Should You Leave that Hard Ministry… or Stay?

When you find yourself in a tough spot, the natural reaction is to find a way out.

For pastors, that often means looking for a "new call." Sadly, many new calls are not to something better but merely from something hard.

It is a way to escape. For some, a way to run for their lives. 

I totally get it. I've run before and used academics as an excuse. I've also been run out before. 🙂 

Now, don't get me wrong. There are times to make a change. But we have to be really honest about why we would leave.

Consider getting advice from a trusted mentor. Pray for clarity and peace. Don't make rash decisions or major changes in the dead of winter, when our moods have a tendency to get more depressed than in the other three seasons.

Timothy was in a challenging ministry when he receives his first letter from his mentor, the apostle Paul. But Paul tells him to "stay there" (1:3) and continue a hard work that included conflict and controversy, opposition and criticism.

Those words may have been hard to swallow.

"Can't someone ELSE do THIS?"

"No, Timothy. You don't realize it, but staying is as much for you as it is for them." Okay, Paul didn't say that. But I suppose he could have. Or at least I like to think he would.

Because running from the hard sometimes is a missed opportunity to grow. It is kind of like how a butterfly develops strong wings, by having to struggle with the cocoon. Pushing, straining, and developing. Through trial.

I suppose our spiritual growth is often the same way. The hard is not just hard. There is always a purpose. This is why it may be more important to stay and face the hard in the power of the Spirit than jump the fence to what looks like greener grass.

But green grass always fades. Like a mirage.

This is a broken world and every field has its thorns.

So, it really is okay to leave. Sometimes, the signs are very clear that we should.

But when the going gets hard, it just might be the most important time to "stay there" and let God reveal his grace to you and through you.

As Jesus told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect through weakness."

This is the Jesus who could have run from the cross. Instead, for the joy set before him, he endured it, knowing that there would be glory beyond the grief. 

Maybe there will be glory beyond your grief. Maybe not. But if our ministries are not about us but about him, we, too, for the joy of magnifying his grace, can endure it... to the praise of HIS glory.

By the way, if you are in a tough spot or feel as if you want to try something different, it really is okay to find a new ministry. But before you go, do some "heart work" about why.

  • What are your deep desires?
  • What are you fearing?
  • What if God were with you?
  • What if the hard is the enemy wanting you to leave?
  • What could happen in 5 years if you stay?  
  • What is really at the root of your desire to leave?

If you should go, then go with full steam, and without guilt and without looking back.

But if you stay, then stay on purpose and with resolve.

Purpose to use your gifting for God's glory and resolve to be weak enough to need his strength to do in and through you what only he can accomplish.

I've done both. I've left and I've stayed. Both can be incredibly difficult and the path ahead hard to discern at times.

The best advice I was given was to meditate on Proverbs 3:5-6 for a season and implement all I could squeeze out of that passage.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

If you are a young(er) pastor/leader, you may be interested in learning more about how grace can shape your life and ministry. If so, visit The Timothy Fellowship for more information.