Strike the Shepherd

by | Mar 30, 2014

Church ConflictThe church pays a heavy price every time a pastor is forced out of his pulpit. Consider these sobering statistics:

  • 23 percent of all current pastors in the United States have been fired or forced to resign in the past.1
  • The average pastoral tenure in a local church today is a 3.8 years.2
  • The attrition rate in the U.S. church is approximately 1%.3 This means over 3,000 pastors are leaving the ministry prematurely every year.4 That’s an average of 58 pastors walking out the door every week.

Although there are times when it really is best for a pastor to step down, far too many good pastors are being driven out of ministry, leaving thousands of churches weak and vulnerable to spiritual attack. Without good leadership, factions multiply, evangelism declines, divorces proceed unrestrained, discipleship loses direction, and missionaries are forgotten on the field.

As Scripture warns, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Matt. 26:31).

If you use corporate estimates for the financial cost of executive turnover, the attrition of pastors is costing the American church over $282 million dollars per year5. But the kingdom cost is so much higher:

  • How precious is the gift of preaching the gospel, and what is the cost when a pastor loses his pulpit and his gift is silenced?
  • How precious is the witness of a vibrant church to its community, and what is the cost when a forced exit splits a church and results in two hostile congregations?
  • How precious is the privilege of being raised by both parents, and what is the cost when a pastor is not there to prevent a divorce and a child is torn between two warring parents?

Whatever the measure, the cost of losing thousands of pastors each year is appalling. The church simply cannot afford to let these losses continue.

So let me suggest three steps you can take to protect your pastor and your church from becoming another statistic.

First, equip your congregation to build healthy relationships and resolve conflict biblically by using the educational resources developed by Relational Wisdom 360 and Peacemaker Ministries. I especially recommend RW360’s live Discovering Relational Wisdom Seminar (now available online) for leadership teams, small groups, and women’s studies. Your pastor’s length of service, not to mention his fruitfulness and joy in serving, can be greatly extended by teaching your people how to relate to him and one another biblically.

Second, buy a copy of Redeeming Church Conflict. This superb book was written by two of my former colleagues at Peacemaker Ministries, David Edling and Tara Barthel. Each of them has hundreds of hours of experience working with conflicted churches. So their book is both an excellent preventive tool (have your leaders read it before conflict breaks out), as well as a remedial tool (use it even sooner if the storms of conflict are already brewing). To encourage you to get it today, I’ve dropped the price 25% (from $13.50 to $10) for the next week.

Third, if your church is already in the midst of conflict, I encourage you to contact Crossroads Resolution Group. The two principals, David Schlachter and Paul Cornwell, are also former colleagues with hundreds of hours of experience (and Certified RW Instructors). Peacemaker Ministries delegates all of their church intervention work to David and Paul, as do I, because of their expertise in working with conflicted organizations. To illustrate this point, here are testimonies from two of their recent cases:

We were experiencing a draining of our spiritual vitality and resources, and conflict was escalating with no end in sight. So we sought help from Crossroads Resolution Group. Paul Cornwell and his team modeled amazing discernment and conflict resolution skills. We felt loved and challenged. God worked through them to break into hearts with healing. Consequently we are in a totally different spiritual state than we were before they came. There is a sense of hope, and spiritual life is being restored. Steve Q., Pastor

Dave Schlachter promoted confidence and trust.  Those who were apprehensive at first were won over by his gentleness and congeniality. His visit climaxed at the Sunday worship service where genuine repentance, renewal, forgiveness and a “clearing of the decks” clearly took place. We are thankful to the Lord that he made such a difference among us. John M., Pastor

God has used Paul, Dave, and others in their network to bring many churches back from the brink of a split or complete dissolution. I strongly endorse them and encourage you to call them if conflict has raised it head and seems poised to strike down your pastor or your entire congregation.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

  • Many of the people who leave the church as adults trace their disillusionment to a major church conflict they witnessed when they were young. Why do you think church conflict impacts young people this way?
  • When a church is going through a major church conflict, word usually leaks out to the wider community. How do you think this impacts the church’s witness for Christ? Why would unchurched people actually be glad to hear of major conflict in the church?
  • If you’ve been part of a church that seemed to have a high level of genuine peace and unity, what were the qualities you saw in the leadership or congregation that seemed to contribute to that unity?
  • If your church seems vulnerable to conflict, which of the three steps mentioned above would be appropriate to take today?
  • What are some simple things you could do today to encourage and refresh your pastor? Please do them … he is probably more weary than you realize and would be strengthened by your attention.


1 Forced Pastoral Exits: An Exploratory Study, School of Leadership Studies, Regent University, p.2

2 Forced Pastoral Exits: An Exploratory Study, School of Leadership Studies, Regent University, p.2

3 Reasons for Attrition Among Pastors, LifeWay Research, p. 3.

4 There are over 300,000 pastors in the U.S. today. Fast Facts about American Religion, p. 1

5 Some studies indicate that the average salary and benefit package of a pastor in the U.S. is $94,950 (Salary for Pastor in the United States). The cost of losing an executive level employee in corporate America estimated at 1.5 to 2.0 times their annual compensation package (How Much Does Employee Turnover Really Cost?). 3,000 x $94,950 = $292,000,000. The actual financial cost to a church when losing a pastor can be even higher if a substantial number of members stop giving in protest to a forced pastoral exit or actually leave with the pastor.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2014 Ken Sande

Get this from a friend? Subscribe now!

Share this post

Related Posts

Free Training for First Responders

Free Training for First Responders

In recognition of the sacrifices that first responders make for our country every day, RW360 is offering free registration for our 2021 Sowing Peace Conference to people who serve in the military or law enforcement or as fire fighters, EMTs, paramedics, nurses, crisis...

Building Passport

Building Passport

I have dozens of passports, and I need to renew them constantly. No, I’m not James Bond or Jason Bourne. I don’t fly from country to country using alternative identities to evade the NSA, CIA, or MI6. I just love people. I enjoy meeting, understanding, encouraging and...

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop