President’s Perspective: How to Prevent an Ugly Breakup

The pastor wanted to make some changes. There were some who were not happy. Frustration set in on both sides, then the pastor left for greener pastures elsewhere.

Some form of this scenario happens frequently in our churches. Sometimes it is more acrimonious. Sometimes it is more the pastor’s fault, other times more the church’s fault. But this unhealthy story happens all too often.

These scenarios are never good, and usually both the pastor and the church are limping as they part. Here are some ways to prevent the ugly breakup.

Pastor, you must love your people more than your vision for the church.

Every pastor should dream for the church to grow and make disciples and produce missionaries and see lost people come to Christ. A vision from God must begin with discipling the people who are already there. You are not called to make a name for yourself, your goal is to magnify Christ. Learn to lead the members who are there to follow Christ and join you in the vision to reach the lost world. Start where you are.

People can tell the difference between being used and being loved. Your vision and your ideas gain credibility when your people see Christlike love in you. They will learn to follow a leader who loves them and who points them to follow Christ. First Corinthians 13 is meant for pastors: “If I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Church, you must love, respect and pray for your pastor.

You called him to serve your church because God led you to do so. Listen carefully to your pastor’s heart, his vision for the church, what he would like to see happen as God leads your church.

Typically, churches and pastors get sideways over process issues, while they actually have much they agree upon. Rather than talk about your pastor, seek him out and pray together for how best to reach the biblical goals your church agrees upon. If your pastor is leading your church to fulfill the Great Commission, then you need to work with him to get there. Resist the urge to get caught up in parochial concerns, or turf battles, or old grudges.

What would happen if your church got behind your pastor to reach your community for Christ?

Pastors, understand that leading a church puts you in the crosshairs of a spiritual war.

The good news is God’s grace is sufficient for you, no matter what you face. In 2 Corinthians 11-12, Paul describes some of the challenges he faced. When Paul pled with God to relieve him of a thorn in his flesh, the answer from God was not what he had hoped but more powerful than he could have expected: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response was amazing: “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Your ministry may be more difficult than you ever imagined, but God’s grace is sufficient; when you are weak, you are more dependent on God’s almighty power and rich mercy. Do not give up. Too many pastors run into a hard place and quit. If God’s grace is sufficient, then rest in it, stand in it, live in it.

Once, many years ago, I found myself complaining in my mind that I needed a better church. As that thought rattled around in my soul, the Spirit convicted me that in reality our church needed a better pastor. God kindly reminded me that I was the pastor and I was put there to lead our church to be faithful to Him.

Difficulty must drive us into utter dependence upon Christ. As we live in His strength, as we take on His heart and His mission, we can endure for His glory.  

— Marshall Blalock is pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.