March 19, 2007

When the Popular Pastor Resigns...and Stays!

DallasNews Religion page announced that Max Lucado was stepping down as senior pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. (hattip: MondayMorningInsights). The article says that he is stepping down from his leadership role because of some heart trouble (not the spiritual kind), but is staying at the church. He wants to focus on writing and preaching.

For me this begs the questions, "What happens when the popular pastor resigns and then stays?" Has the pastor really left? Has he/she allowed the pastor who follows to truly assume the leadership of the church? What if someone disagrees with a decision made by the "new" pastor and the old pastor doesn't like the decision either?

I may be wrong, but this seems to set the new pastor up for some difficult hurdles in a profession that has enough difficulties to begin with!

Imagine being the "new guy" that follows Max Lucado, and Max is sitting there in the pews/chairs/stadium surround seating every Sunday morning. No pressure! Even if the pastor has some great self-esteem, this doesn't remove the pressure of having a much-loved previous pastor as part of the church.

I know it must be hard to leave a church family you love. If, like I believe it should be, the pastor stays for a long time then deep relationships are built and friendships are made that are not easy to step away from. The senior pastorate is lonely enough as it is, but then to resign and move away to a new area and a new church...that is hard too.

So what do you think? What would suggest to a church that is loosing a much loved pastor, that is planning to stick around, and getting a new pastor?


  1. Oh my. Can. Of. Worms.

    I guess it would depend on who the new pastor is, and their relationship with Max.

    I'd have to admit that it could be hard, but if they work together on the transition, could you imagine the resources of that friendship? What an opportunity for the new guy!

  2. Our previous pastor ran into the same kind of thing at his new church. The pastor retired, and stayed. He made it clear to the church board when he stepped down from the Senior Pastor role that he fully intended to not only stay in the congregation, but also wanted to stay on the board as an elder.

    Due to the pastor's personality, my old pastor was concerned about some potential conflicts if he were to be in a leadership position, and after candidating he expressed that concern to the search committee. They agreed it might be difficult and put into place a policy about previous pastors not serving on the church board.

    I completely agree with Ronni, that it might just depend on the relationship the pastors have with each other. It would be very lonely to move to another community and start all over... and as you said, a pastor's role is lonely enough.

    So, I think it's good for the retired pastor to stay, as long as he realizes boundaries.

    I will also say, from experience, that if a church really doesn't want a pastor to retire, or isn't ready for the pastor to leave, it also might make it difficult. When our previous pastor left, no one wanted him to go and it took the church over a year to move on. If he'd just retired and stayed around, it might have kept us from moving forward, which is not good, either.

    Being a pastor must be so difficult. If they develop relationships with the congregation that are too deep, it could prevent them from being objective and shepherding a congregation well. But pastors need that fellowship. Where so you draw the line?

  3. Great article. I followed a 30 year pastor with him still in the congregations. I won't rewrite the entire article, but if you are interested in how it went, visit:

  4. Steve,

    Thanks for commenting.