25 Lessons in 25 Years – Lesson 3: Leave Well

Transition is a natural part of ministry. Some are fortunate enough to spend their entire ministry in one location, with one church. But the reality is, if you are in ministry for very long, you will probably have to make a transition at some point. And all too often those transitions do not go well. I would be willing to bet that you know someone who had a bad experience in a ministry transition. In fact, some of you reading this blog have experienced that personally.

Whether you leave by your own choosing or you are released by the leadership of the church, the objective remains the same…leave well!

I have seen deacon boards and Sr. Pastors do really dumb things and act in ways that are not God honoring at all in the midst of transitions. I have wondered at times how some of these people end up in church leadership or on a deacon board. Their actions at times are nothing short of embarrassing. But they will have to give an account for their actions. You cannot control that. The only thing within your control is how you respond.

No matter how others may treat you or misrepresent you as you exit a ministry post, you want to conduct yourself in such a way that you could return to that church one day and once again serve on that team.

This is not easy to do, but it can be done. This is one of those instances where you completely abandon the “self.” You must lay it on the altar of the Lord and do what is right in the eyes of God instead of trying to justify what you believe is “your right.” You must rely on His strength and not your own.

I have walked this road before. Here’s an example of what I am talking about.

Many years ago, in a galaxy far far away (I know, over used), I sat in my office confused and frustrated. I was a young man in my very first full-time ministry post and I was done! Without going into details, I could not take it anymore. I wrote a very direct and truthful resignation letter. I concluded in my mind that the right thing to do was to offer my resignation, with full explanation, to the deacon board. Now, the reality was this. Once that resignation was opened in the Deacon meeting, it was going to get ugly. What I said in the letter was factual, truthful and could be documented.

I decided to show the letter to a trusted friend who I expected to shower me with praise and label me a hero for being willing to say what no one else would say. He took one look at the letter handed it back to me and said “Tear it up. You don’t really want to do this. Nothing good will come of it.”

I was surprised to hear him say this. I said “well, it is all true.” He responded, “Ok, but if you turn this in, the church will split. Do you want to live with that on your mind?” Now he had my attention. I had no intention of doing anything that would harm the church. I looked at that letter with a different perspective and realized, he was right. Yes, it was the truth, but no it did not have to go down like this. There was a more God honoring way to make things right. The more I examined the situation, I realized that while I did not consciously intend to harm the church body, I was more focused on what was going to bring “personal justice” than I was focused on what was best for the church. The church is the bride of Christ.

I tore the letter into pieces and threw it in the trash.

With the help of a wise friend, I was able to leave that church well and return several times as a guest speaker.

I am a firm believer in this…the fashion in which you leave your current post, will be the foundation you begin your new post.

Leave well, you will be glad you did. It is a win for the church and it is a win for you.


  1. Very well put….and God honoring!

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