When You Resign or Retire as Pastor

“Make an official handwritten record of all the junk you’ve suffered and put up with in this church….Name names. Use bold print, underline, and add exclamation points. Then, take this official document, this masterpiece, and shred it. Then burn the shredding.” - David Brumbelow


I would agree with the general tenor of this post. However, I’ve seen pastors leave a church and spiritualize (and lie about) the reasons why they are leaving. That doesn’t honor God or help the church either.

One pastor I know left his church because he didn’t feel the elders supported his leadership, but when he announced his resignation to the church he said he was leaving to be closer to his extended family. Certainly, his new church was closer to his extended family, but that is not the reason he was leaving the church.

Another pastor I know left his church because “God was calling him to church x.” In reality, his leadership had caused significant turmoil within the congregation, he denied any responsibility for it, and found a larger church to pastor. God gets blamed for a lot of pastoral foolishness and leadership failures.

For once, I wish pastors would stop hiding behind spiritual jargon and nonsense when making their decision about leaving the church. How about some honesty.

“I’m resigning from the pastorate of this church because I’m a hireling. Since the second year I’ve been here, I’ve had my eye on various pastoral jobs in churches much larger than this one. I finally found one that wants me to be their pastor, so I’m taking my talents to south beach.”

[the above statement would take care of 50% of the occasions when pastors leave a church.]

“I’m resigning from the pastorate of this church because the leaders and I aren’t aligned regarding the leadership of this church. I want to be the CEO of the church and have the final say, but the other leaders don’t agree with me.”

[the above statement would take care of 40% of the occasions when pastors leave a church.]

The other 10% would be because of doctrine, retirement, and other issues.

And, yes, I’m a bit jaded. I’ve seen some pretty crappy pastoral leadership in my time.

This illustrates just how difficult it is to not be political. Pastor resignations are regularly communicated in the same way that politicians communicate things - purposefully evasive, choosing words very carefully, etc.

But, in their (both) defense, it is very difficult to choose the absolutely correct words. There is often no reason to say everything, but how much is enough?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)