why I stopped pastoring
Even though I was blogging when I stopped pastoring, I had not gone on record to explore and unpack why I quit that high calling. The year I stopped was a dark year, a lot of my life didn’t make sense during that transition. I’m asked that question often enough, so now that I’ve been a regular citizen as long as I’ve been clergy, I’m starting to gain perspective on what all of that was about.
Oh, I wish I could be a pastor! I spent a decade of my life trying, dedicating myself to serious studies at a seminary, praying and doing spiritual disciplines, even working as a pastor for over 5 years. I believed I was called to go to seminary– a Bible verse urged me on: for the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. I started by faith, and I continued by faith, but blind faith could only last so long.
I knew going in that it’d be hard work. I knew it’d be a sacrifice. I believe I did some good during my pastoring years, and I had good feedback from people I pastored, and how they appreciated my ministry. I still do get some good comments from people when I accept an occasional speaking/preaching invite.
But I didn’t feel it any more. I don’t feel it. That’s not a good place to be if I’m doing something that directly impacts people like pastoring. I’m discovering that pastoral ministry is a lot more about passion and enthusiasm, not so much the delivery of content through preaching or teaching.
I didn’t have the faith to be a pastor who’d have be the preacher and teacher who had to have the answer or who had to be the role model. The work of the faith worker has to be a fairly good grasp on conviction, inspiration, motivation, passion, and discipline. I didn’t say a perfect grasp, but more often than not, perseverance of the faith worker is called for. I don’t have much of that. This isn’t to say that I didn’t minister the Word out of good faith, it just wasn’t enough to last me for the long haul. I still do believe, just not enough to believe that I should be the vocational pastor.
Ministry is supposed to be all about people. That part attracted me, because I like people, all kinds of people. But that doesn’t mean pastoring was the best thing for me to do for them. 3 things that surprised me: some ministers love tasks more than people, most people don’t have theological inquiries, and most people change very slowly.
All those years of theological training sits in dusty boxes because most people don’t ask the questions that got answered in seminary. People ask practical everyday questions about life, for which theological answers undergird a wisdom, perspective, and discernment, but the pastoral role of translating abstract metaphysical ideas into pragmatic realities was not something I had a knack for. Some people call it common sense; and, where in the world do you learn that?
To this day I still don’t have a strong sense of what my spiritual gifts are. I do have a wide set of skills, but underneath it all, I use my skills to help others. I don’t have certain things that I just love to do, be it teaching, preaching, counseling, or administrating. I’m spiritually motivated mostly to be a helper, a companion. Other roles and responsibilities put me out on a limb, where I risk losing my grip.
In hindsight, I’m realizing that having a good job fit is important for me to honor and accept the way God has made me. I’ve wrestled for years with trying to get what I wish I could do (desires) and what I’m actually good at doing (gifting) and what I love to do (affinities) to align. I realize now that I need to be doing work that changes quickly and regularly, or I get lulled into a routine boredom. My best 3 action verbs for what I do: researching, networking, and writing.
Some people are blessed (or cursed) with knowing what they’ve wanted to do with their life since they were 12 years old. I’m not one of them.
So my journey of figuring out what to do with my life and for my work is one step at a time. I’m not bitter for having pastored. I didn’t burn out. I didn’t revolt with a moral failure. I don’t have any regrets. And, life goes on.
Would I ever pastor again? Not likely. The probability is very low, for it’d have to be a church that’s constantly changing and innovating. And, unfortunately, I don’t have the gift mix, drive, or faith to be launching a new church plant (that’d fit me), even though Bob Hyatt thinks (almost) anyone could plant a church.
What’s exciting about the next season of my life is that I’ll be doing something I enjoy, something I’m good at, something that makes Kingdom impact. Sovereignly somehow, all of my career wanderings are beginning to have a semblence of convergence. Finally, at age 40, it’s about time.