Have you ever sat down with a piece of paper trying to calculate the cost of leaving ministry? I can remember the day, just before my 50th birthday, when I was sitting down in my office conjuring up all the cost of leaving the ministry. Fear began to overtake my heart and mind to the place where it was physically impossible to breathe as I read my list.
What could I do if left the ministry? All my education prepared me for leading a church, a team from week to week. As I conducted a skills and talent inventory of my life, it simply revealed each one of them pointed back to ministry. All my training had been about ministry. All I knew was ministry.
Fear again welled up to overtake me. I was terrified.
I started to play the game of what ifs. If this was the end of our marriage then if I tell my denominational superior … I feared retribution. He was my pastor but he was also my boss. Fear began to once again lock me into a prison of silence.
What if I consent to a divorce…I feared the carnage. There were times when I stood by a couple and witnessed the devastating effects of a home being ripped apart by divorce. I witnessed firsthand the pain between the couple. The disillusionment in the eyes of the children trying to make sense of the reality that there is no longer a family as they knew it.
What if I left the ministry? I feared I couldn’t do anything else. This issue was the biggest for me to comprehend. Stepping out of the ministry identified deep issues for me to wrestle with. For nearly 30 years I had been known as “Pastor Rob.” That was my identity; it was what also began to undergird my confusion of the role of ministry in my life.
However it was all I knew. Both terrified me immensely. But there was an even greater fear approaching.
If I have to step out of ministry…I deeply feared God’s hand of blessing being lifted from my life. The words “Once you are called into the ministry you are always called” have seemed to haunt me while I was even contemplating pulling out of ministry.
Do I really want to be coming out from under His hand of blessing? Not at all! Was this man’s way of keeping me under their interpretation of the call of God? Fear continued to mount up with in me. How could I leave the ministry then? How could I offend the very God that I had given my life to? Do you know this struggle? I was not alone in this and as I discovered there is a good chance you are in the same trap I was. How do you get out?
An excerpt from Bob Claxton’s book, The Enter Life Again Manifesto: How to Thrive as a Pastor Forced Out of the Ministry. Printed with permission. All rights reserved.