Being a pastor of a church is rarely easy. There are a few amazing mountaintop experiences climbed yet plenty of valleys through which to plod. It is often in the deepest, darkest valleys that the call to a particular church comes most into question. Generally rest or a temporary “time away” results in a healthier perspective and renewed clarity to continue on in God’s current assignment. However, there comes a time when the question “Should I go or should I stay?” becomes serious and sobering; a kind of restlessness that doesn’t go away nor can be dismissed with a new ministry season or sermon series. It presents itself on both the mountaintop as well as in the valley. It lingers long after Sunday and way in to Saturday.

How then should this question be handled by you, the pastor? Of course each pastoral “call” is unique to its own set of circumstances. The same can be said of each pastor! Still, there are some principles or practices that others in the past have embraced that may be helpful. It is wise to consider them.

The following come to mind, and may stir your own thoughts, on how a pastor might successfully wrestle with the big question “Should I go, or should I stay?”

  • PRAY it up. The answer lies least in pragmatism. What may seem logical or “sensible’ may NOT be what the Lord intends for you or the church you serve. It lies more in contemplative prayer. So bring all, everything, to the Lord in prayer. Pour out your heart and soul to Him, and listen as you wait.
  • REDUCE the noise. Critical, complaining voices or difficult conversations frequently play in your head like a “broken record.” Ringtones continue to sound off, marking incoming calls or texts with an ongoing sense of urgency. Sticky notes speak reminders of work left undone, further cluttering the mind. The rapid heartbeat of administration never ceases to knock at the office door. This is not an environment to seriously address the question! Find a secluded place for you that does.
  • PROCESS with others. This of course requires mutual trust and agreed confidentiality. Still, the mere act of communicating to another can have the strange effect of both owning and organizing personal thoughts. The wise counsel of other peers can provide far more insight to humbly consider than solo introspection.
  • WRITE it down. Get your thinking out of your head and on to paper! Processing prayerfully and mentally is truly part of wrestling with the question. However, allowing thoughts and observations to repetitiously or endlessly bang around in your brain rarely leads to clear deductions or direction. Be it on an an empty piece of paper or a blank page on your tablet, “write” down your thoughts or insights no matter how fragmented they may be..

The following is a sample of my own wrestling with Go Or Stay as a pastor :

  • Questions
    • What’s “Got Me” @ XYZ CHURCH?
      • Not Identity (mostly true)
      • Not Preaching (other opportunities)
      • Not Leading Worship (weary of “worship wars”)
      • Not New Growth (currently minimal)
      • Not The People (mostly true)
      • Not Leading (distaste for administration and politics)
    • BUT likely
      • The Established Relationship with the church (no other one)
      • The Secure Income (no other source)
      • The Available Resources to mentor other pastors (no other platform)
  • Deductions
    • To say I’m no longer called to XYZ Church is HEALTHY for both me and XYZ Church.
    • To “Get out from under” XYZ responsibilities will free me to see what God has ahead for me.
    • I can’t be committed to staying and committed to leaving at the same time!
    • Therefore, an undivided heart, a renewed spirit and a clear vision WON’T happen for me If I am conflicted on my call to XYZ Church.

This may be one of the most complex and crucial questions with which you as a pastor may wrestle at the end of your time serving at a particular church. It may be all the more significant as you face the completion of your pastoral ministry years. However, be sure to not make any hasty decisions or arrive at emotional conclusions in the middle of a ministry crisis. But do face the question as it looms large in your pastoral ministry. It may be there for a reason!

Rightly wrestling with your call is inevitable as a pastor, faithful to serving Christ and the Church. Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Remember, you are not alone in this.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 NIV