clean the church as much as possible, and the few people who help are doing all they can. We are blessed by them, but we are all burned out and wonder why the Lord hasn’t led the right people into our little church. (I would say we have about 35 people present on a good day, although we do have more members who are not faithful in attendance.) We have tried door-knocking, scheduling special events, and are currently running a food pantry and we just can’t seem to rise above. It has come to the point that I have voiced my concern to my husband that maybe we are doing the wrong thing and need to serve under someone else. I probably should have NEVER said such a thing to him, since he is already under so much stress. My intention was not to be like Job’s wife. I don’t want to quit serving the Lord. I am just ready to be ministered to for a while instead of having to teach so many classes as well. Is that horrible? There are many times when I just don’t want to be in the church and I literally make myself attend because it is where I am supposed to be – for my husband. We have no deacons or other preachers in the church and because of the responisibility my husband bears, I am concerned for his health. I feel that our children suffer for it, as there are only 6 children in the church including mine. I homeschool, so I know that my children need to be around other Chrstian children. I spend alot of time in prayer over these issues, and I just don’t understand how to help my husband without complaining, or am I missing something God is trying to work through us on these issues. We are just so in need of an experienced pastor’s guidance. Can you give me any advice?

  26. So glad to have found this post. Seems that there are others out there after all who understand the joys, the heartaches, the burdens and the discouragement that pastoring a small church can bring. We founded our church 13 years ago in an area that is heavily populated with mega churches and churches of every faith. Through the years we have seen some progress, from beginning a bible study in our pastors home to obtaining the current location which has much potential for growth and vision. However, we feel burned out from helping so many who haven’t given much back, if at all, few workers (most of them Pastors family), and just plain tired. Our church went through a growth spurt and was thriving, alive and reaching out to our community. Then a group of people decided they wanted to go to the bigger churches, and did a lot of damage on their way out. Our youth Ministers quit because of hateful and hurtful lies that were said by these people. Our music ministry was affected, leaving only two committed worship ministers and a parttime drummer and a part time singer. The Church continues to dwindle and has slowed to a Sunday morning service only because members won’t come out on Sunday evening and Wednesday services. Mostly we are tired…tired of having no help…tired of carrying the burden…tired of not growing. We have lost our grip and can’t seem our second wind. We believe God is for us because of the continued favor we have, but we just aren’t seeing growth and don’t have any volunteers to help. We are ready to throw in the towel from sheer fatigue and discouragement. Can you advise us? We are independent and non-denominational, so there are no executive officers we can call on for help.

  27. I look at all of us small churches and being one that was wanting to quit just not understanding. You show people love and do all you can do and still no-one show up.
    I had to look at what we were doing it for.
    Is it about the number we have in the building?
    Lets look at the big churches you see there members outside the church they are alot of fakes. I am not saying there is none in small churches but I do beleive that they are less.
    I would rather have 3 that loves Jesus than 100 that does not.
    Jesus told us in the last days they would be a fallen away.
    If one get save and make it to heaven because of the small church that you are at IT WOULD BE GREAT that is all I know.
    Cant quit we do not know who God might bring inn the church doors and if there is no-one there to preach are teach about Jesus then how will they get saved?
    Try something new Me I have started a radio ministry along with a pastor of another small church. I know it is more to do but at this time God has blessed it he brings the money in for it and maybe someone will get saved.
    I am not going to give up I am going to fight the devil all that God will give onto me.
    Maybe what we need is a website for us small churches that way the preachers and there wifes can just have someone to talk to that is going threw the same thing.
    I hope this will help someone out I am just a small country preacher that loves Jesus and his people.

  28. I have this recurring desire in my mind and heart “I do not want to be a pastor.” Most of the time I wonder why the ministry is set up in such a way that the pastor is victimised, lied about, scorned, isolated, friendless and is overwhelmed by objections to who you are not just what you do or don’t do. I have been in the ministry for over 10 years now and honestly feel I’ve waisted some of the best years of my life and endured some of the worst times possible that would not have been torelated in a secular employment – and I do not want to waiste any more years. I’m looking for the exit but have a family to support and feel trapped.

    1. Hi Stephen, I feel your pain! I have been a bi-vocational pastor at two different churches for going on nine years now. I can say that I truly love preaching, but being a pastor is a big burden sometimes. I too would like to resign, but my wife is home schooling our 10 year old son and we are depending on the church income to even survive. I do not make enough money on my secular job to support my family. Even with my church income, we barely make it from pay check to pay check. We have been praying for the Lord to provide me with a better job, but He has not done so yet. I would like to continue to preach some, but just not pastor. I will pray for you. Please pray for me!

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