The voice is full of hurt and confusion. 'So I think that it might be time to leave.'
Most Pastors Think About Quitting - Including Me
This is not the first time that I have had this conversation with one of my pastor friends. In the past three years, I have had this same conversation with dozens of men. Their stories are unique, but most of them are in their late-30s or early-40s and have been leading their church for around five years.
Life and ministry have become difficult, so they call me because I am their friend. Or maybe they call because I know lots of people in lots of places. Or maybe they call because they know I am prone to wander, too.
I have had at least three times over the past decade where I seriously considered leaving Athens, the last time being several months ago as my time on staff with the Acts 29 church planting network was ending. Each time there have been reasons to leave and options somewhere else. But I am still here, in no small part, because of the legacy of an Irish bishop named Patrick.
How St. Patrick Convinced Me To Stay
I am writing this on St. Patrick's Day with its demand to wear green and drink Shamrock shakes. I just dropped off my son and his leprechaun trap that he had built to share with his kindergarten class. And while the life of Patrick is a relative mystery to many of us, one aspect of his story that has impacted me is the fact that he stayed in Ireland.
In his autobiography, Patrick says that he went to Ireland to preach the good news and that he didn't leave because he still had work to do. Threatened with slavery and isolated from his family in Britain, Patrick stayed in Ireland. He believed that the Spirit of God had sent him there and had not given him permission to leave.
The day which bears Patrick's name has become little more than a reason to drink one too many Guinnesses. But let's not miss the wonder that St. Patrick's Day is even a thing. The legacy of Patrick is impossible to ignore. His work shaped a nation and 1500 years after his death, who can deny his influence? There will be parades around the world today because Patrick stayed.
Does Patrick's story mean that you should stay in the place where God has posted you? Not necessarily. But perhaps it gives you pause as you plan your exit.
Does Patrick's legacy hold out the promise of undeniable impact that lasts for generations? No. You and I are ordinary people living everyday lives.
We will do our work, die and be forgotten. But it might be that your best work will take place in the next season of your life and leadership. Because you stayed.
Do The Next Right Thing
Are you thinking about changing jobs or leaving the ministry? Grab a piece of paper and write down all the reasons you think now is the right time to make a move.
Then write down and answer this question, 'If this church were to become everything I think it can and should be in the next five years, do I want to miss out on that?'
Now take time in the next two days to share what you've written with your wife and another organizational leader in your church.