Bad Things Happen When a Church Terminates a Minister

I should state up front that not everyone calling himself/herself a minister of the gospel is telling the truth. Charlatans and hypocrites can be found in every field of endeavor, including the ministry. Those who go from church to church preaching corrupted gospels, bullying the congregation in the name of Jesus, tearing up fellowships and ruining lives—such people need to be put out of business.

Once pastors and denominational leaders see the destructive pattern in a minister’s history, they should quit passing his name along to other churches. And someone should speak the truth to him and say why. Then “unfriend” the guy.

But unless a church has good cause, it should never fire a minister. If there are reasons for dismissing the minister and vacating the pulpit, faithful and mature leaders can find ways to make it happen without ruining that person’s future opportunities for service. But outright firing a minister forever brands him and may ruin his ministry prospects.

I hear this all the time. “He’s outlived his usefulness here.” “We need new leadership.” “He’s not a good match for our church.” “He’s offended the key leaders and no one trusts him anymore.”

OK, fine. If the consensus is fairly unanimous that the pastor needs to leave—and in most cases I mean the minister agrees also!—then you can find ways to make it happen honorably. After all, in addition to handling the ministry with care, leadership must think of their church’s reputation also.

I cannot tell you the number of churches that have ruined their reputations by the crude way they ushered a pastor from their church.

I regret to say that I know much of this firsthand. As our Lord said to Nicodemus, “We speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen” (John 3:11).

When a church fires a pastor and sends him packing, many things happen. Almost none of them is positive or good.

One. Several things happen to the minister…

–His family is hurt.

–His children are body-slammed. They were the innocent victims in this drama—attending their choirs and mission groups and sports teams. Suddenly, their parents announce that “Daddy is no longer the pastor and we cannot go back to that church.” In any other line of work, when Daddy loses his job, the family still has its church. And after all, the fellowship of the church has eased many a hurtful transition for everyone else in the congregation. But it will not be doing so for the pastor’s family.

–His reputation is shot. When one friend was trying to get back in the pastorate after a year’s layoff, the search committee liked his preaching and were impressed by the interviews. But they simply could not get past the fact that his previous church had abruptly dismissed him. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” they said. To date, several years later, he is still out of the pulpit and doing another kind of ministry altogether.

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.

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