I’ve posted before about how one of the major reasons pastors leave the pulpit is because they realize they’re no longer preaching the truth.
So why would people remain pastors once they realize the Bible is no longer credible? Lots of reasons. Uncertainty about a new career is only one of the issues.
David Hayward (a.k.a. nakedpastor) left the ministry (even though he’s still a Christian) and he knows firsthand how hard it is to leave a church. He listed a number of reasons it’s difficult for anyone to leave the pulpit and some of them haven’t been discussed very much — even in articles about The Clergy Project:
2. family: Especially if your family is Christian, they had so much pride in the fact that you were “serving the Lord“. Pastors will anticipate a great deal of disappointment from their families when they walk away from this very special calling that so many people took such delight in.
7. enemies: Those who have questioned, ridiculed or even opposed the pastor’s ministry will suddenly have all the ammunition they need to say, “I told you so!” I’ve heard many times that leaving the ministry was proof that I shouldn’t have been a pastor to begin with. It feels like throwing in the towel, and there are people who love to cheer that demonstration of surrender.
8. meaning: To leave most jobs doesn’t bear the weightiness that leaving the ministry does. Leaving the ministry carries an existential significance that shoots a resigning pastor into the darkest of nights because, as most pastors sense, their job wasn’t just a job, but an extension of their spiritual selves. Ministry is the expression of their convictions, and to leave the job appears to be the desertion of these core convictions.
Why should we pay attention to these reasons? Because these are the hurdles we need to help pastors overcome if we want to help them leave that profession and begin another. It’s not as easy as, “Just go do something else.”