When Your Pastor Gets Fired

By Allen White Perry Noble and Allen crop

My pastor, Perry Noble, got fired. You can find the details at newspring.cc. But, this isn’t the first time a pastor of mine got fired.

The first pastor I worked for was fired at the first church I served after I’d only been there a year and a half. I was 27 years old. I won’t give all the details of what happened because the pastor and his family are still around. It was devastating to me personally. It was especially devastating to our congregation. It was devastating to our pastor and his family.

Everyone had to grieve the loss. Some of that grief came out as anger. Some came out of sadness. Some came out as distrust. For everybody it was a little different. And people went from one stage to the next in grieving our loss.

I’ve been in the church all of my life. When I was young, I thought pastors were cut from a different cloth. Somehow God’s calling and anointing on their lives made them invincible or something more than human. My years in Bible college cured that.

For a few years in a row in college, every guest speaker we had for any kind of spiritual emphasis ended up having an affair and being fired by his church. Finally after about three years of this, we had this goofy red-headed preacher speak for our spiritual emphasis. We knew we were safe with him.

My Bible college years concluded with the whole disaster of Jim and Tammy Bakker, which was followed by the next disaster with Jimmy Swaggart. I found myself filled with a mix of disgust and sadness. People who had been responsible for so much…People who had a vast spiritual influence over so many other people…They lived their lives in irresponsible ways. They took their calling for granted. They assumed that they were God’s special boys and somehow deserved special treatment. They got mixed up.

God doesn’t call the gifted. God gifts the called. Sometimes people confuse God’s gifts as their own personal gifts. They become deceived by the fact that God will continue to use them even though they are allowing sin to continue to manifest in their lives. The Bible gives us a long list of broken people who are mightily used by God. I always wondered why God couldn’t find better people. As I’ve grown older I’ve discovered that God was using regular people, and there weren’t better ones.

So after witnessing years of people with influential ministries being fired, I became somewhat numb to all of this. But what I hadn’t experienced was facing this in my own church. I hadn’t experienced watching two-thirds of our congregation leave and all of the staff as well. I hadn’t experienced people apologize as they left the church because their lives were stressful enough, and they just couldn’t add church stress on top of all of that. I hadn’t experienced being a 27-year-old pastor with 85 people left not knowing what the future would hold. Fortunately for us that wasn’t the end of the story.

What’s interesting is we lost everybody who was in favor of the pastor, and we lost everybody who was against the pastor. The group we had left were the ones that were in favor of the church. Now some of the old timers will try to give me credit for holding the church together. The truth is God was the one holding the church together. I was just trying to hold myself together.

At one point I even sent out a few resumes to find a different job. In the type of church I’d grown up in, the new pastor always seem to want to select their own staff and would dismiss the old staff in sort of a Machiavellian fashion. I thought before the new guy shows up I better find a job and have some place to land. As I prayed about where to go next, God asked me “Who told you to send out resumes?” I knew I hadn’t been released. So I picked up the phone and called the churches that I had sent resumes to and ask them politely not to consider me for their positions. God meant for me to stay where I was.

But staying was a lot to deal with. Every person I ran into, whether they stayed with the church or had left, were still dealing with their grief from the experience. I got to the point that for a few weeks I would show up at the office around the crack of noon and leave by 3 p.m. because that’s about all I could take. I couldn’t even go to the post office or the supermarket without being cornered by someone who was either sad or angry or accusatory. I learned to listen a lot and not talk very much. I had to put my own grief aside in a way so that I could help others process theirs. I spent a lot of late nights looking up at the ceiling asking God if this was part of His Plan or somehow there’d been a mistake. It was part of His Plan

Our people more motivated. They wanted to change. They wanted anything other than what they already had. We changed the name of the church with no problem. We changed the ministry style of the church with no problem. We changed the music in the church with no problem.

When I left our church after 15 years, we had grown from 85 people to about 1,500. Our church was serving in the community in various ways. The church was steadily growing. There were more people in small groups then we had attending on the weekend service. I’m glad I stayed.

Today, opens a whole new chapter for NewSpring Church. Amid much sadness, confusion, and speculation, there is hope. “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NASB).

We love you Perry Noble. We are praying for you.

 

c u r r E n t l y

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  1. #1 by Lisa Carter on July 11, 2016 - 3:07 pm

    Within the first five years of being in ministry I heard and saw so much craziness (from people in ministry…not the sheep– that’s another story 🙂 ) I determined I had to keep completely focused or through some fragile misstep , I might fall off the tightrope too. It was easy to think that failure was inevitable, because in our souls we all have stuff that begs to grow out of control. After 28 years of pastoring, I’ve learned more about grace and His ability to keep me as long as my heart stays tethered to His and I remain teachable. And, as you said, we are more “regular” than people could ever imagine– sometimes embarrassingly so. I hate that this has happened– I hate that this has happened to you again– but as with any of these awful events, they can and should serve as cautionary tales. I have seen an increasing trend towards recreational drinking among ministers and I think it’s a huge error. Not because a glass of wine is sin, but because alcohol can bring such relief and comfort….until it doesn’t. Ministry can be so isolating and traumatizing and it’s easy to run to instant relief; unfortunately it can also turn around and bite. I sincerely pray he will yield to his spiritual authority, work through his pain and come out on the other side with a fresh anointing.

    • #2 by Allen White on July 11, 2016 - 3:13 pm

      Longevity in ministry is quite a challenge. And for some reason the period between 15-18 years is tough. Perry was in his 17th year at NewSpring. My pastor in Calfornia was in his 17th year after founding the church. We need to pray for every pastor amd watch ourselves.

  2. #3 by Chris Martin on July 13, 2016 - 11:52 am

    Great article, thank you for writing. I’m actually quite empathetic with Pastor Noble. Burnout is a huge problem in being a Pastor. Many Pastors either burnout and resign or revert to some coping mechanism to keep their sanity. Not sure where Pastor Noble is… but it can be as serious as becoming a survival mechanism.

    I know of a Pastor having lost a dear family member, who became depressed in grieving and subsequently contracted health issues who suffered greatly. Eventually, he became addicted to prescription medications… in humility he approached the congregation with a cry for help and he checked himself into a rehabilitation center and the elders of the church made sure the congregation was taken care of at his behest. It took him a better part of a year to recover from this chapter in life that included a Christ centered 12 step program. In the end, he returned to his position strongly and was more wise for the experience. He also was a better steward of his energy and learned to say no sometimes. Many attenders became committed followers of Christ who took up the mantle of responsibility that was rightly left where he could not because of his taking on the responsibility that others should have taken in the first place and he should have allowed them to. In the end, this Pastor was stronger, more empathetic to those who are hurting, helpless and addicted… in short, the congregation became more responsible in serving these who are hurting, helpless and addicted or grieving. Rather than firing him, mercy and grace were employed. I’m not sure of the circumstances of this…. if he was fired just because he coped with alcohol, then shame on the congregation, OTOH, if he was fired because he would not come out of denial that’s another thing altogether….

  3. #4 by Andrew Cromwell on July 14, 2016 - 10:13 am

    Allen, your observation that years 15-18 in ministry are particularly tough years is an interesting one. Is it based on just these two instances or do you know of any other research or examples?

    • #5 by Allen White on July 14, 2016 - 10:33 am

      At this point, my observations are anecdotal. I have witnessed other pastors either fail or struggle at this mark. It might deserve some research, if no one has done that already.

  4. #6 by Lisa Carter on July 19, 2016 - 12:32 pm

    Great insights by two psychologists on the steps towards burnout: http://99u.com/workbook/25941/the-12-stages-of-burnout

    • #7 by Allen White on July 19, 2016 - 12:55 pm

      Good post. Thanks for sharing it here.

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