The writer of Ecclesiastes does indeed remind us there are times and seasons in our lives. Regarding where we are in life, he tells us there is “a time to plant and a time to uproot” (3:2).
There are times we are to plant ourselves firmly in the place God has called us. But there are also times to leave or uproot.
Do we get it wrong sometimes? I feel like I did in one church I served. Looking back, I do believe I left prematurely.
I have been a bit surprised at the number of pastors and staff persons who have shared similar stories with me. They left their churches because they were angry, because of the untold numbers of critics, because of the unreasonable expectations placed upon them, or because they were simply burned out.
But then they realized, after it was too late to change, they made the wrong decisions. They followed their immediate emotions instead of God’s plan.
Here are four of the most common expressions of regret with representative quotes.
- “I could have made it. I let the emotions of the moment push me to quit. But I have seen pastors with far worse situations stick it out and survive, even thrive in future years.”
- “I can’t find a job in ministry. Yep, I found something worse than being in a tough church: not serving in a church at all. I tried to come back to ministry three years after I left, and I got nowhere. Churches don’t want an unemployed pastor who left his last church just because he got frustrated with the members.”
- “I failed to consider all those who loved me. I was so focused on the critics that I did not consider all of those people who loved me and supported me. I really let them down when I quit. So many of them told me later they would have fought for me if I shared my struggles.”
- “I failed to see that serving the Lord often involves pain and struggles. My problems were a lot less severe than some of the prophets of the Old Testament or New Testament leaders. Yep, my problems were nothing compared to persecuted Christians today. I was too self-absorbed to see it. God never promised me it would be easy.”
For certain there is a time to uproot. But too many church leaders leave before that time is upon them. And they are left with pain and regret.
Let me hear from you.