When the Preacher is Fired...
Something has been on my heart for quite a while, but I hesitated blogging about it for fear that some would allege that I am biased (Yes, I am) or that I speak out of malice (No, I don’t). Recently, I learned of a preacher friend who was fired from his position. Only God knows the entire situation, and though I don’t think he was terminated for legitimate reasons, those reasons are immaterial to this post. The news brought to the surface a volatile sea of toxic emotions, for I too have been fired from preaching positions. Twice. It is not my intention here to speak ill of those incidents, but I want to address the general theme of firing a minister. God knows that I have hesitated to say anything on this subject, but I simply can’t hold it in any longer. In my experience, church members are often torn between their affection for the preacher vs. their spiritual obligation to obey the elders, and thus do not know how to respond appropriately. For better or worse, I believe a preacher being fired is wholly different from someone else being terminated.
When a preachers loses his job, he loses his…
Growing up, since dad preached, we never lived near physical family members, so the church became my family. Now that I’m an adult, when I move into a new community, my local brethren become like family to me very quickly. (e.g. births, promotions, celebrations, healing), while also the pain of life (e.g., illness, economic hardship, death). I am often in the homes of my church family, and they in mine.
When a preachers loses his job, he loses his church family. Some elders (wrongly, in my opinion) insist that members have no contact with the terminated minister. When some other member would lose their job, as devastating as it is, they still have the ability to lean on their church family and share their hardship (and let’s be honest, unemployment is a traumatic thing for everyone). They can go to their church family and ask for prayers, encouragement, and other help. If loss of employment begins to affect their personal finances, that members can go to the elders and ask for assistance until they get back on their feet.
When a preacher is fired, he loses such a wonderful support system since he loses his church family. Can he go to the elders, men who just fired him, and ask for financial assistance if things become tough? A preacher often is geographically isolated from his blood family, who can offer only a little comfort if separated by long distances. What Sara and I found most disorienting is that we found it difficult to locate a new place to worship. And since we did not know how much longer we would be in the area, it was hard to establish relationships with people since we thought we’d be moving in the near future. To borrow Paul’s metaphor of the church as a body, we felt like a finger, hand, or foot that had been severed and cast aside to whither.
As crazy as it sounds, I wish there was a church somewhere that ministered to preachers in between pulpits, a church that could be their surrogate family until they were reestablished in local work. Were it not for my belief in the communion of the saints and the universal nature of the church, I might have left the church altogether and sought help and hope elsewhere. The church has given me a lot of reasons to walk away from my faith…
But Jesus has given me many more reasons to stay.
Sara and I have been married 5 years as of April 24th, but we have moved 5 times in our marriage and been a part of four different congregations in those years. I realize that home is where the heart is, that it need not be tied to an actual house. But I don’t think I’m too far off base to say it is a traumatic thing to lose your house/home. When I was fired in Houston, it cut us deeper than we expected to face the reality that we would be forced to move and give up our house, a home we had built and planned to raise our family in. I had allowed Sara to decorate and make it her “nest” as we drew closer to starting our family.
When a preacher loses his job, unless he is willing to leave ministry, he almost always is forced to move. This means a new home, a new town, new schools, new relationships. Like ball coaches and military, a preacher has virtually no hope of raising his children in one place. As I get older, I begin to realize the terrible consequences of not having roots in a place. It’s never easy, but moving around is certainly easier when your single or newly married vs. when raising kids.
When someone loses their job, it is not as often that they are forced to move in order to be employed again. Again, it is often the case that s/he can remain in the same town, at the same church, and in the same schools. They perhaps might have a longer commute or other hassles, but moving isn’t always necessary. For a preacher, it almost always is. There is a terrible toll taken particularly on preachers’ kids who have to move around a lot, and the church could do a better job of showing those kids some grace.
* * * * *
To any preachers reading this who may have been fired, let me say I’m so sorry. I’ve been there. It stinks. God loves you, and your ministry is never over until He says so. Do not seek vengeance, or to inflict harm on Jesus’ bride. Jesus himself will return one day and take vengeance on those who have caused problems for you. Meanwhile, know that when you lose your job, God and your fellow preaching brothers know you’ve lost much much more than that.
To church members whose preacher has just been fired… Where do I begin? Your (former) preacher needs expressions of love and support. You don’t have to choose sides, and if he’s the man of God he’s supposed to be, that preacher won’t expect you to pick sides. But shame on any Christian eldership that considers expressions of love to be “picking sides” or a threat to the “unity of the body.” Both times I was fired, Sara and I quickly figured out who our true friends were. Some dropped us completely and we never heard from them. Others, who we thought weren’t too happy with us, turned out to be the best encouragers. Preachers, when terminate, need a lot of love and grace, because the personal toll of being fired will be more devastating for them than for anyone else.
To the church at large, whether you’ve just lost your preacher or he is celebrating his 30th anniversary, remember that preachers have no business being on pedestals or worshiped as heroes, and we sure aren’t to be envied by others. As Paul put it 2,000 years ago, “We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things,” (1 Cor. 4:13). Rough translation, true, biblical, Christ-glorifying ministry isn’t for those seeking prestige and fame. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
Thirty years ago, my aunt cross-stitched a small piece of cloth, framed it, and gave it to my dad. It now hangs on my wall, and I glance at it every time I walk out on Sunday morning to teach my class or present my sermon. Many preachers will recognize the proverb. “Work for the Lord, the pay is not much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.”
**Discover other great resources like this article on our mobile app.**
[wpsm_divider top="20px" bottom="20px" style="solid"]
[wpsm_offerbox button_link="http://start2finish.org/subscribe" button_text="Subscribe" price="FREE" title="Subscribe & Get a FREE eBook" description="Sign-up to be notified of new posts and products from Start2Finish and get a FREE copy of the award-winning The Epic of God: A Guide to Genesis." thumb="http://start2finish.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/genesis.jpg" ]