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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Do I Leave My Church To Take a Job Elsewhere?

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A 9Marks friend recently emailed with this good question:

Have you guys ever done an article or blog post on how to weigh a new professional (secular) opportunity with leaving a local church?  I’m asking as we are potentially going to be faced with a decision to move to [city name] next month for a new job opportunity.  I’m praying earnestly for a “Macedonian call,” one way or another but wasn’t sure whether you guys had written anything on that balance. 

I tell you what I said in a moment, but I expect there's a lot more wisdom out there than what I had to offer. Any thoughts?

Here's how I answered:

That's a great question. No, I don't think we have anything explicitly on that. I mean, you're really asking the "How do I know God's will for my life" question, right? 

What I appreciate about how you're putting it is, you're factoring in the question of a church's role. I take it that you recognize belonging to a healthy church is more important than having your dream job, assuming you can provide for your family in your present job. 

So really, you're in the realm of Christian prudence and freedom, and there's no formula for you. That means it's not necessarily "right" to stay or "wrong" to go. And I think there are times in life when Christians can in good conscience decide to leave a church for the sake of a job opportunity--call it a "creation stewardship" opportunity. Now, that's probably true less often than (especially) Americas seem to think since we typically do not give any thought to how our church commitments affect our spiritual welfare. Still, the principle of freedom holds.

To work through this matter of prudence, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Are my wife and children spiritually prospering in our present church (under the teaching; in their relationships)? 
  • Am I spiritually prospering?
  • What are some other downsides for my wife and kids? Upsides?
  • Do I know of a healthy church where I would be going? 
  • Would we be there long enough to get involved, or would this be short-term?
  • What's governing my desire to leave:  worldly ambition/idolatry or a godly desire to steward the talents and opps God has given me in my work?
  • Has there been a pattern in my life of always looking for the next best thing, or has there been a pattern of consistent, persevering faithfulness?
  • How would my wife answer all these questions? What does she think about going?
  • What do the spiritual men in my life, who know me and my weaknesses, think about this prospect? How would they answer these questions for me?
  • Finally, assuming I'm delighting myself in the Lord, what do I want to do (see Ps. 37:4)?

There are probably more questions worth asking, but those are the ones that come to mind. Here's the exciting bit: God is using the very grayness of this issue to teach you to lean on him and thereby to increasingly fashion you after his Son's image. That IS his will, and he will accomplish it whether you stay or go!  

 

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Good questions. In a similar vein, I wish more was written about pastors leaving their ministries for greener pastures. In general, we frown on church members trading churches, yet expect it and in even approve of it when pastors switch churches. I'd like to see this topic addressed from a historical and biblical perspective.

Thanks for this, appreciate your advice - I recently wrote about trying to live out word ministry in the midst of a secular calling. Its something I continue to struggle to balance. Its not easy to make the right choices from a career and ministry perspective but here are a few lessons I am learning:
http://martynlink.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/25-things-im-learning-about-ministry-of-the-word-within-the-mundanity-of-work/

I too would like to see more on this subject.
Is it ok for a pastor to seek another ministry opportunity that will provide for he and his family better financially? Not that current position is bad, but it is not keeping up with the cost of life. Living paycheck to paycheck and doing without when needed.
If another ministry position presents itself, how do you know weather to stay or go?

Billy Ray Valentine
(sudo name)

I, too, would appreciate some insights on how pastors decide when to leave a congregation to go to another congregation, since I'm facing the possibility myself. Many of the questions in the blog applied to my situation, but there are unique aspects of the decision for a pastor. This is not a "career move" situation, but it's very difficult to discern the Kingdom priorities that should guide me.

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