Ethics: Pastor Retires But Starts Another Church Down the Road

What would you do Wednesday!

Your pastor has been serving your local church for the last eight years. One Sunday morning in the pulpit he announces that it is time for him to move on. He has enjoyed serving everyone during his time, but he believes the Lord has other plans for him for the next season of his life.

He plans to retire from the pastorate in the next 60 days. He wanted to give everyone time to adjust to his coming absence and make a slow transition.

Since he is only 55 years old he is not retiring fully, but only from ministry. In fact, he already has a secular job lined up with a local company. He will be working for a church member who has had a well-established business in the community for a number of years.

Sixty days go by and your former pastor noticeably stops attending the church.

Six months later a new church plant pops up five miles down the road from your church.

One day while driving by the new church you notice former pastor’s name is on the sign. Your former pastor is preaching again. A few days later, your former pastor calls to invite you to his new church.

What would you do?

  • Follow him since he’s a great preacher.
  • At least check out the new congregation.
  • Politely decline.
  • Politely decline explaining he should not try to take old church members.
  • Attend and stand in the middle of his sermon rebuking him.
  • Or…

Here I blog…


tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rhology September 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

Ask him what the hey?

2 tjcxjonz155 September 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Only if there was a compensatory obligation of the former church to continue monetary compensation to the retiring pastor a signatured document of noncompete would need to be in effect prior to or upon that pastor’s retirement.  If this is not the case the former church cannot place restrictions upon occupational pursuit post of retirement.

3 Bennett Willis September 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I feel that this was an inappropriate positioning of the new church plant under these circumstances.  If the “retired” pastor wants to start a new church “on his own,” he should do it where he does not have a “core” of members available to him from his old church.  It feels wrong for him to contact the old membership about coming to the new plant. 
There might be a way for this to be done if the new plant was designed to serve a different group of people–or to simply be a smaller church.  The new church could have been a “mission” of the old church and started with a core membership that wanted a new (or smaller) field of service.  This can be a motivation for many.  Depending on the layout of the community, 5 miles (or less) would certainly be far enough if there was an agreement.

4 MarieP September 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I would desire to sit down and talk with the pastor about what happened.  When did he decide to come out of retirement?  Why didn’t he decide to come back to your own church?  The answers to these two questions would be be very telling.  The whole scenario is really odd, and suspicious even, though I’d try to give him as much benefit of the doubt that I could- I can understand the pastor desiring to come back from retirement, but not leave the church over it, and certainly not start a new one!  It sounds like he’s hiding something- at least that is the appearance.

5 Bennett Willis September 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm

tjcxjonz155 While this is technically correct, it still seems ethically wrong.

6 tjcxjonz155 September 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Within the frame of US law a Mormon ward, a Mosque ect. could have been placed on the same spot. Maybe, if this an actual event, the ole boy just might ought be to given a handshake of thanks rather than castigate him as a hypocrite. After all it is commanded “Love your enemy.”

7 cherilud September 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

What does the church member he was going to work for have to say about it? Is the former pastor indeed working for him? Did the business owner leave the church to go to this new one? Is the new church part of the same denomination? It looks like the pastor was being dishonest with his church, but I think two of the church elders (or deacons, if Baptist) should go talk with him.  If I was the one called by the former pastor, I would ask him what happened, what is different, distinctive about this new church.

8 cherilud September 5, 2013 at 8:51 am

tjcxjonz155 Sad to think of one’s former pastor as my “enemy”.

9 jediomega777 September 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

so…where was the honesty in the entire move…was he being upfront with everyone about what was really happening to him in his life? was this shared with leadership?  Was he sure this was what GOd was telling him to do or was he acting out of himself?

10 tjcxjonz155 September 5, 2013 at 9:23 am

cherilud tjcxjonz155 Isn’t it written “Love your enemy”? How can one comply without an enemy? And it is also written “Do not go beyond what is written.” 1 Cor. 4:6

11 tjcxjonz155 September 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

jediomega777 Put into practice what you preach. You require your agenda of him you also require the same agenda of your self.

12 jediomega777 September 5, 2013 at 10:13 am

tjcxjonz155 jediomega777 1 finger pointing at them 4 pointing at myself indeed. i was not so much disparaging what was done but the manner in which it was accomplished i ve seen this first hand

13 tjcxjonz155 September 5, 2013 at 10:33 am

jediomega777 tjcxjonz155 There is not much more left for me to see either. The point being there is not much one can accomplish by crying over spilt milk except forgitaboutit and go on. So what if the fellow had been completely honest about what he intended to do? Would your felling about this situation been any different knowing before hand than it is now? Had a wife whom I deeply cared for. One Sunday afternoon she walked in and said “I’m leaving you” and the next day she was gone. Why she did that? I have no idea even to this day. Knowing in advance was not beneficial.

14 jediomega777 September 5, 2013 at 10:40 am

tjcxjonz155 jediomega777 while i do not profess to be a counselor or psychologist I can say that from personal experience. utter and completely transparency and honesty is truly the only way to succeed in relationships. then there are no surprises. this is required of both parties without which communication is useless. The same may be said of a pastor and his flock. transparency and communication to those under him.

15 tjcxjonz155 September 5, 2013 at 10:52 am

jediomega777 tjcxjonz155 That ideal is not going to be met. People are not that way.

16 Bennett Willis September 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

The church I was a member of for over 40 years started as a mission of a large church and was located less than 2 miles from the old church.  Our town did not have any “small” Baptist churches and the large church started two of them at about the same time–one in one direction and one in the other.  The issue seemed to be to have some smaller churches rather than just one large Baptist church.  This worked fine with no issues between the churches.
Five miles seems far enough, but as I said before, contacting old church members about coming to the new one seems inappropriate.

17 Darryl Hill September 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I definitely wouldn’t follow him to the new church. I would decline and suggest that it is wrong for him to attempt to pull people away from his former church. As a pastoral staff member, I have an issue with leaving and then taking a church down the street or starting a church down the street. The information we have in this example is incomplete, but I think we can at least say a couple things…
1. Regardless of his relationship with his former, this pastor should not be starting a church down the street and trying to recruit his former members to join him.
2. A pastor’s heart should be not to harm his former church, even if he feels it is right to leave. That alone should have prevented this. 
3. If this pastor had a change of heart, he should be in communication with his fellow believers, who were at his former church. Perhaps, if they knew the details of how this all came about, they might in some way endorse the new plant or even agree to help support it. As it is, the entire thing has an appearance of evil to it. It’s all dishonest. 
4. Proselytizing from other churches is improper, unless we’re dealing with a cult of some kind. Pastors should seek to evangelize the lost, not build off another church’s loss. Otherwise, a church’s growth should be natural, not dragging others away from their own church. Even if members from other churches begin to come to a new church plant, a discussion needs to take place between the pastor and these disgruntled members of another church. Are they in good standing? Are they trouble-makers? Are they running from an unresolved conflict? 
5. You don’t follow a man. Gathering for worship is about God- trusting God, worshiping God. If you’re going for some man, you’re going to be disappointed and you are opening yourself up to being led astray. Now, if there are heresies being preached or open sin, etc. then it may be understandable to leave. But even then, you don’t just follow a man around. I’d like to have Paul Washer as my pastor, or John Piper, or John MacArthur, but I’m not moving to their communities to follow them.


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