A recent Religion News Service headline read, “For Some Pastors, the Past Year Was a Sign From God It Was Time to Quit.” While we don’t yet know how many pastors or church staff have left (or will leave) the ministry due to the pressures of COVID-19 or political and social conflict, it is likely that there will be uptick. Earlier this year, the Barna Group found that 29 percent of the Protestant pastors they surveyed had given “real, serious consideration to quitting being in full-time ministry within the last year.”
Some may stay in ministry but decide to serve another church or organization where conflict will not be as directed at them. Other pastors may transition to bivocational ministry due to changes in church expectations, giving and priorities. Still, the vast majority of church leaders will continue in their current roles. Many will have a deeper understanding of the fissures in their community and a renewed commitment to move forward. In the cover article, Thom Rainer explores these recalibrations in church leadership (p. 14).
This season also reveals unique opportunities for reinvigorated leadership and church growth. Teams at churches and organizations have grown in their receptivity to change, and now may be the time to capitalize on this openness to reprioritize mission or start new initiatives. As Rainer points out, churches will also quickly learn that they need to focus on evangelism for the long-term health of their churches.
Whether you are a pastor or another type of leader, this year has been full of challenges and decisions. Rich Stearns, past president of World Vision U.S., encourages leaders to take time to consider what God has taught them during this season to propel them in the next season of leadership (p. 18). And Margaret Feinberg focuses on practical ways leaders can choose joy, even as they embrace mourning (p. 23).
This is a defining moment in history and in the Church. It requires a kind of leadership that is wise, courageous, open to recalibration, and firmly rooted in the cause of Jesus Christ. With you, we long to see the next extraordinary evangelistic harvest. This could be just the moment.