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What knocks leaders out of ministry?

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“No, no, no. Not him!” was my first thought when I heard the tragic story. One of my close pastor friends was terminated from a church. I couldn’t believe the news. “Why, God? Why?”

What are the sin areas that get pastors out of ministry?

Is it sexual immorality?

My professor talked about his first pastorate as an associate, and soon the senior pastor was caught committing adultery with a children’s worker in the nursery. The church called a special business meeting on a Wednesday night and forced the senior pastor out.

Even recently, a spiritual giant of a leader I looked up to was caught committing the act of adultery. Now the wife and the children are mourning as the father needed to leave the home. The entire church body was taken back by the tragic news and struggled to process the hurt and distrust from the leadership.

But I think there’s more that gets pastors out.

Is it financial embezzlement?

I think this shocking news makes it most to big companies’ social media feeds or article posts.

I remember even recently when a pastor in the area was caught secretly taking $250,000 out of the church’s reserve account. He was immediately removed, and the church is still facing the consequences.

However, this doesn’t happen very often. I think there’s something a little more common.

Is it bitter roots?

At one point, I remember going through a rough time in ministry and said, “I’m worried I am going to just end up as a bitter, gloomy, angry pastor and forget what it was like to first enter into ministry and the joy of serving Jesus.” I guess it makes sense, right? The pressure of ministry, sleepless nights, carrying the weight of the flock.

Hebrews 12:14-15 is so helpful here, “Strive for peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

I have read many leadership books, but they rarely discuss the struggle against bitterness.

What do angry, cynical, bitter pastors look like?

Someone once told me, “Depression is anger turned inward.” Why? For they have allowed the sin of emotional bitterness to take rampant control over their lives. Paul says in Romans, “Do not let sin control the way you live” (Rom 6:12).

Bitterness is scary because it can eat you for lunch, like cancer taking up your whole body. The greatest weapon to battle against the root of bitterness is trusting in the sovereignty of God.

How should pastors respond against bitterness in their hearts?

Our faith in Christ must triumph over our feelings in self. The best way to counter bitter thoughts is to trust and embrace the comfort you find in the glorious doctrine of God’s sovereign grace.

Why? Satan only has certain limits, like in the story of the Book of Job. He is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent like our Creator God. The book of Hebrews says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). God, in his infinite love, does not unfriend us or walk out on us because we mess up.

Be encouraged in Christ, my friend. Though yet still a wretched, vile, rebellious, wicked sinner, you are purchased and redeemed by Christ who came and died for you.

This story first appeared here.

    About the Author

  • Jonathan Hayashi