We have all heard various statistics bantered about regarding the length of time pastors remain in one position. I’ve heard everything from the average is 18 months to 4 years. Of course, the length is affected by the definitions and scope applied to any study that produces these statistics. I’ve also heard the study that 1500+ ministers leave the ministry every month. Truth be told, I tend to be a bit dubious of the full unbiased accuracy of these type statistics.
Whenever these statistics come up, there is the usual head scratching and statements of lament along with touting an exception or two of someone who stayed one place for decades.
The problem with all of this is that we too often focus on the empirical numbers and human reasoning. Like with too many things in life, we don’t factor in the Will of God or His sovereignty in our conversations and editorials on this subject.
There are definitely those who simply quit or take the “easy” way out of a situation and move when it gets difficult. There will always be selfishness and human frailties among ministers. After all, ministers are human, so the sin nature is very much a factor.
That said I think we get off track and sometimes raise stubbornness to a level equal with steadfastness. There is a difference. Stubbornness is often rooted in selfishness and/or human will. Steadfastness, however, is based on obedience to God’s Word and direction.
As a pastor, as leaders we are called to obedience. Actually, as followers of Christ we are called to obedience.
John 14:15 (NIV) “If you love me, keep [obey] my commands.”
If God directs someone to plant themselves in a ministry position for 40 or more years, then it would be disobedient for them to leave any sooner. Likewise, if God has someone in a place for a season of 2 years and they stay 4 to beat the average out of stubbornness, they are equally disobedient.
It’s not about how we compare to statistics or averages. It’s whether or not we are being true to God and His calling and direction.
The person who stays 30 years is no better than the one who leaves after 3 if they are each obedient to God’s individual plan for them.
We have to be careful to not take human reasoning and apply it to the things of God.
I have generally taken on the posture that I am where I am for life until God tells me otherwise. I am neither looking to leave at a certain point nor stubbornly determined to stay until one. I hope to be steadfastly obedient to the One who designed the plan and made the path.
Let’s not get caught up in how we line up compared to others.
Paul the apostle travelled from place to place, rarely staying in one place more than two years, often only several months. James on the other hand, remained in Jerusalem and was the leader of the church there for more than 20 years until he was stoned to death in 69 AD. Neither one more obedient or more Godly than the other when it comes to timeline. They were each serving their role obediently before God.
That is what each of us is to do: serve obediently before God. Whether for a short season or decades, the time doesn’t matter, it is the obedience that matters.
Let’s be steadfast, true to the path God has set before each of us.
“Longevity isn’t the point of leadership, obedience is.” – Scott Wilson, Senior Pastor, The Oaks Fellowship, Red Oak, Texas