Imagine being part of a church where things are going exceptionally well, the leadership team unified and working great together, the church members are growing in biblical truth, sanctification, and multiplying in number. Imagine being part of a healthy and grounded church and after hearing your pastor speak of everything that’s going well in the church, he finishes his speech by explaining that he needs to resign.
No, it wasn’t based on a scandal. No scandalous skeleton will come crashing out of a closet two months down the road. It wasn’t division among the leadership or the church family that led to his decision to resign. It was his decision to better care for and manage his family. That’s right, he determined that he could better care for his own family through a resignation and pursuit of secular employment.
Allow me to explain the situation in greater detail. I was made aware today that one of my friends that I met during my doctoral studies at SBTS had resigned from his church this past week. I made contact with him and asked him if he was moving to another church. He replied, “Into retirement. Looking for a few options.” Pastors in their 30’s don’t retire, so that caused me to make a phone call where I received the full explanation. No, he wasn’t attacked by a deacon board. No, he isn’t leaving the ministry. No, he has not determined that he wasn’t called by God to pastor. In fact, it’s the opposite. He is convinced that God has indeed called him to pastor and his church is doing exceptionally well. The decision was made based on some “strange providence” that occurred in his life.
He was participating in a touch football game and experienced an injury with his shoulder that required surgery. It was through that event that it was discovered that his body is producing cholesterol at an extremely rapid pace. After an extensive lifestyle overhaul that caused him to lose 30 pounds through diet and exercise, the problem has not gone away. The doctors have narrowed his problem to stress. Apparently stress (good and bad stress alike) can cause your body to produce cholesterol in your body and in my friend’s case, it has done so at an elevated rate. Even good stress from ministry (a good burden) has produced this health threatening problem.
In an attempt to care for his wife and children and manage his family well, my friend decided it would be best to resign from his church and seek secular employment. It is his goal to see if his body will respond well to this change. If so, he will be able to better care for and manage his family. In the process, he will trust God to make clear how he is to be used in ministry. His calling has not changed. His giftedness from God remains the same. His circumstances have changed and therefore, the way he will serve in ministry has been altered either temporarily or even permanently.
As I listened to his explanation on the phone today, I must agree with him. God has called him to care for his wife and children. If ministry has provided an assault on his health that will not enable him to properly care for his family, he has made the right decision to resign and move toward a change to see if this will be the answer. As I consider my friend’s decision, I think of the priority of our ministry that God expects of us to our own family. Missionaries who leave the mission field to care for aging parents are not abandoning the call of God. They are seeking to care for their family – which is indeed a ministry. Pastors who resign from their church in order to care for their parents are not turning their back on God, His Word, or the church of Jesus Christ. Such men are taking ministry seriously – their first ministry is to their home.
As we think on such issues, let us be aware of the following:
- We must pray for our pastors to be free in their ministry and preaching rather than consumed with stress.
- We need to remember that all of us have ministries that we are involved with, but our first ministry is to our home.
- Our home should never prevent us from serving God, but serving God should not prevent us from ministering to our families.
1 Timothy 3:4 – He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice