When is it time to leave? It’s a question that’s been asked of me time and time again. It is certainly something I’ve asked myself many times as well. I’d be lying if I said that my ministry has been smooth sailing all the way. It has not. There have been many times I’ve been seriously tempted to leave. I remember one time I typed my resignation letter to my church and was one button press away from emailing it to my leadership. But somehow the Lord just prevented me from sending it and I’m glad He did.
Having said this, is there a good time to leave? Most times when people ask me it is because they are having major problems with their church, the leadership, the preaching, the vision, the direction, the structure, the politics, the attitude, the culture, the lack of recognition. The list goes on and on and on and on. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us want a ministry that has none of the above. But let’s face it, if we read our bible, the heroes in the bible had all the above if not worse.
I mean if we think our lot is hard, surely it couldn’t get harder than Moses – he probably had to lead something like 2 million (if we add up the women and all the kids) screaming lunatics who kept complaining there was no water, no food and no God. He had to face constant rebellion and death threats and he had to do this for 40 yrs. And what did he get out of it? Zilch. Or take the case of Jeremiah. He had it tough. When he preached no one liked him. The leadership was against him, and like Moses everyone wanted him dead. And this wasn’t just for short stint. It was the duration of his ministry. Paul had it tough as well and it wasn’t just from unbelievers. Even the church was giving him a hard time. The Galatian church turned against him. The Corinthian church thought he was loser. There were some rumours about his credibility with the Thessalonians. So despite how difficult things got these guys chose to stay at their post. However I’m not saying that we should never leave a difficult church or ministry. It maybe time to move on or it might be time to hang in there and tough it out.
Ok so when is a good time to leave? I want to suggest that this really is not the most important question. A more important one is “How to leave?” So how should we leave? Never in bitterness, anger, frustration, disgruntledness, disillusionment. etc, because, if you don’t mind me saying, to do so is both unbiblical and unrealistic. It is unbiblical because Jesus gave us a new command, and that is to love each other just as Christ loved us. We are to love the church intensely and to give thanks for her deeply despite what she is like. Therefore to leave huffing and puffing is, in my books, not obeying the new commandment. It is also unbiblical because the ministry of the cross always involves taking up the cross even if it is the church that’s going to crucify us. And it is unrealistic because the church is always filled with sinners. Yes they are being changed by the spirit, but we’ve all got a long way to go. Change is never easy. Growing up is always painful. Becoming more like Jesus makes climbing Everest like a stroll in the park. And it is certainly painful for the person who tries to help others grow up. There will always be problems, heartaches, headaches, attacks, obstacles, frustration, criticisms, rebellion, rejection, disdain etc. This just comes with the package. This was true of Jesus. Why do we expect it to be different for us?
Let me also add, if we do leave a church or a ministry in a negative way, we will probably carry some scars and wounds to our next ministry which may invariably affect it if not weaken it. However despite the difficulties, if we leave with love, grace and forgiveness in our hearts we will invariably bring an incredible strength and blessing to whatever ministry we engage in in the future.
So when to leave is not an easy question to answer, but how to leave is very clear cut, well in my books anyway.
Ok this is my two cents worth, for what it’s worth. Is this controversial enough?