In the last month I have been on several zoom calls with pastors who I am in “learning communities” with and the subject of pastoral turnover has been surfaced. Early stats are being thrown out as to the number of ministry leaders (not just senior pastors) who will leave vocational ministry during this pandemic and immediately following. Last week Nate Pyle tweeted a thought that resonated with many people and sparked a lot of responses from others on Twitter. He tweeted: “Prediction: In the next two years there will be a large exodus of pastors from the pastorate. Every pastor I talk with is exhausted and, to a degree, frustrated. Theological and ideological differences between pastor and parishioners is increasing. It’s not sustainable.”
Ministry leaders stepping away from their roles in this season is becoming a common conversation. To be clear, this is not a discussion about leaders disqualifying themselves from leadership with immoral or unethical behavior. This is also not a discussion about leaders being mismatched culturally or unfruitful in their roles. The conversation is about good and godly people who have made important contributions to their ministries/churches stepping away from a full-time ministry position, still loving Jesus and His people, and deciding to do something else vocationally. Here are three reasons people are predicting this will happen (and may already be happening):
1. The division is discouraging.
Nate’s tweet resonated because division is exhausting. My assumption is that if you lead a church or ministry that is filled with people who think the same way about every issue, then you may not face the exhaustion of division, but that is becoming less and less likely because there are more and more issues in which people are pontificating about and drawing dividing lines over. And even if there could be uniformity of thought on every tertiary issue, uniformity is not what many of us envision for the churches we serve. What makes the body of Christ so beautiful in a local community is when people with different backgrounds and perspectives are united by a better King and Kingdom.
As an example, the “mask” conversation has been tiring for many ministry leaders. Funny story: A few weeks ago, I posted in my Instagram story a picture of Kenton Beshore (pastor emeritus) and me at one of our neighborhood gatherings. We were both in masks and standing next to one another. Someone responded, “Why are you wearing masks?!” as if we are idiots and another responded, “Why are you not standing further apart?” as if we are reckless. It is hard to win. And if we think the mask conversation has been challenging, just wait until there is a vaccine and the debate begins on taking the vaccine versus not taking the vaccine. Leaders, the hills in front of us are likely larger than the ones we have just climbed.
Personal note: I am so thankful for the church I get to pastor. Of course, there are outliers, but the overwhelming majority of people want Jesus to be the hero, don’t treat tertiary issues as primary ones, deeply desire a unified church in the midst of polarizing conversations, and are kind and gracious to one another. I am very blessed to be with these people during this time.
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Source: Church Leaders