Leaving Ministry: When a Secular Job Looks Inviting To A Pastor

Everyone thinks about leaving ministry. I’ve been there. I know pastors and staff members who are there now. And, I’ve known leaders who actually took this route. It happens.

Leaving Ministry: When a Secular Job Looks Inviting To A Pastor

Everyone thinks about leaving ministry. I’ve been there. I know pastors and staff members who are there now. And, I’ve known leaders who actually took this route. It happens. Church leaders get exasperated with church people, and they begin to long to do something else – something outside the church world, in fact, where they’re no longer under somebody else’s magnifying glass. When you get there, here are my suggestions—including one that might surprise you:

  1. Take a day off. Get physically away from the messiness of ministry, even if you can’t leave it all behind emotionally. Do something you just want to do—allow yourself to enjoy the day.
  2. Give your heart to God in prayer. That is, don’t be afraid to give Him your emotions. All of them. He’s big enough to handle them.
  3. Read from the Psalms. The psalmist knew the agony of enemies and the pain of being on the run. He also knew, though, how to thirst for God when even worship was difficult. Let the psalmist speak for you in your heartache.
  4. Review your calling. Go back to the time God first put His hand on your life. Be amazed that He uses you at all. Be grateful He also uses us in the midst of our wonderings and anguish. Assume He’s not finished with you.
  5. Choose not to make a decision in the midst of an emotional cloud. When the cloud disappears—and it usually does, even if less quickly than we like—you might regret where you’ve landed if you made a decision during the storm.
  6. Call somebody you trust. And, I really do mean call. Don’t send an email. Don’t communicate through a text. You probably need to hear the voice of a confidant, a friend, a fellow prayer warrior.
  7. Honestly ask the question, “Does God want me in a different place—including in a secular place?” This suggestion is the one that may surprise you – but I don’t know where the Lord wants you, and it’s possible He would indeed have you fulfill your calling out of some secular role. He might be moving you to serve bi-vocationally, or He may want you to be the best trained, most faithful layperson fulfilling your calling in an unexpected role. So, don’t avoid the question.
  8. Wherever God places You, serve Him faithfully. If He leaves you where you are, re-invest and push through your questions in the power of the Spirit. If He’s moving you, get your heart ready—including by forgiving others so you leave with the right attitude. If He’s placing you in some surprising secular job, don’t see it as a “secular” job; be a witness and use your gifts wherever He moves you. A lost world needs to see the light of Christ.
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In the meantime, though, plan and pray to be fully focused and intensely involved in leading your church this weekend. Let the Lord work out His timing.

 

This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless is professor and senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor for almost twenty years, and is the author of Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory, Discipled Warriors: Healthy Churches Winning Spiritual Warfare, Making Disciples through Mentoring, Serving in Your Church's Prayer Ministry, and Eating the Elephant. Dr. Lawless speaks extensively around the countryYou can read articles from Dr. Chuck Lawless on his personal blog (ChuckLawless.com) ( or connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook. .