Why pastors resign

pastors salary

Recent spate of resignations

News of the resignation of two prominent pastors surprised me. It was announced in Riverlife Church, a megachurch in Pasir Ris, that Rev Vincent Lun, their senior pastor has resigned. Then I heard that so has Rev Melvyn Mak, the deputy senior pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. These two in the wake of recent resignations of pastors from New Creation Church, City Harvest and Church of our Savior who have served faithfully in their respective congregations. Then there is the forthcoming retirement of many senior and experienced Anglican priests in the next few years.

Push and pull factors

It made me realize that though I have given thought to why members leave a church, little have I thought or written about why pastors resign. It was a rare thing in the many years that I have served, but recently it seemed like the drizzle of the past has turned into a tropical downpour. So why do pastors resign? Common sense, anecdotal hearsay and guesswork is all you need to draw up a list of push and pull factors. A combination of push and pull factors are usually involved in any pastor’s resignation.

resisting change

Push factors

-Frustration over resistance to positive change.

-Unhappiness with some in church board or congregation, usually precipated by conflict or disagreement.

-Pastor finds insufficient support for his vision or strategy.

-Pastor is discouraged or burnt-out and there is no provision for sabbatical or rest.comparisons and competition

-A stifling system invented out of distrust of a pastor’s consecration to God, dedication to the ministry.

-No chemistry with leadership or staff team. Personality clashes with key people.

-Disillusionment about people, leaders, and the way church is done.

-Frustration over inability to meet up to unrealistic expectations of church and self.

-Disunity and politicking in the church.

-Autocratic, unreasonable  “boss” or board.

-Poor fit of one’s gifts with the position.

-The shove of mandatory retirement age or poor health.

endless needs, needs, needs

Pull factors

-Called to another kind of ministry: whether missions, a para-church ministry or to plant a different kind of church.

-Attracted by greater freedom, flexibility and trust, or by its opposite: a clear structure and order and policy.

-Children have grown up and are independent and the need to provide financially for their education is lifted.

-Greater awareness of one’s true passion, gifts and wiring and the fit is better outside church.

Its time to move on.-Too long in a place and restlessness beckoning for a change of scenery or challenge.

-Pastor’s conviction that they have done what they could with the team and people and a change would be good for the church.

-Emigration to another country.

-Finding expression for one’s changes in convictions about doctrine, philosophy of ministry or vision, that the church cannot provide space or acceptance for.

– Better compensation and terms so that there is more than enough to meet the family’s needs, and to give to others.

-Maximizing one’s experience and insight in the senior years to focus on passing on the baton to the next generation.

POSTSCRIPT: To find out where do pastors go to after they retire click HERE.

And you might want to add other factors in the comment box…..

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  • Thx pastor kenny for such insightful push and pull factors. How true. we tend to think why do a church member leave a church to go to another church building? We need to remember our leaders in leadership. They r also even more in need for our prayers in upholding. It is a reminder that even a hello in the wk, a word of affirmation, or encouragement ll keep our pastors and leaders going. Tq pastor kenny. I am blessed by u.

  • I reckon there are numerous factors pertaining to pastors resignation.

    Perhaps, the primary factor I can think of is the two-prong pressure faced by pastors to fulfill : i) the varied, numerous, unwritten and unreasonable expectations of the flock and ii) the various norms/taboos imposed by the organisation/denominational structures and their denominational superiors or peers…i.e. peer pressure.

    The first type of pressure is a strong expectation from the flock for pastors to walk the talk,..(because they preach a lot about what to do for God) and hence, to be be everything from being a miracle healer to dishing out help ranging from financial to domestic as when required. This is further compounded by the constant fear that some will leave them if their expectations are not met.

    Also, some pastors are almost revered like little gods and they feel pressured to play those “characters”.

    The second type of pressure is the expectation to fall in line with denominational norms. During the course of their pastorship, they may have discovered certain truths that are not in sync with the denominational beliefs but feel pressured to “behave”; hence constantly living in hypocrisy.

    I reckon succumbing to these two types of pressures can be averted if pastors know their true identity in Christ,and not the identity marked out by their denomination or flock; otherwise they will continue to role play and live a double life.

    Living in the finished work of Christ and entering into His rest (grace) and not upon the demands of man (law) can eliminate the pressure for pastors to perform. This can only be done if the mindsets of pastors, the flock and the denominational guardians are renewed into new covenant thinking.

    So, in the final analysis, these pastors have to have new covenant mindsets in the first place so that they can feed their flock correctly. Otherwise, they are reaping what they are basically sowing (unfortunately). You sow grace teaching, you receive rest; you saw law or law+grace teachings, you are expected to work and perform. So it is unfortunately, a vicious cyle propagated by man and it is just the manifestation of that vicious fruit.

    The good news is that God has still got the upper hand in all these; once pastors come to an end of themselves, there is great hope. They can experience the grace of God, for when we are weak (ground zero) then they are strong in Him. His grace is more than sufficient.

    I salute those pastors who are in high position that have decided to resign. It takes a lot of courage and a very bold step to make such decisions and to come out of shadow playing. I welcome them to the reality of grace and truth that only comes through Jesus.

    • Resignation can also due to power struggles and the senior pastor prefering junior younger pastors than older ones.
      In Singapore, it is a norm that man does not believe age means wisdom. In one megachurch, a senior pastor once said, just because you are older does not mean you are better. True to a certain extent, but this senior pastor has also made it a norm not to listen to older and indeed wiser pastors not only in his church but he refuses to listen to others outside unless those support him by saying he’s anointed.

      So you have a scenario that a certain senior pastor can be extremely, i mean extremely egoistic. Grace is not about sensivity but about accepting and allowing remarks made without hurt and then rebuilding faith through the storm. No, no, this senior pastor is so bent on “attacking other pastors” for failing to understand his preaching and pointing his fingers at the camera saying, you pastors out there, must learn to feed the sheep like what I said, and what I said is in conformity with Apostle Paul.

      So that’s why some pastors resign from such domineering leadership who talks but dont walk.

  • To Rejoice,
    Hi, I want to bring to your attention that pastors from both sides have resigned not just the teaching of “law” camp. Grace preaching preacher also resigned. What have you to say on this?

  • To Thinker

    Good question. I can only speculate.

    I did mention however that there are other numerous factors and my thinking is that the common primary factor that causes many pastors to step down is due to the two-pronged pressures. It is not only applicable to pastors but also to Cell or House Group leaders, Worship leader etc.

    However, no one, not even grace preachers can be immuned from pressures (as no one is superhuman and has no weaknesses). Pressures or unreasonable demands can be expected especially from a large congregation with different levels of understanding of the grace of God; some are just stepping in to the discovery of grace, some still living in grace+law, some may abuse the freedom in grace, some may still be entrenched in law and slowly transforming….so inadvertently undue demands can be expected from them, especially those just starting on the journey of grace or less mature.

    Other factors may be priority setting due to change of circumstances: more time with young family members versus time with God’s people or change in focus due to the Spirit leading….

    There is a host of legitimate reasons for stepping down; all my writing here are mere speculations but I wish all them well, from both grace and law camps, as God loves people above functions (some prefer to use offices or titles) or giftings and denominations/persuasions.

      • Geraldine, When a pastor retires several things may happen;
        1. He may move on to another church and settle there. Such a move may give him breathing space, rest from his usual labours, and freedom from the previous expectations of the community he served.
        2. He may stay on in the commnunity he had served and use his gifts in voluntary unpaid service. Only this time he does it as a volunteer not a paid staff with performance expectations.
        3. Some may be asked to continue until such time that the church has found and appointed someone else to replace him. This may be what you are referring to.

  • To Rejoice,

    Thanks for your clarification. I understand there is no easy answers to why pastors resign. For your info, I am a full time staff of a church for over 20 years and still serving. But whether in full time ministry or not is the main issue, the important thing is we must heard from God and do what pleases Him by His grace.

  • Thank you Edmund for your clarification. I have heard of the intentional succession planning in Covenant EFC and Trinity Christian Centre and hope one day to write a post about them, as a large number of churches, especially the non-connectional ones and smaller ones, are in need of a few models of how best to implement succession graciously and effectively. The original post will be rectified.

  • Hi Ps Kenny,

    Thanks for your article. I was googling to try and confirm about Ps Vincent’s resignation, as I had heard about it in the grapevine recently too. Interestingly, there’s no other information on the web, and even Riverlife’s website still lists him and his wife on their Elders’ Board.

    Wonder if you know a confirmed source or link where this can be confirmed? No need to mention here if confidential.

    I know Vincent and Jenny from way back in old Bartley days, even before they were in full-time. Jenny was my Sunday school teacher, and we’ve always enjoyed a not-close, but cordial friendship. Bumped into Vincent just not too long ago in Nov 2010 @ Hans, Trinity@Paya Lebar, amidst lunch meetings, and he mentioned that he was just returning back to ministry after a sabbatical. So yeah, the news was a bit of a surprise.

  • It really does not matter which Pastor resigns or which Pastor remains! They are under shepherds and I guess congregation has to focus on JESUS – the OVERALL SHEPHERD.

    Many a times, congregation will attend and worship idol pastor and when other speakers come along, most of the members disappear! This is idol worship and should not be in any church but it’s a fact of life. Pastors do rise and they do fall – even Ps Benny Hinn but he has heard from God to restore and reconcile him with the faith and with people. How many of the Singaporean Pastors can do that like Benny Hinn! I wonder?

    • When u hire “professionals” instead of ” vocationals” and when KPI is money, pragmatic nonchalance will prevail.

      Vested individuals will reinvent themselves to stay ” employable” by reskilling, retooling and relevant to contemporary needs.

  • Some pastors don’t resign but are asked to tender a resignation (i.e. sacked) as if they were an employee not meeting the K.P.I. Of course, no-one wants to admit that they sacked the pastor as it is shameful for both the pastor and the board. Board members can think of the church as a corporate body like a company which leads to profit and loss analysis regarding income (church attendance) and expenditure (pastor’s salaries). When a church is growing then all is good, but when attendance stagnates and falls then changing the pastor seems like a solution.

    • When corporate practices are adopted without discernment, it shows that the ecclesiology is weak or absent or suspect.

  • As far as I know, NCC has removed a no of pastors for reasons they did not disclosed but speculation is that they argue with Joseph Prince. If it’s true, it’s sad. 2 Loius left the church n one joshua who went into business. Yet, church told others not to address Joshua as pastor upon his resignation, is this right? Thought that once a pastor, always esp when no wrong done!

    • Shalom, Speculation remains what it always will be – speculation. Unless facts show up to clarify. Until then better to disregard them. Pastor is a job designation, an appointment. In some places, once a pastor leaves, he may still affectionately be called “pastor”. Probably to prevent confusion of calling with job appointment, and for a few other reasons like possible misrepresentation to outsiders, a church organization may prefer a clear differentiation.

      • shalom in nature,

        You can check NCC’s website, or even call up the church on the removal of pastors without disclosure of reasons.

        As far as I know, Ps Joshua resigned to start his own business. From what I know, there was no argument with Pastor Prince, and (ps) Joshua has been thinking about it for a long time, before he eventually resigned. there was an explanation re. his resignation…. through the homegroups and also at the main congregation.

        We were told not to addres him as ‘pastor’ coz he no longer is one….. he has resigned, remember. and like what blogpastor said, it is to avoid possible misrep to outsiders…..

  • Indeed there are Pastors who are resigning and Christians are looking for a better Church, however, there is no perfect Church, as far I am concern.

    In the life of every Christian there must be the shut door, so in the life of every Church there must be the upper room. Christian must know how to pray privately and they must know how to get together, as a result the Church was born.

    I believed the Holy Spirit is the founder of the church. Just as Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit to be born of the Virgin Mary, even so the church was given its corporate life by that same Spirit. As God once lived on earth as a human being in the Second Person of the Trinity, so God resides now in the Third Person of the Trinity in the church and in its members. The Holy Spirit is God still living among and in God’s people. Thus, it is correct to say that at a given time in history the Christian church was born of the Holy Spirit.

    And the church is a place of fellowship where members shared a common meal as often as they could and where also, presumably as a part of their worship, they ate bread and drank wine ceremoniously in remembrance of their Lord’s death and in anticipation of his coming.

    Voluntarily they shared what they had with one another, putting their material resources at the disposal of the congregation as needs arose.


    • Well CM, they listen around for openings, get referrals from other pastors, and look at job adverts in Christian magazines, newspapers, and Google. Word does get around as the need for pastors is always there but getting the right fit is more challenging.

    • Hi Kevin, thanks for your comment. Resigning from full time ministry is not an uncommon occurrence. Pastors are human too. We make mistakes in hearing God’s call. We fail, falter or give up hope. We feel a call to do a different form or expression of ministry. I have see it all.
      Can a pastor bear grudges and serve. Yes they can and they do. But it is hoped that they would realise that this is not pleasing to the Lord and not sustainable nor fruitful in the long run. Yes they bear grudges and serve and the mystery is God in his grace and mercy uses them despite this.

  • Remember pastors, leaders, congregation….if Truly born again in Christ , are servants of our Lord Jesus!
    No servant is greater than our Master!

    Unless the Pastor realised that he/she is serving the Lord’s Divine calling for him/her and acknowledge that they are under shepherds only….in equality with the congregation members of Christ , are required to also humble and sit at the feet of Jesus Christ!

    In God’s Kingdom and in our Father’s eyes, leadership is not the same as of the world….hence the Word of God reminded : be shepherds of God’s Flock….God’s Flock…God’s people/children…not to lord over them!!!

    More often than not, pastors and leaders either failed or forgot their servant position and equality as God’s children…

    In actuality, there are always spiritual abuse (sometimes subtly) and not pleasing to God as we members of Christ’s Body and not a worldly organisation!

    We see both sides of the coin!
    Pastors are acountable to God as much as the congregants so keeping an open mind with a gentle and humble heart, will find rest for our souls !

    • Grace, this word has great relevancy not just for today in the light of recent news but also for all time. It is both a timely and timeless truth. Thank you for sharing.

  • How about Pastors who are removed from their Pastoral position? Such a circumstance forcibly make an affected pastor to step down by a mandatory order.

    In light of the high profile criminal case of City Harvest Church, one of the Senior Pastor Kong Hee out of the 6 convicted leaders which includes the Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng were removed from the church’s board of CHC by order of Commissioner of Charity and can no longer take a similar position in the said church or any other churches or charity organizations.

    On hindsight, such is one of the issue that we could discuss further on how the affected church with such a chaotic Pastoral leaderships can move on as a church. Should it set up new board members from potential people within the church itself or seek potential leaders outside of the church? Should the church change name or just close it down once and for all? What would happened to the remaining members if either decision were made of the two questionable alternatives mentioned.

    Would appreciate if Kenny Chee could further elaborate and write as another book of your journal in your next write up for the benefits of all Church goers.

    • Hi Ah Hock
      You have asked many questions, a few are too complex for me to comment on as I do not have sufficient information about them.
      City Harvest Church has stabilized and as an independent entity they and their Advisors have their tasks set out for them and how they have navigated the church in the past and in the future will certainly consider the many options available (some listed above by you).
      I would like to write a post on this but having given it some thought on and off for some time, I find it beyond me. Thank you for your comment. We will see shortly how CHC manages the next few chapters in a path marked by God’s faithfulness and mercy.

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