Don’t Fire Your Preacher! help him get better or encourage him to leave

I realize there are times and circumstances where preachers have to be terminated. There are instances of moral misconduct with no repentance or damage that can’t be repaired. A rebellious attitude can disrupt the unity of the congregation.

There are other times when speed isn’t imperative. There’s time to think about what needs to be done and when.

Four observations on preacher termination:

1. There are some preachers that need training, not termination.

In the summer of 2006, a group of elders asked me to serve my first interim with them in about a year when I was scheduled to begin that work. I asked about their present preacher. Was he retiring or planning to move? Their answer was they would fire him before I came. When I inquired about why they wanted to do that, they said he wasn’t a good preacher. He worked well with people. He was cooperative. But his lessons weren’t very good.

I asked about his continuing education. He hadn’t had any. He wasn’t trained as a preacher. I declined to discuss interim ministry with them as long as they had a preacher.

I suggested they encourage him to continue his training. They lived in a location where that would be easy. In a few years, he’d studied. They were happy. The church, the preacher, and his family were not disrupted. Everyone grew.

2. I’ve known of churches where a few members came to the elders over and over to request removal of the preacher until finally, the elders decided that was the best solution.

An alternate plan:

  • Suggest the members go to the preacher to communicate their disappointment in him: his preaching, his attitude, or any issue they have with him. If he’s uninteresting, tell what he could do to improve. If he’s inaccurate, suggest where and how he could study to improve his understanding of the Bible. If his attitude is less than ideal, tell him how that affects you. If there’s been conflict with the preacher, take the first step in reconciling. Matthew 18:15
  • If that doesn’t work, the disappointed member can set up the second round of discussions. Ask the preacher to select a person he trusts and they respect. They select a person they trust and he respects. This group works as long as there is progress in understanding and reconciliation of differences. Matthew 18:16
  • If there’s only a small number of people who’d like to see him removed and many others are growing under his ministry, these people need to review their attitude.
  • If there are scores of people who follow the above plan (Matthew 18:15, 16), the preacher will get the message he’s not very effective with this group at this time. He’ll either have to improve or go where he’s a better fit.

Elders have responded to that suggestion, “But we have some people who are not comfortable with that. They don’t like to confront. They wouldn’t do it.”

Nowhere does Jesus teach us that following Him is comfortable. He said it was more like dying, taking up a cross. That’s discipleship. That’s following Jesus (Luke 9:23). And the plan of telling people when they’re missing the mark is Jesus’ instruction. A good leader increases toleration for pain in himself and others. People have to suffer pain to grow.

3. Termination shouldn’t be a surprise.

Many businesses have the integrity to warn a person who’s not meeting expectations, adding written reprimands, and supplying a deadline to repair — or else. I hope we’d be as fair and compassionate in the church as people in business. Pagans followed this principle:

To them I answered, “It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.” – Acts 25:16, NKJV

4. A good rule to follow is the Golden Rule.

Before you pull the trigger, spend some time in prayer and a detailed discussion with each elder participating on what Jesus said — “If I were in his situation, how would I want to be treated?” 

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12

How have you dealt or been dealt with when it came time to part ways?

(Visited 852 times, 47 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

One Response to “Don’t Fire Your Preacher! help him get better or encourage him to leave

    1 year ago


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