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To Discouraged Pastors and Their Wives

Diagnostic Questions

However, not all resignations, not all ministry changes, are owing to cowardice or fear or laziness or a sense of failure, so let me give some diagnostic questions that might help this young couple discern what the problem really is, because maybe a change in ministry is appropriate and maybe it’s not.

1. Gifts

Is there a mismatch between your husband’s spiritual gifts and the role he is being asked to fulfill?

It’s not a defeat or an act of disobedience if you discover that the role you are in calls for gifts you don’t have. Such a mismatch may be painful to discover, but it doesn’t have to be shameful. It’s very difficult for us to make this call about ourselves.

We need loving, honest, objective partners in ministry. If they aren’t there in the staff or in the church, then from outside. I think gifts for ministry are best discovered and best confirmed by others, not just ourselves. Others see more clearly than we at times whether our gifts are bearing any spiritual fruit or not and what that fruit should be.

2. Theology

Is there a possible mismatch between the theology of your husband and the theology of the leadership?

Depending on how serious the differences are, this can be a deal-breaker in ongoing ministry. How sweet when there’s a theological camaraderie on the staff and nobody has to be fearful of openly sharing what they believe and can teach.

3. Philosophy of Ministry

Is there a possible mismatch between your husband’s philosophy of ministry and the philosophy of ministry in the leadership of the church?

This is different from theology. It basically refers to how you go about ministry. In youth ministry, this is explosively controversial. Parents often have views about what they think should happen in youth ministry that certainly should not happen in youth ministry.

If a youth minister doesn’t have a full support of the senior pastor or the rest of the staff, he’s probably not going to survive the onslaught of these parents who don’t like what he’s doing with their kids.

4. Culture

Is there a possible mismatch of personality or culture?

This can often feel like a matter of sin when, in fact, the essence of it is not necessarily sin but genuine differences that are almost indefinable in the culture of ministry, in the personality of the leadership, in the youth minister, or in the staff of the church.

We need skillful, spiritually discerning friends inside or outside the church to help us discern whether our personalities are simply like oil and water on this staff. Maybe that was part of what was going on with Paul and Barnabas.

5. A Call for Discernment

Is this present discouragement a test of faithfulness and perseverance, or is it something that shouldn’t be endured and needs to be changed?

God knows what you’re in, and he’s put you there. His purpose is that you would persevere in grace and overcome evil with good. No matter what the outcome is, that’s your calling. Discerning whether this is the case requires partners in ministry.

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.