Christianity Today has an interesting article on the sudden run of well-known pastors and church planters announcing they are leaving their pastorate and moving on to other endeavors: writing, ministry outside of local church ministry, sabbatical.
Jim Belcher announced on Sunday May 2 that he has decided to leave the church he planted, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, to write his next book. Earlier this year, Leadership Journal named Belcher's first book, Deep Church, "the best of the best" for a "Leader's Outer Life." It also won a Christianity Today book award in the church/pastoral leadership category.
Belcher's announcement follows days after that of Francis Chan, who has also decided to resign from the California congregation he planted, Simi Valley's Cornerstone Church. Chan continues to have two books in the top 12 of the ECPA bestseller list and two in the top 9 of the CBA chart. (Christianity Today profiled Chan in October.) He will fulfill some speaking commitments over the next few months, but expects by the end of the year to be doing some kind of urban ministry.
These announcements come on the heels of the announcement by pastor and author John Piper that he is taking a leave of absence for nine months from both writing and his church responsibilities. And N. T. Wright announced on April 27th he is leaving his position as Bishop of Durham to become a professor at St Andrews in Scotland.
So what is causing this? Is it burnout in pastoral ministry, the stress of planting a church finally takes it toll and it is easier to move on? Is it pride, the idea that I have outgrown local church ministry and need to take my talents to the wider church? Is it a natural restlessness among the type of men who are likely to be church planters? I am not sure. There is certainly no lack of men who have come up as pastors and then upon becoming well-known they move on to “bigger” scale ministries.
I am not sure what to think of this yet. I am sure there are tons of church planters who leave vocational ministry in obscurity and frustration but no one knows about it. Yet when men who are best-selling authors leave, it causes ripples.
Is this healthy?