It happened again – a pastor resigned and gave burnout as the reason. I got the news third-hand and immediately emailed the minister – no response. I called his home – no response. Called his cell and left a message – no response. So I reached out to his church leaders and two days later we got together. I re-introduced myself and within a few minutes it was obvious that this was an unusually sharp group of inexperienced, yet resolute leaders. They were in control, despite the shock of their pastor leaving with absolutely no warning. No last Sunday. No goodbyes. No “God bless you’s”.
Before I left that emergency meeting, I gathered everyone in a circle, we held hands and I prayed for God’s wisdom and blessings on this brave band of leaders as they began a journey they never wanted or anticipated. Their expressed gratitude for my concern was so genuine and profuse that I could tell my visit was deeply appreciated and needed more than I first anticipated. I drove into the night with a grateful heart for the Spirit’s presence and for the privilege of being an encourager to those lay people.
While the news of this resignation caught me off guard, it did not completely surprise me. For more than a year, I could tell something was different, something was wrong. Slowly but surely I saw him withdrawing from the fellowship of other ministers. In times past he and I would occasionally talk at my office but not in a long while. It bothered me that he resisted us connecting because I count it an honor and privilege to be a “pastor to pastors.”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve started three groups for ministers and one of the reasons was that I wanted to insure that our Middle District ministers could experience more than my personal support and friendship. Each group has its own personality and focus, but the one thing they each have in common is the opportunity for each person to form genuine ministry friendships and experience the sustaining faithfulness of God. My goal has been that they would have a safe place where during seasons of heartache and stress, they could admit as did Jesus: “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
In contrast to the minister who resigned because of frustration and stress, I will never forget last month when, after a wonderful ninety minutes of discussion, debate, teaching, and sharing, the group ended with prayer and one minister expressed what was on the hearts of everyone in the room:
“Thank you, Lord, for this group where we can honestly share our struggles and know that we are not alone.”
If you are a minister and feel you would like to explore participating in a group like that, give me a call. It would be my honor to help you get connected in an existing group or possibly create one that meets your needs.