God to Jonah: "Do you do well to be angry?" Jonah: "You're dadgum right I do! I'm so angry I could die!" (Jonah 4:4,9; my silly little paraphrase)
A reader reacted to our article on "How to be fired and come out a winner."
"I was fired from my position. The work was going well. No reasons were given. What am I to tell the kids and their parents?"
I began with this: "First, it wasn't your position."
That must have stung.
I know the feeling, friend. And have witnessed it a hundred times among colleagues. You go in to a church and build the program. You are "in your place," doing the best work you've ever done and can sense the Holy Spirit has been preparing you for this for many years. And suddenly, they terminate you.
How can that be of the Lord? Surely someone is out of line here. Haven't I been mightily used of God? Hasn't He blessed my labors? Don't the kids love me?
All of that may or may not be true. But it's almost beside the point.
A ministry friend who spent the last quarter-century of his life doing interim church work would announce at the start of his time with a congregation: "I've come to leave." That put people's mind to rest, he told me, lest some began to fear for their own jobs. He wanted everyone to know he was temporary and would be trying to do as much as he could in a short time.
I told him, "We've all come to leave."
Every minister leaves. Sooner or later. And some of us a little sooner than we had planned.
I stayed as pastor of that church for nearly 13 years. The two ministers who preceded me logged 25 and 26 years respectively. The pastor who followed me stayed over 15, and his successor has racked up another 15. Clearly, the church is stable and believes in longevity of its leadership. Which is very good. However ...
It would be a mistake for any minister of that or any other church to take ownership of any portion of the work there. We are all temporary; we've all come to leave.
And that's why we want to hold every job, each assignment, all the opportunities, with soft hands, grasping nothing. We should always be willing and ready to hand it back to the Lord who sent us here in the first place.
Forget that, and you will pay dearly.
Seven thoughts, Comments, Questions, Considerations for Those 'Unjustly' Terminated From a Ministry Position
1) When they brought you to the church staff, did you believe God did that? If so, then why do you not believe God is doing this?
2) Paul addressed a similar topic in I Corinthians. At one point, he says to those considering hiring lawyers, "Why not rather be wronged?" (1 Cor. 6:7b, NIV). Why not take it on the chin and go forward with your head held high?
3) Earlier in that epistle, Paul asked three questions:
- Who made you different from everyone else?
- What do you have that you didn't receive?
- If you received it, why do you boast as if it's something you did on your own? (my paraphrase of 1 Cor. 4:7)
4) We are stewards of the assignments God gives us and the talents or abilities with which we are endowed. You were given that great voice, that leadership strength, that compassionate heart, that speaking ability. And since you are the caretaker of that voice, that strength, that compassion, that eloquence, we have this reminder: "Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2, MEV).
5) The Lord Jesus had a right to be upset. Wasn't He God? The Son of God, to be sure, but wasn't He equal with God? And yet, "He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped" (Phil. 2:6). That is, He could have said, "Wait just a cotton-picking moment! I'm not leaving this throne in heaven! And for what? A straw-covered crib in a stable? A dusty road across Galilee? A dirty, smelly Roman cross? I have my rights, you know! I deserve better than this!"
He laid aside His rights for us. Any rights we can lay at His feet for His glory is our privilege.
6) Look at the big picture. God is sovereign. Jesus is Lord. Blessed are those who are mistreated for His sake (see 1 Pet. 1:6 and following and 1 Pet. 2:20 and following).
This is a golden moment for you. This will reveal you. This will refine you. This will reinforce you.
Don't blow this.
7. As Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Gen. 50:20a).
Handle this well, my friend, and you will have all eternity to give thanks you got this right.
After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books and trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.
This article originally appeared at joemckeever.com.
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