When Is It Time To Leave?


Being involved in some ethical, moral, or sexual [1] impropriety is not the only basis for “temporarily stepping away from,” [2] resigning, or being removed from ministry.  A pastor, or even a lay ministry leader, may need to consider resignation or need to be removed from ministry for other often disregarded considerations!

A distinction should be made between resigning from, or being removed from, the pulpit ministry, and removed from any and all local church ministry, or even from all para-church ministries.

We could also draw a distinction between “full-time-paid” and “volunteer-lay ministry.”  Some lay leaders might need to “step-down” or even be removed from local church ministry.

Nevertheless, at least two other considerations for resignation or removal are often unacknowledged.  I am sure that there may be other typically unaddressed causes beyond these two. [3]

. . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . 

The Qualifications:  Obvious, a pastor ought to leave or be removed from the local church ministry if he fails to meet the qualifications outlined in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. [4].

However, some of the qualifications are not “long-term indicators.”  The qualification may no longer be very helpful in the long-term span of pastoral ministry.

√  “Not a novice” is no longer an issue after years of ministry.   It is not a “long-term indicator.”

√  Ruling one’s children well may no longer be applicable (while that factor may be more visible in many different ways after the children leave home and establish their own families.). Nevertheless, it is not a “long-term indicator” if you mean by that, the ability to observe the wisdom and godly competence of parenting.

However, some of the qualifications are
“long-term” indicators.

Some of the qualifications are “long-term indicators,” in that they can change over ministry years. Long-term indicators span the years of pastoral ministry, unlike “novice” or “wise and godly parenting.”  Long-term indicators should be present from the beginning to the end of ministry, but may change and/or be seen as changing.

These two may indicate
a need to step-down or be removed!

. . . . . . . 

√  Given to hospitality: In both Timothy and Titus, “given to hospitality is mentioned. Pastors can slowly and subtly move away from this qualification. After years of ministry, pastors can begin to hide out. A “withdrawal from people” can mark the pastoral ministry. The ministry is about people! Over time, pastors can retreat to a small group of supportive friends, or they can grow weary of people (and their problems, attitudes, and viewpoints) in general.

When a pastor no longer enjoys being with people, it is time to pack it up; it is time to retire (no matter what your age).  Or, if that is your pastor, it is time for the membership and the leadership to ask their pastor to resign or step-away from the pulpit ministry! [5]

It Can Be Seen!  It is all too obvious to anyone observant — when pastors no longer mix with God’s people before and after a service, are last to arrive and first to leave events, no longer value visiting, infrequently have people over to their homes or invite people out,  more often than not decline invitations, seclude themselves in their office study theological ivory tower, make it difficult for people to stop by and talk, only know what is happening in the lives of a small group of people, don’t know names, forget what they ought to remember about the family or its members, do little counseling, pass-off calls and visitation to other pastors, repeatedly mix with a select few, do not know what they ought to know about the needs and health of the sheep, etc.  etc.  etc.

. . . . . . . 

√  Apt to teach: “Apt to teach” includes and requires a continued love of preaching and teaching God’s Word.  When there is a loss of passion for communicating the truths of Scripture, it affects preaching and teaching ministry.   While few or any pastor would ever state that he does not value and enjoy the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the reality is that the continued demand can easily take its toll.

At times, a pastor can feel like a “sermon mill” and lose the joy of sermon preparation and presentation.  It can become a demand and no longer a desired ministry opportunity to meaningfully speak into the lives of God’s people!

When a pastor no longer enjoys preaching and teaching, it is time to pack it up; it is time to retire (no matter your age).  Or, if that is your pastor, it is time for the membership and the leadership to ask their pastor to resign!  Their pulpit ministry will be affected and slowly become ineffective,

Again . . . .

It Can Be Seen!  It is obvious when pastors pass-off opportunities to preach and teach, pass-up worthwhile request to speak (i.e. by a funeral home looking for a minister), frequently replace a preaching service with an “event,” only prepare a brief devotional for a time when much more would be worthwhile, ask another to speak when the nature of the service calls for hearing from “the pastor,” obviously haven’t prepared adequately, frequently and/or opportunistically cancel services, regard speaking elsewhere higher than “therewhere,” preach-teach less, etc. etc. etc.

. . . . . . . 

Some pastors may need to come
to the stark realization that they no longer have
the passion that ought to mark the calling!

Yes, it is difficult to face the unpleasant realization that you have lost your heart for God’s people and/or for preaching God’s Word, and then purposefully choosing to leave the local church ministry. [6]

Yes, the removal of a pastor from the pulpit ministry has long-term effects on a church and the pastor and his family. That is why these issues need to be addressed early on, before they become so obvious and entrenched. They ought to be addressed well before little meaningful and/or generous action can be taken to remediate the situation. When it happens, a caring and responsible parting of the ways should be discussed and arranged to the church’s benefit and to the pastor. [7]

Yes, it is hard on all involved!  Nevertheless, two of the most important responsibilities of a pastor is to genuinely care for the fellowship of believers, and to passionately preach and teach the Scriptures.

When the passion is obviously missing and lost
it is time to make a change!

1. Shockingly At times, even sexual impropriety is covered up by fellow pastors, associates, local churches, ministries, and church leaders. The Ravi Z situation is irrefutable proof that even leaders in ministry will cover for one another until they are forced to take action.  Such ministry leaders ought to resign as well!

2. Stepping Away From:  Sometimes, these are announced as “an extended time away”, “a much needed vacation,” “a change of ministry responsibilities,” “some needed family time and evaluation,” or a “sabbatical leave.”  Such individuals are still on the payroll while an attempt is made to see if the situation is recoverable or “coverable.”

3. When The Spell Is Broken: The Roy’s article reveals another cause for resignation or removal, which is all to typically unaddressed. In Roy’s interview, accountability only arrives after leadership comes to the realization {i.e. as the article states, the spell is broken] that there are others who have experienced or witnessed the truth of the situation. . . . .

. . . . the whole purpose of gaslighting is to make the person who says there’s a problem feel like, Oh, you’re the only one. What’s wrong with you? Why do you have a problem with this? Nobody else does.  . . . . [Until it becomes clear that] Oh! My goodness! I’m not the only one. Because you’re often made to feel like you’re the only one who feels that way. . . . [Wade Mullen] he’s found there’s a pattern that Evangelical organizations follow almost every time they get caught in a crisi. And very rarely is it to own all of their mistakes and say what a leader did and what’s wrong. Instead, it’s usually to kind of obfuscate it and not really give much credence to what the victims are saying.

. . . they were firing Steve Timmis at the same time that this article comes out with a lot of your accounts. Very specific accounts of abuse by Steve Timmis. And again, to appeal to Wade Mullen, he’s found there’s a pattern that Evangelical organizations follow almost every time they get caught in a crisi. And very rarely is it to own all of their mistakes and say what a leader did and what’s wrong. Instead, it’s usually to kind of obfuscate it and not really give much credence to what the victims are saying..


4. Timothy and Titus:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

5. “Relationships” are connected to the effectiveness of a pulpit ministry.  One of the reasons God’s people listen to a pastor is because they believe that he cares about them, that he is concerned and interested in their life and lives.  While it may be argued that effectiveness in any area of ministry is connected to one’s love of people (and I would agree with that assessment), the pulpit ministry demands a personal love of God’s people in order to be effective in the pulpit!

6. I should state — I imagine that some will push back on this if I leave this unsaid — that leaving a local church ministry, moving on to another ministry, or retiring from ministry is not reflective of such a loss of passion for people and for preaching.  It may be God’s plan for the local church, or a pastor-family.  Health, age, situations of life all play into the decisions for a needed change.

7. Interestingly, it is only when a pastor is asked to step away from the pulpit ministry or step down from any and all ministry that he understands how others were affected by their same or similar decision involving others’ lives. What they feel, they have done to others with little to no self-awareness — as again highlighted in the Roy’s report regarding Steve Timmis . . . . .

Julie Roys: He [Steve Timmis] writes, “As you well know, the impetus for the review, (speaking of that investigation that was done), emerged from a deeply unhelpful place. It was a response to a Christianity Today article that was unkind and profoundly unbiblical in its approach. I cannot begin to explain to you the distress the article, and the fallout from it is brought to me and my family. I have been labeled a spiritual abuser. And unlike a court of law, I have been accused, tried and judged guilty by social media with no opportunity for either engagement or defense. I believe that the elders in The Crowded House responded to that article in fear and without regard or do care for my family or me the necessary time in the immediate aftermath to think through a response from a biblical standpoint just wasn’t given”. . . .

Steve McAlpine: But it’s also the experience of every person who had to leave. Everything that’s they’ve said about himself and his family happened to them. That that would be what I’d say is I, your concern for your well being was not matched by your concern for the well being of people that suddenly just disappeared off The Crowded House page with their families, and their livelihoods and their jobs that they’d moved from the UK to the US for. . . . . .


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