Recently, I had a friend decide to leave ministry for a while. He loves students and his church – but after years of being wounded, discouraged, and taken for granted – he needed a break. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but it’s a heart-wrenching road that’s hard to walk alone. Below is a copy of the letter I wrote to my friend – who was questioning his call, his ability to provide, his future in ministry and if or when he’d ever return. Darren
Dear Max* –
First, let me just say I am so, so sorry. I am not in your shoes, but I do know how hard it is to be stomped on and mistreated by a church – and worry about the future of your family.
Some things I hope you’ll take comfort in:
a) It’s OK to take a respite. Never question the wisdom of regrouping. If you need a break from church ministry – embrace that as God-given time to reflect and heal.
b) But in that, make sure healing is what you’re embracing. Wounds left to fester can become bitter, nasty, open sores that never go away. Find some people that can minister to your heart & the heart of your family.
c) This may be the first time you are getting to pick a church because of the ministry they can offer you, instead of what you can offer them. Choose wisely – and don’t lead for a while. Let friends bind your wounds.
d) The church was never your provision – God was. He can do it with or without the church’s help. I am praying fervently for a job that will give you all you need to be a great dad & husband.
e) Not all churches are like this- I know you’ve already heard that. But a lot of them are like this. Know that you’re ready for that before you get back in. Sometimes the best position is a volunteer one.
f) Being true to who you are as a pastor and minister makes you wise, not selfish. If you decide to go back to church ministry, never fall into the trap of thinking you can ‘change’ for them or ‘be who they need’ or anything like that. I count it a privilege to know who I am as a pastor enough to say no to places that could really use what God has gifted me with – but who I would be wrong for in the long run.
f) Pray for your pastor. Dysfunctional pastors raise dysfunctional churches. And if your heart was ever for the people of that congregation, you have to pray for pastoral healing so the church can be all God intended.
I am so sorry that you’ve been wounded. And I know words offer little comfort as you look at reality. But know that I am praying for you and your family. If you need to vent, feel free to call on me any time!