Why do our leaders leave?
Lim JunHeng // September 5, 2019, 5:51 pm
It’s always tragic to hear stories of people who fall away from the faith. It’s even more tragic when these are anointed worship leaders, powerful speakers or full-fledged pastors.
I’ve narrowed it down to three main reasons. These can apply to not just those in full-time ministry, but also all of us as followers of Jesus Christ in our places of influence.
MINISTRY TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER INTIMACY
One of the most surreal moments I’ve had was to counsel one of my own mentors.
He was a youth pastor who left the ministry for various reasons. When I first heard the news, I was shocked but not surprised. As his mentee, I had a pretty rough sense of his schedule – it was packed!
On a bad week, he could possibly find himself preaching or teaching two to three different sermons/lessons a week, in addition to all the meetings, youth mentoring sessions and planning he had to do. Needless to say, he found himself overloaded and eventually burnt out.
I also recalled a session I had with him when I told him that I was considering changing church. He mentioned that he believed that God’s purpose for us in church is in essence this very paraphrased line: “We grow, to serve.”
As much as I respected and loved my mentor, that sentence did not sit well with my spirit. Was our main purpose for growth just for the sole purpose of being in the ministry?
Deep down I was convicted of one thing: “Before God wanted my ministry, He first wanted me.”
If we place our ministry above our intimacy, we serve from a place we were never meant to serve from.
Adapted loosely, Psalm 63:1 (TPT) reads like this:
“O God of my life, I’m lovesick for you in this weary wilderness. I thirst with the deepest longings to love you more, with cravings in my heart that can’t be described. Such yearning grips my soul for you, my God!”
Notice how David’s first response in the midst of his exile was not “God, I’m lovesick for you to serve you”. Rather it was a love sickness to be in God’s presence.
Whether we’re in full-time ministry or not, our calling is first to intimacy before it is to service.
If we place our ministry above our intimacy, we serve from a place we were never meant to serve from; we serve not out of the overflow of His goodness, but out of what we think we can bring to God.
Like a champagne glass tower at wedding banquets, intimacy helps us to be continually poured into beyond capacity so that we can fill others out of the overflow of what we’ve already received. We give out out of what we’ve been lavishly given.
Before God wants your service, He wants you.
THE ENEMY WANTS TO DESTROY LIVES
There’s a reason why in fantasy films, death is often portrayed by having heads chopped off. There’s no way anyone would be able to survive: Once the head is gone, all that’s left is a lifeless body to bleed out.
In the same way, the devil knows the most effective way to kill a ministry (John 10:10) is to go after the head, the leadership. I’ve heard countless stories of health scares, accusations and persecution among leaders.
How then do we respond?
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)
Our leaders need prayer as much as they pray for us. Will we keep watch and intercede for our leaders so that they will not fall prey to the flaming darts of the enemy?
Jesus has already defeated the enemy (Luke 10:19), which means our job is not to fight for victory, but from it. We merely need to stand in the gap and declare that Christ has the final and ultimate victory over the enemy.
The devil cannot touch our leadership; he has to flee (James 4:7).
Let’s surround our leadership with prayer, giving them the spiritual covering they need to minister effectively.
FOLLOWERS ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOBS
As much as we like to believe it, we need to admit one critical truth: “Our pastors are not Superman.”
They too have families to take care of, social lives to maintain and, most importantly, spiritual needs to be met. Though God has anointed them, they were never designed to work beyond the limits of their job scope.
The Bible clearly defines the job scope of a full-time worker for Christ.
In Ephesians 4:11-12 (TPT), it reads:
“And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers.
And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.”
Notice how their call is not so much to do the ministry as much as it is for them to equip you to do the ministry. Their job is to nurture you for the job – not to do the job for you.
We don’t like it when colleagues shove their work on us and expect us to complete both our job and theirs. Now imagine that on a scale of an entire congregation: Our pastors are expected to do the job without complaint and with a smile on their face.
It’s no wonder we make pastoral ministry much harder than it already is.
Our pastors’ job is to guide us to be effective priests and kings. As priests, we bring the needs of man to God by praying for others, reconciling them to God. As kings, we’ve been given the spiritual authority to come against the powers of darkness; we also bear the spiritual responsibility of governance over our sphere of influence.
We’re called to reach out to the lost, to pray for the sick and heal the brokenhearted. The question is: Will we rise up to take our place in the divine work of the Lord?
Let’s remember that our full-time ministers are not working for us, but with us to advance the Kingdom of Christ until Jesus’ return!
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THINK + TALK
When the anointed fall away, let’s also ask ourselves:
- Are we intimate with God?
- Are we covering our leaders with prayer?
- Are we doing the work of the ministry?