It Would Be Easier To Just Quit
When I was a boy my parents signed me up to play Little League Baseball. That first season was brutal. I played right field (when I was not on the bench.) Those of you who have played know that often right field is where you park the kid whose uniform never gets dirty. It is the starting block for kids like me who never played before and are still learning the game. No disrespect for the Little League right fielders out there.
I remember many games where I would stand out in right field yelling “Batter, batter, batter, SWING” with my teammates. Other than that, I would just stand out there looking at the clouds hoping no one ever hit a ball my way.
I had a perfect batting average that season. It takes a certain set of skills to go an entire season without getting a hit.
Nevertheless, I was having fun…for the most part.
I finished the season. I was taught that when I signed up for something (whether Scouting, baseball, basketball, or even choir at church) I was expected to see it through to completion.
Over the years I have had numerous moments when I truly just wanted to quit whatever it was I was doing because it was no longer fun or was getting difficult.
There may be pastors reading this today who have already composed their resignation letter to their church. (Some advice – never resign on a Monday.) Some may have decades of experience but are now at a point, due to reasons I can imagine and some I cannot, where they just don’t believe they can go on. I have read some statistics regarding pastoral retention over the past year. These pandemic-laced numbers have been eye-opening and disheartening. Numerous qualified and called pastors seem to be walking away from their churches.
To say those thoughts, fleeting as they have been, of walking away have not come to mind would be disingenuous.
As a pastor of an established church, I have faced the same stressors many others have. Even in my church where members and staff are faithful, supportive, good, encouraging, missionally-minded, God-centered, and truly love me…those days where thoughts such as “This is so overwhelming. It would be easier to just quit,” flash through my mind.
More than one pastor in our city, and numerous church planters I have coached and prayed with over the years have reached out at times with the same feelings. Each version of local church (new start, church plant, established church, legacy church, etc.) has its own unique and difficult challenges.
For the church planter who puts his “yes” on the table, goes through assessment, training cohorts, and all that is offered, the joy and excitement of the new work often wanes after a few months when the “team” working with him begins to show signs of weariness. For those who use borrowed or rented space, the toil of perpetual set-up, tear-down, and making do with space less than perfect begins to wear.
Church planting (and pastoring in general) is exciting…until it isn’t.
Yet, it is in those moments when the thoughts of hanging it up, walking away, finding another job, and other such things come to mind.
It may not be the most encouraging word, but one pastor told me years ago that “Pastoring is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.” There is certainly nuance to that statement regarding calling and qualifications. Yet, in those moments where it just seems that it would be easier to walk away, consider the calling.
When I played Little League, I knew my parents were there supporting me, buying me snow cones after wins (and losses) regardless how I played. My coach was a Barnabas. His encouragement made going to the practices and games something I truly enjoyed. Those were great memories and eventually, in the years that followed, I moved from right field and surprisingly began hitting the ball. Maturation plus perseverance plus parents who continued to encourage (and pay the fees for me to play) helped me see that chapter of my life to its completion.
Pastor, church planter, associate pastor, minister, and ministry director – press on. It may be easy to quit, but we were not called to the easy. And…don’t think a motivational speech or verse-of-the-day is all you need. By God’s providence, he has placed numerous pastors, denominational leaders, and ministerial leaders in our network who serve for God’s glory and come along side you and your church…for your good. You are not alone. We are in this together. The Lord is our strength and he is enough.`