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How Pastors Should Leave Difficult Churches

Thom: What are some of the key lessons you learned after serving as a pastor of a difficult church?

Chris: First, and most importantly, I learned to have a greater love for my Savior. 

There were many times when it was difficult to love certain individuals in my church because of their actions toward me. It was during those times that I was able to see most clearly my Savior’s love for me. I’ve sinned against him far more than anyone has sinned against me, yet his love for me is persistent, faithful and beyond measure.

As I grew in my understanding of my Savior’s love for me, I grew in my love for the church. I can honestly say I loved my “difficult church” more when it was time to leave than I ever did during our brief honeymoon period.

Second, I learned that even in the worst of situations, the gospel is still powerful to change lives. While I may not have seen the kind of results I wanted to see for the church as a whole, I was privileged to lead a number of men and women to the Lord, and I was privileged to disciple a number of men and women. Just last week, I received a text message from a man who was leading three other men through an in-depth study of the spiritual disciplines and systematic theology using notes from our discipleship time together!

Third, I learned that God is sovereign, and He intends to use our hardship in ministry to make us better pastors. Throughout my time at the church, and in the few months that I was not the pastor of a church, God revealed a number of areas where I needed to grow as a pastor, as a husband and as a father. I can honestly say I am a better pastor, husband and father now than I was when I started my journey in my difficult church. 

There are lessons learned in the crucible of hardship that cannot be learned anywhere else. I don’t want to learn the lessons again, but I am glad to have learned them.

Thank you, Chris, for being willing to revisit a very painful time in your life. We too have learned from your hardships.

Readers, feel free to respond with your thoughts. Chris will likely be watching and responding.