Was interested to read that one of my new favorite teachers/authors has decided to leave his church. (HT: Mark Malinoski) His reasoning was that he was hearing too much about him, and not enough about God, among his people. He didn’t want to be the focus, so he felt led to leave, after wrestling with it. He has been traveling around Asia, ministering to churches there. He does plan, apparently, to fulfill commitments to conferences in the US in the spring.
To me, I can understand his motivation. I have had one experience with a dynamic leader becoming the focus of a ministry, and when it happens, the aftermath can be ugly. Fortunately, my experience didn’t end as badly as some of the well known tele-vangelist episodes over the years, but a ministry can be decimated when the figurehead leader leaves, if the ministry is about him/her instead of focused on Christ. I pray that the church involved continues to minster, and chooses to refocus on Christ, as needed, rather than choosing a new figurehead. Churches can certainly refocus on Christ, and continue (or really improve) ministry.
I don’t think that this is needed of all pastors, but I do think pastors should be open to the question of whether they are helping people connect with Christ, or distracting them from Him to themselves. If the answer strays from the ideal, then removing yourself from the situation may be the right thing to do. It may also be that there is a better option. Prayer and discernment are definitely needed in these situations. I do respect Francis, though, for his willingness to take this step. Admittedly, his outside income gave him some flexibility. He had not been taking a salary from the church for some time. He had taken the step of insuring that he and his family were used to living on a very reasonable yearly income, so that they were not in any danger of financial ruin from his choice to leave. Still, in a situation like this, trust in God is required regardless of the financial ramifications. If God says move, we should avoid giving Him our excuses (Moses, anyone?).
For a taste of Francis’ teaching, check out this video. I found the text a little distracting at first, but it did help me to focus on what he is saying. (Video HT: Mark Watson)