Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever

The committee could not find any specific reasons they wanted the pastor to leave.  Church attendance was healthy, the congregation was responding well to the minister's leadership, and finances were in line with expectations. But there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the preacher, and had been since day one.

"You're just not a good fit for our church" was all the committee could come up with. They wanted him out. If he refused to go peacefully, a movement would be started to oust him forcibly.

If this sounds unlikely to readers, let me assure you it happens quite often.

The wife of a youth minister texted me recently with a similar story about her husband. The administrator and personnel chair had visited him that evening to cut him loose upon just this basis—"you're not a good fit for our church." They informed him the pastor would meet with him the next morning to discuss details of his severance. Just so easily are leaders willing to toy with the lives and ministries of God-called servants as well as with the health, unity and reputation of His churches.

In many cases, what "you're not a good fit" means is that certain members simply dislike the minister. And since they do not like him, clearly, the solution is for him to go back where he came from.

The presumption of some people is truly amazing.

However, for the sake of this discussion, let us assume the delegation visiting the minister to inform him of the misalignment between himself and the congregation is sincere and well-intentioned.

Let's assume they want to do the right thing. Here are some thoughts for them to consider:

1. First, figure out what that means. "The pastor is not a good fit for us" is too general, too fuzzy, too arbitrary. No doubt plenty of people in the church find he "fits" them just fine. So, what does this mean?

Is it about style or substance? Is it doctrinal and basic, or superficial and changeable?

The well-intentioned leaders of the church–those who want to do the right thing here–should not let their colleagues off the hook with the "not a good fit" accusation. Make them get specific.

Don't be surprised if it comes down to something superficial and flimsy like: The women do not like the way his wife dresses; He did not go to the right school; He neglected to honor a certain family in the church; or, worst of all, he wants to live simpler than we want our pastor to live (I mean, look at the neighborhood where they bought a house! And they're sending their children to public school, if you can believe that!).

2. Even if the misalignment is genuine, this can be good for a church. A "fit" that is too comfortable can be a sedative. You want the pastor to be different, stronger, godlier and with better spiritual vision than the rest of the church. You want the pastor to be a pusher, a change agent, one who asks questions and wonders "why don't we do something about this?"

What you do not want is a spiritual leader who is too impressed with you the membership, too thrilled with the prestige of pastoring "this great church" and too excited with himself for being named your pastor.

Pastors are instruments of a holy God sent to lead us, to prod us, to teach us, to comfort us when we need it and to hound us when we are straying.

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