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Some Thoughts About The Recent Exit of Two Megachurch Pastors

Like many of  you, I was deeply saddened to learn of Pete Wilson’s recent resignation as the Senior Pastor of Cross Point Church.

In Pete’s own words (you should read and watch them for yourself), he’s tired, broken and has led on empty for too long. So he’s stepping back.

This comes, of course, just a few months after the exit of Perry Noble from NewSpring.

If someone had told me in January of this year that both Pete and Perry would leave ministry this year under tough circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

Their departures have a lot of people talking and a lot of people thinking. Hopefully, it’s also got a lot of people praying.

It also has pastors reflecting.

I’ve been in conversations with people in church leadership. Many of us are asking what it means, and whether it can or will continue to happen to more of us.

Some writers and social media commentators have taken cheap shots. Man, that breaks my heart. I hope this post is the opposite of taking shots at anyone.

The mission of the church and its leaders is too important to do that.

I offer these few thoughts with the sincere hope this makes all of us a little better in the church. I also offer it out of a deep love and respect for Perry, Pete and all of you in church leadership.

exit megachurch

1. Pastors aren’t fake; the struggle is real

When a megachurch pastor resigns because he’s burned out, or because he’s experiencing personal problems, critics often rush in to claim that pastors are fake.

Look, most leaders who get into ministry aren’t fake.

It’s not that pastors are fake; it’s that the struggle is real.

I know Perry and Pete personally and I have only detected sincerity in both of them.

They started churches because they love Jesus. They led out of a love for Jesus. They sincerely wanted to reach people and did reach people who will actually be in heaven because of what happened.

I think I’m on firm ground to say they still love Jesus, very much.

Pete and Perry are the real deal. They’re not the plastic hair/shiny suit type of preacher. They got in this and stayed in this for the right reasons.

I’ve also felt the push and pull of ministry and life. And it almost took me under.

The struggle is real. After a decade in ministry, I burned out too. (Actually, Perry and I talk about burn out in this interview.)

By the sheer grace of God, I came back and am now in a place where, while I have struggles like anyone, I feel healthy and extremely grateful. (While this isn’t a universal prescription, here are 12 things that helped me come back from burnout.)

Often when you see a leader exit, it has nothing to do with whether that leader is sincere. It has everything to do with the fact that the struggles he or she is facing are real.

2. It’s hard to lead anything

It’s hard to lead anything, let alone a church. Or yourself.

Leaders face pressures non-leaders don’t always understand.

And leaders of large organizations face even more complex problems.

When you lead a large ministry or organization, it comes with problems and challenges 99% of the population never wakes up to most days.

Add to that the pressures of life, marriage, family, relationships and the task of leading yourself, and you have a recipe that requires tremendous personal stamina, humility, growth and development.

Sometimes critics say large churches are bad because they seem to generate outcomes like the ones we’ve seen recently.

The reality is that small church pastors also leave their ministries, experience burnout and suffer moral failure every day.

You just never hear about it because those stories don’t make the news. (Please note, neither the exit of Pete or Perry involves moral failure.)

Large churches aren’t inherently bad. Small churches aren’t inherently good.

Churches just have people in them. And that makes it…well, complex.

3. God loves and uses broken people

Are Perry and Pete broken?

Yep.

And so am I.

So are you.

Too often we hold up perfect pictures of what our life is supposed to be like.

We all remember Eden somewhere in the back of our minds. It’s like we all know what it was like, and what it will be like in heaven.

But this isn’t Eden and this isn’t heaven. The war’s been won, but we’re living in a battlefield somewhere in between what was and what will be.

As a result, our lives are a complex mixture of sin and grace. Of brokenness and redemption.

This is true of pastors too.

We don’t have a direct line to God any more than you do. Our marriages aren’t ‘easier’ just because we’re in ministry (actually, you could argue that they’re harder). Our souls aren’t inherently more virtuous.

Pastors aren’t better people; they’re just called people. Called to the same calling to which non-pastors are called but in a specialized role.

Sometimes I wish people would actually read their bibles. We think we have to be perfect for God to use us.

But then there’s scripture…

Noah got drunk and partied naked after God delivered him and his family from death.

Moses came into ministry after he murdered someone.

Jacob raised perhaps the most dysfunctional family imaginable.

Judah slept with his daughter-in-law only because he mistook her for a prostitute.

David was a fantastic king. And then he saw Bathsheba.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived in Old Testament times but really struggled with sex. And God. And cynicism.

Elijah saw one of the most powerful displays of God’s power in history, and then promptly fell into a self-pitying depression.

Jonah ran away from God again, and again, and again.

Peter denied Jesus.

Thomas doubted even when he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

Paul was a little insecure (just read 2 Corinthians).

The early church as described in Corinthians is a study of dysfunction.

Early Christians stopped believing in the resurrection (Read 1 Corinthians 15).

The amazing part is this: God used it all.

I know we preach on this stuff but it’s like we don’t expect it to apply to us.

As my friend Reggie Joiner and I wrote a few years back, God doesn’t use perfect pictures. He uses broken people.

Why does God use broken people? Because those are pretty much the only people he has.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this is an excuse to start sinning.

I want to stay faithful to my wife, be a compassionate father and be a healthier, better leader because I know it honours God to do that. Plus, life honestly goes better if you avoid those pitfalls.

But the fact that we are imperfect shouldn’t be a reason to say we can’t lead.

Clearly, there are activities and conditions that would and should take us out of ministry for a season or longer, but we have to get over this idea that leaders need to be perfect.

Christ is perfect. We get to partner with him.

If you’re thinking well, I’m just more righteous than all this, you need to know that puts you in great company. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought.

What Now?

I hope and pray the day will come where we see Perry and Pete back in strong and vibrant leadership in the local church. The story isn’t over for either of them. As Perry often famously said, if you’re still breathing, God’s not done with you.

I also hope and pray that honest, helpful dialogue will help many more of us avoid hitting the crisis point that tips us out of leadership, if even for a season.

This is not a ‘do these 5 things and it will bullet-proof your ministry’ kind of post. Because the issues are far more complex than that.

But as for me, I want to develop the practice of getting the help I need before I need it. Yesterday, I went back to my counsellor not because I have any burning issues, but because I want to see them before they start. As a close friend has told me, sometimes you need to go to a counsellor not because you have a bad marriage, but because you want a good one.

I want to stay close to my inner circle, telling them more things more often. Walking closely with people who love me enough to call me out and tell me the truth.

And finally, I want to stay even closer to God. It can be difficult to have an intimate relationship with God when you do his work every day (I know that’s hard to understand if you’re not in full-time ministry, but trust me, it is). So I’ll keep pressing closer knowing he loves me because I’m me, not because I lead.

I’m not saying my friends didn’t do any of these things or didn’t want to do them, I’m just saying I know that when I do them, I’m healthier.

Any thoughts on this, friends? Abusive or negative comments will be deleted. This isn’t the time or the place for that. Cynics, please go somewhere else.

But for those of us who love the church and its leaders, what are your thoughts and what has helped you when you’ve run into the challenges of life and leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

163 Comments

  1. […] if you remove an effective pastor, things fall apart very quickly. Ironically, the exit of two founding megachurch pastors under trying circumstances at NewSpring and CrossPoint churches didn’t result in the collapse […]

  2. Allison on February 6, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Carey, a follow-up to this story might be helpful and insightful considering the recent revelation that Pete and Brandi Wilson separated soon after he resigned, and now they are divorcing.

    • ZYX on February 14, 2017 at 6:54 pm

      Agreed. In fact, the divorce filing lists the date of separation as August 1st, and he resigned September 11th.

  3. Shy on October 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Is it a “cheap shot” to support the members of the churches and to look honestly at the failings of the leaders? Why isn’t it a “cheap shot” to make the members feel bad, like they haven’t done enough or supported their pastor well enough, when as it turns out that wasn’t the issue at all?

    Also, if these men want to pursue fame and fortune, if they need have to have a huge following and their faces on the screen at satellite locations as well, why are they complaining about getting burned out? They are the ones putting themselves on that treadmill.

    It seems like this whole burnout thing was a euphemism anyway. Why can we not talk honestly about the problems that lead to trouble in the church? Seems like the church members always end up bearing the weight of what goes wrong and the leaders just move on to a new position.

    • ZYX on October 26, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      Is it a cheap shot to support the members? I don’t think so. Is it a cheap shot to make the members feel bad? I think it is.

    • Allison on February 6, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      Amen. To place blame on church members is dishonest and harms the Kingdom.

      • ZYX on February 14, 2017 at 7:14 pm

        Responding to concerns that he’s returning to ministry too quickly, Noble said,
        “What if God allowed me to live as long as my mother? I don’t want to live the next 1,263 days of my life trying to win the approval of people who never believed in me in the fist place.”
        He doesn’t specify who those people are, but one might understand it to include the members of Newspring. He should clarify.

    • JR on May 5, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Do you feel like Carey took a cheap shot at church members? I can’t find any place in his article where he even mentioned church members (other than in the sense that ministry involves broken people leading broken people). Carey said, “Some writers and social media commentators have taken cheap shots. Man,
      that breaks my heart. I hope this post is the opposite of taking shots
      at anyone.” — and that’s the ethos I got from his post. I could be wrong, but I think “some writers and social media commentators” probably doesn’t refer to “church members” – but to outside critics who know little of what they speak and rush in to pass judgment. I doubt the average church member at either church appreciates their efforts.

  4. 5 Unfair Myths About Megachurches It’s Time to Bust on September 23, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    […] of inferiority or simple misunderstanding, but after another set of cheap shots in response to my blog post on the recent exits of Pete Wilson and Perry Noble from their ministries, I thought it was time to […]

  5. pastor robert on September 23, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Burnout is real. Sometimes, though, poor life choices outside of ministry completely (home, work, hobbies, personal life, etc.) are at fault, not too much ministry work. I can see where the two can go hand-in-hand, of course.

    I thought that Noble admitted to not coping with his issues well, turning to the abuse of alcohol, and the neglecting of his wife and family? If that is the case, can we really call it “burn out”? At least two of those are listed among the big rules of overseers in 1 Timothy 3.

  6. […] Some Thoughts About The Recent Exit Of Two MegaChurch Pastors by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  7. […] Some Thoughts on the Exit of 2 Megachurch Pastors by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  8. […] of inferiority or simple misunderstanding, but after another set of cheap shots in response to my blog post on the recent exits of Pete Wilson and Perry Noble from their ministries, I thought it was time to […]

  9. Melinda Madison on September 20, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for sharing, warning, and challenging. I am praying for both of these leaders as they mend and rest. The struggle is real for pastors and those in vocational ministry. In leading, we sometimes forget to follow. It has little to do with church size. The smaller church pastor wears numerous hats and the mega church pastor feels the pressure (or even puts this pressure on himself) to own too many responsibilities. We must remember to divide the workload to multiply ministry. It’s not up to us to judge anyone. The best thing we can do is ABIDE in Christ and remember we are His child first and leader second. I’m finding in my ten years of vocational ministry, it’s not for the faint-hearted and requires a deep, intimate and steady walk with The Lord, building in time to take off the leader hat to focus on our personal faith, time with family, rest, and retreat. I’m also finding that in the most challenging times, I must lean into my Savior more than ever. God is writing Pete and Perry’s stories, just as he is ours. God gets all the glory from the outcomes.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 20, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Thanks Melinda. Keep trusting and keep doing what you’re doing.

  10. Jason R on September 20, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I wonder if the key phrase in this discussion should be ‘mega church’? There really is no biblical evidence or support of any mega church and conversely there is so much scriptural intention for the local church that can be progressively counter-acted the larger a single church becomes. Thoughts?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 20, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Writing on that later this week. Thanks Jason.

      • Mike Richardson on September 22, 2016 at 7:45 am

        Jason, the church in Acts was a mega-church. Check out the numbers of people coming to Christ in the first two sermons of Peter.

        • Shy on October 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

          The “church” in Acts was the body of all the believers who were meeting together in various homes. Nothing like anything going on in the name of church today.

  11. RADHINK on September 20, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Carey, I appreciate so much of what God gives us through you! Thanks for your faithfulness!
    Question- I know there’s no definitive line that we can draw for all things, but for a pastor what is a dismissible offense and what isn’t?
    When we consider men & women of the Scriptures in leadership roles, specifically Solomon & David, both great men of God, great leaders but both fell often to sexual lust/adultery (multiple wives). Transport those men to 2016 & they almost certainly would be looking at porn. The statistics are staggering, pastors may not be physically cheating on their wives but they are giving into lust through their computer or phone. At what point does a “struggle” become a disqualifier? Not looking for ammo, it’s a genuine question as my wife and I have discussed this regarding beloved people in our lives, as well as we hope to plant a church with real vulnerable transparency even from the pastor/elders.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 20, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Radhink…that’s a great question. And I’m not sure there’s a clear answer or if there is, I don’t know what it is. I think in the case of sexual or financial boundary crossings, it’s likely dismissible. The leader crossed lines of trust. I think the key in most other cases is self-awareness, repentance and desire to improve. Closed leaders are hard to deal with.

  12. Robby Myrick on September 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Carey .. I am new to your podcast and ministry. But, you are putting out really relevant stuff! This specific article addresses the “burnout” issue really well. Blessings!

  13. Leaders are People Too! | Sam Smith on September 19, 2016 at 9:50 am

    […] Some Thoughts….. […]

  14. Patrick Creehan on September 19, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Thanks, Pastor Carey, for this. I’ve heard Pete preach a few times, but have been a follower of Perry Noble and Newspring for years. God definitely has used him to help me love the church and Jesus better. I’m thankful for your perspective that they are people too who face challenges and Opposition every day. And because of the steps they’ve taken in faith and that God has honored by bringing people to them, they face levels of resistance most of us never see or understand. I hope it’s not the last we’ve seen from either of them. They are both passionate, Jesus-following, Kingdom-building men who, in my opinion, just needed a break to catch their breath and receive from the Spirit for a bit so they have more to pour out in their comebacks.
    Love your ministry. Thanks for your voice in this dialog! (^)

  15. Bob’s Links – Sep 12-18, 2016 | Bob's Links on September 19, 2016 at 6:10 am

    […] Some Thoughts About the Recent Exit of Two Megachurch Pastors (Carey Nieuwhof) “Their departures have a lot of people talking and a lot of people thinking. Hopefully, it’s also got a lot of people praying. It also has pastors reflecting.” […]

  16. jeriwho on September 17, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Wish these guys would get wise and start obeying Scripture and follow the New Testament model of interdependent churches under presbytery rule with representatives. Of course these preachers get burned out. They’ve made themselves the lynchpins of megachurches. They should get burned out. It’s a bad model of church government on many fronts, and it’s actually from the mercy of God that these men burn out. Churches are meant to be small, tightly knit communities, not splashy corporations. You build a monster, you get devoured. Or you become a monster. Burnout of megachurch pastors probably saves souls.

    • Jimmy Nimon on September 18, 2016 at 5:49 am

      I like the interdependent part of your comment. But the reality of it is, the mega-church was born on the first day of the Church when 3,000 people were converted in the first message. And it appears they were about 5,000 people by the end of that week. I think church size has so much to do with the presbytery team’s leadership capacity. If God grants a local region a large local congregation, it seems the answer is not to tell those people go somewhere else, but seeking Him to understand how to steward well what He has given. The early church continues in the temple, presumably to hear the apostles teaching, but has small church dynamics in their house-to house meetings. Is there more that was in your mind than I am seeing in your original comment? Thanks. 🙂

      • acombs on September 22, 2016 at 10:42 am

        I think perhaps she is speaking of a church rather than of The Church. I think God wants The Church to be as large as it can, but we often see goals of the church as simply a numbers game. I completely get what she is saying and I completely get how people believe they need to “grow” the church. The definition of church growth is so different. Older generations see bigger as better and younger generations see bigger as something to cause concern. It’s not just about a church, but any large organization. Churches are not businesses. I think we often forget that. I think we also often mistake church for The Church and intermingle the words and the meanings to which people misunderstand what The Church is about. I don’t think she was wishing anyone harm, but quite frankly stating that a lot of larger churches are only large because the lead pastor is such a dynamic speaker. While there may be a lot of good involved in those churches, often time when that pastor leaves, resigns or retires the numbers greatly decrease. It’s people following a person rather than people following God.

        • Questioning on November 6, 2016 at 3:36 pm

          “…but quite frankly stating that a lot of larger churches are only large because the lead pastor is such a dynamic speaker. While there may be a lot of good involved in
          those churches, often time when that pastor leaves, resigns or retires the numbers greatly decrease. It’s people following a person rather than people following God.”

          Agree with this comment. I’m from Asia and in a megachurch and while I have been in the church for 10 years, I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with how the church culture treats the senior pastor as God. Rather than
          “the bible says this…”, it becomes “Pastor said this…”. And when the pastor isn’t around that week, attendance numbers fall pretty noticeably.

          Church leaders can also get short with you if you
          ask questions, or point out inconsistencies in what the pastor is saying, saying that the pastor is “anointed” even though some of his statements are either his own political opinion, or clearly just wrong. Perhaps it is the Asian culture of “don’t question, just keep quiet/obey”.

          But the pastor is not God, and for all his charisma, I’m getting increasingly uncomfy with how the whole church
          just circles around his personality. Sigh.

      • Mike the Professor on May 4, 2017 at 7:31 pm

        That wasn’t a megachurch. That was people coming to know Jesus. What about that NT model has anything to do with Perry or Marc or Pete? Please!

      • Dr. Jed Snyder on May 23, 2017 at 11:02 am

        Local churches are really only preaching points for good speakers unless they divide into many small groups. Fellowship is critical. Spiritual hygiene seems lacking in most USA evangelical fellowships. There is a good question, “who pastors the pastors?” and maybe just as important, “who holds them accountable?” and “how are they held accountable?” I have been in pastoral work for over 40 years and the challenges are real, but if the accountability lacks, there will eventually be failure.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      I honestly can’t believe you wrote this. I don’t know what else to say. Jimmy, thanks for a more gracious response than I can muster up. I don’t know why anyone would ever wish harm on another person. Maybe you didn’t mean that.

      • jeriwho on March 14, 2017 at 9:44 am

        I never said I wished harm on them. I said that an unhappy end was unavoidable because they build these churches in disobedience to the Bible. And I am correct. The megachurch model is a reflection of American pride, greed, and status. It kills.

      • Mike the Professor on May 4, 2017 at 7:30 pm

        Wow, just wow, Carey. Jeriwho is so right about this model and you are so wrong , ugly and ungodly in your paradigm. Of course megachurch pastors burn out, so many are trying to be Jesus to these people. Whatever happened to the New testament? I know speaking to you is probably akin to speaking to a wall, for Jeriwho’s response not to sink in, for you to dare to mischaracterize what she say as “wishing harm on someone”. What a lie! Of course she didn’t mean that, she never said it. She wants megachurch pastors to step down from the stages and spotlight that belong to Jesus alone so that souls can be saved, so that people will stop following abusers. Please stop championing a flatly wrong cause, and if somehow you know Him, seek Jesus. Dang, man.

  17. Kevin Glenn on September 17, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks, Carey! One of my staff just stepped down as a proactive measure. He saw what he needed to do and is taking the steps to do get out in front of it. I admire him and our church has surrounded him with love and support.

  18. Albert Swanigan on September 17, 2016 at 10:18 am

    My heart goes out to all pastors. As a 4th generation pk I watched my great grand father, my grand father and now my father over the course of my life walking out the call and it wasn’t easy. I had the oppurtunity to work full time ministry and burn out is real. I have learnd a great deal from my pastor now because he has trained staff that he delegates and doesn’t have to micromanage.He’s also a family first man who intentionally spends family time to ensure healthy family stability. His number one purpose is equipping the saints thru discipleship. When he sends out a church plant they are equipped and staffed to hit the ground running and very good success rate church planting. I have had the opportunity to watch this pastor for past 30 years and he is part of one of the large and fast growing church organizations in the world. He is a man of God with much wisdom and loves his calling. Its great the church he pastors he and his wife have a powerful testimony how God used them to plant this church over 35 years ago and it has just flourished and continues to do so. I think we as members and those who are prayer warriors need to intentionally continue to pray for our pastors and make sure they can stay spiritually and emotionally healthy by all means necessary. They are human to and have needs like every one else. Now we are aware of this critical situation and its time we pray for our pastors that have experienced burn out and see to it they get come out of this even stronger than before. They deserve to be whole and healthy after all they have given their lives to the call. What preventive maintenance can the church prescribe to help keep our pastors and all who give their lives to ministry from having to go this trumatic experience. Please keep all judgemental expressions to yourself. You haven’t walked in their shoes and gone thru what they’ve gone thru. I am praying for pastors, are you willing to pray for pastors? God bless…

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Thanks for this Albert. Love your heart for those going through difficult times. I share it.

  19. Weekend Leadership Roundup - Hope's Reason on September 17, 2016 at 9:15 am

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  20. T. C. on September 17, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Its very true! Burnout is real but the question is how can these pastors avoid burnout. Most of them are super busy and if they are not careful they neglect their own families. There are pastor’s wives that are resentful because of it. They feel uncared for plus feel like single moms.

    The rule of thumb is that ever pastor needs to have their own pastor or at least a therapist. Pastors hear about a lot of evil/pain when they counsel others, they may be criticized by their own congregation/ staff members, feel alot of pressure to be perfect, they may be experiencing marital problems so they feel pressure at home too.

    Some pastors are so busy, they may not always have time to spent one to one time with Jesus. Every time they read the bible it is only because they r doing a sermon, it becomes a job. Not to say this always happens but if u hear that they r burn out, this is probably what occurred. They have to have balance in their lives! The devil attacks our leaders the most because if they fall, a lot of people will fall too. The disappointed congregation may leave the church/faith and/or have mistrust with any future pastor/leader. This is the reason that it is essential that people in the congregation pray for their leaders. Spiritual warfare is real! We need to focus on Jesus since we can not expect perfection in our leaders. If you are willing to leave the church or your faith, you have to ask yourself, “was this pastor my idol” because it is irrational to think that a pastor is perfect.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      I wish spiritual warfare wasn’t real, but I agree with you T.C. that it is. We need to be on our guard. Abundant life in Christ is the best antidote.

  21. Karen Rabbitt on September 17, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Exactly what needs to be said. Will share.

  22. rwinestock on September 17, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Well written.

  23. John Chase on September 16, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    Certainly, we are all learning while serving. We are fallible. We are broken and only by the grace of God can we do anything. It is my desire to learn from others, so that hopefully I could avoid similar pitfalls. As such, the question echoing in my mind is this: are the activities of the church originating from the realm of the Spirit or the realm of the flesh? Could some burnout or even lack within the church be attributed to doing things in our own strength or wisdom, as opposed to operating in God’s power and design?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      It could be John, and for sure that happens sometimes. Perry and Pete will write their own story one day. But I know not all burnout is the result of relying on our own strength. That’s for sure.

  24. wheatonalum on September 16, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    I don’t care for your writing style. You overuse short sentences. As if every one is designed to be received as pithy or profound. But actually, nothing original or earth-shattering here. And pre-selected twitter quotes? Too in love with yourself for me.

    • Ricky on September 19, 2016 at 10:13 am

      While your literary critique is valid, this comment feels a little too emotional to simply be an unbiased review. I would be genuinely curious to know if you disagreed with any of the content. As for the unoriginality, truth often isn’t. Anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Thank. You. (Okay, I couldn’t resist). Sorry you feel this way.

    • pastor robert on September 22, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Open the book and read the pages, man. Don’t stop because you didn’t like the color of the cover.

  25. Charley Blom on September 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Carey

    Thanks for the post. I hadn’t heard about Pastor Pete Wilson resignation. It hurts deeply, my wife and I have spent the last 20 years, and especially the last 13 years ministering with and to pastoral and missionary couples to stay healthy, to have a place to go to rest, and restore. We had to close the ministry, but there is still a great need.
    As pastors we don’t often step away for a period of rest or counseling or a time to get perspective. Then after going too long without that we crash and burn. I pray that both of these pastors find healing and health and return to the work God has called them to with a renewed vision and vigor.

    Charley Blom

    • T. C. on September 17, 2016 at 8:56 am

      I am glad that you are helping others to stay healthy, have a place to rest and restore! How do u and your wife avoid burn out?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Me too!

  26. rofaith on September 16, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Great discussion and a great topic. Being in leadership at my church here in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, one of the things that I’ve noticed is the absence of discipleship in most evangelical and bible believing churches today. The realm of discipleship in my thinking is not only biblical knowledge but also biblical/Spiritual character. The notion came to mind while reading the byline is that many members/attenders of these churches today do not perhaps, take their discipleship seriously because while they might have heard the word, it has not taken root in the sense of responsibility to be discipled and for their character to grow sacrificially. My suggestion is that perhaps Pastors burn out because they are “babysitting” the flock which is a task that is so labor intensive and emotionally/energy taxing that it would bring any man down to where these two precious men of God find themselves. Especially in mega-churches. I don’t have anything against these kinds of churches but essentially in the plan of God they are incubators for Christian men, women and boys and girls… who unfortunately don’t necessarily grow in spiritually biblical character. Meaning for example that when they come to church they associate church with something they are entitled to, something they are entertained by (in a sense) and not necessarily something they are responsible for and in… in other words, they perhaps don’t know what it is to sacrifice their time, energy and treasure for the sake of Jesus Christ(it belongs to Him anyway) and for the sake of the Body of Christ. Just my 2c …. not meant to be critical but constructive… praying for these two men and others like them.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Thank you for praying for them. I’ll write on this later this week, but megachurches do a better job on discipleship than most think. I’ve seen healthy discipleship happen at both NewSpring and Cross Point. Thanks though!

  27. JR on September 16, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I’ve been in ministry for 20 years. My Dad (who was a pastor for almost 50 years) told me once, “burn-out is more about frustrated expectations than it is about workload. Two people with similar gift levels and personalities can face the same situation and one will burn out while the other won’t.”

    In my experience it is true. Whether your expectation is that the ministry should be easier, or everyone should like you, or your spouse should understand everything, or that your board should vote you a raise, or even that you should never make a mistake, etc – particularly in the case of unrealistic expectations, you invariably become frustrated (sometimes even a realistic expectation, ie. that the board will pay a wage your family can survive on, is not met and can lead to frustration and burn-out).

    I don’t know if that was a root cause in the lives of these two men – there probably are other potential causes too. But I find that when I expect the ministry to be a difficult and thankless thing, I’m pleasantly surprised when people appreciate me or when an easier season arrives–I’m more able to count my blessings. And being grateful to me is the biggest “burn-out killer.” (And I’ve been through some difficult days – the first team leader I worked with died in office from cancer; later both my parents (both pastors) died while I was working at the same church as them).

    Definitely there are seasons where we start doing unhealthy things (like not really taking a day off) – and we need to really watch that. But I think that too is tied into a poor expectation, that it’s up to us–the ministry depends on us. It’s God’s ministry, not ours. No one is irreplaceable. (I understand this is almost the reverse of a lot of leadership teaching that emphasizes ownership of the mission, but it’s about balance, I think.)

    My Dad also taught me to take my vacations (usually all in one lump, so that it’s really refreshing). Many team leaders wouldn’t do that because they’re afraid of what will happen while they’re gone, but Dad said, “if the church can’t carry on for 3-4 weeks while you’re gone, then you’re doing something wrong.” [Who knows, maybe the church will learn to appreciate their pastor more when he goes away for a few weeks :)]

    He pastored small churches where he was the only pastor and large churches where they had a dozen staff — and he faithfully took a month off every year. He went hunting in deer season. He went golfing. And every church he pastored grew (the last one exponentially, and it was probably in the worst shape of any church he ever went to).

    Just my two cents

    • consumer87 on September 16, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      I agree with you. Unmet expectations (hope deferred) make the heart sick. In many cases the expectations center around growth, or lack thereof. Even when the church is maintaining there can be the sense of having to do more. Comparing your church of 1000 with 3 campuses to the church of 5000 with 10 campuses will lead to burnout. I think every pastor wants to do something of significance. As the church grows, so does the sense of responsibility. How do we keep paying for this if the church doesn’t grow, if people leave or the funds dry up? There is alot of pressure to sustain things. And then there’s the problem that many Pastors make themselves indispensable. Your point about vacations and time off apply here. All in all, I think we’ve encouraged many of the wrong things to define what success in the ministry looks like today.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Some good advice here. Thanks!

  28. Billy Sanderson on September 16, 2016 at 10:34 am

    If their failures were not “moral” what constitutes a “moral” failure?

    • JR on September 16, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Usually fraud, breach of trust, abuse of authority, sexual misconduct, etc, would be considered stepping down for a moral failure. Just getting burnt out is not – as long as one steps down before the burnout leads to a “moral failure” (which is far too seldom the case). Kudos to these two men for recognizing they were in an unhealthy state and not going to get better without drastically altering their lives, and then actually stepping down (because some realize but fail to act).

      • pastor robert on September 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

        I thought that Noble admitted to not coping with his issues well, turning to the abuse of alcohol, and the neglecting of his wife and family – not burn out?

        • JR on September 23, 2016 at 1:51 pm

          I was replying to the general question (ie. normally, what is considered a moral issue that means someone has to resign), and using this article as my source of information on the two men. I didn’t do any research as to further details of what they have admitted to. Abuse of alcohol would be considered a moral issue. Neglect of family and “not coping well” is a pretty subjective thing and would not usually be considered a moral issue unless there was a very specific offense related to them.

          • Mike the Professor on May 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm

            I dare say “neglecting family” might be a greater moral failure than any of the above.



        • pastor robert on September 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

          I guess I should have referenced my reply to the overall thread, not to you – sorry. I was really questioning whether or not Noble’s resignation should be considered “burn out” or not.

  29. Cheryl Larsen Lawing on September 16, 2016 at 9:06 am

    This is a true gift for me today…thanks Carey for your gracious and wise ( and honest) thoughts.

  30. Chris Sweet on September 16, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been associate for 27 years and am now in my first lead pastorate. I pray these men will find restoration and return. I pray that I will guard myself well.

  31. Nate Elarton on September 16, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Thanks Carey. I pray for all pastors and don’t judge any, as no one understands our lives but other pastors. I pray they recover, rest, and return!!!

  32. Theo Oosthuyzen on September 16, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Hi friends, I am Theo, a pastor from South Africa. I have experienced burn out after 18 years in ministry and have been recovering the last 2 years. That is the reason I started Help2Rest. So that we can help pastor and their families to rest.

  33. Steve Brown on September 16, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Great post Carey. These must be hard for you to write due to you writing about close friends. This is such a great reminder that we have an enemy that wants us men to believe the lie. The lie that we should not speak up when we are dry inside, and the lie that we are the only one that struggles with temptation or idolatry.
    This article serves as a great reminder that we need to walk this road with brothers who can lift us up when we are weak and that speak truth in us when we can’t focus correctly.
    I can’t wait to see how God redeems the heart of these two men and raises them from their brokenness to expand his kingdom. It may or may not be through formal church leadership but sensing the brokenness of both of them I sense He is just BIG enough to do it no matter what vocation they find themselves.

  34. Kristina Coleman on September 16, 2016 at 8:21 am

    I’m praying for them and all leaders in ministry whether Pastors or not. It has to be so extremely hard to love ministry to the levels these people do and it costs each one so much! I believe burn out is normal, so to speak… teachers, lawyers, doctors, parents all experience it! Any job that you are passionate about, that requires 100% of you can lead to burn out. Any job that you do from your heart, and outside of your natural strength or abilities, which requires you to lean heavily on Him, can experience this. I pray their strength in the Lord and a renewing of their spirit!!!

    Also, since when does stepping down mean fall! We have to be careful of our word choice and how it is communicated. When you step down stairs, we don’t say “oh you fell down the stairs”. It’s when you miss a step and you and the steps no longer connect, that you fall!! Stepping down so you can continue on properly is not falling.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Love your empathy Kristina. Keep caring.

  35. M_McGeee on September 16, 2016 at 7:36 am

    I also hope that Perry Noble recovers and returns to ministry, but not as a leader. His rise and fall are similar to that of Mark Driscoll – a rise built on machismo and a fall based on pride. Perhaps these are the very reasons that Perry and Mark both fell – their own version of ministry required them to be more than they were capable of (more than anyone is capable of). I wish nothing negative to either of these people, but I believe that people fall out of leadership positions for a reason and not everyone is ‘called’ to return to them.

    • Michelle Nolan on September 16, 2016 at 10:16 am

      Wow. just wow. I’m always amazed. A rise built on”Machismo”. Pastors are real, they hurt just like you. I’m amazed at the extent of grace people receive yet give out very little. Sorry but I respectfully disagree with you. If we could only see with the eyes of Jesus and sense his heart for these men we would drop every single stone.

  36. timguptill on September 16, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Beautiful post Carey, and we can see from the comment thread just how huge this topic is for pastors of all size churches. Unexpectedly, the last 4 years have introduced me to panic, anxiety, and a constant desire to be done. I was at 12Stone in January with pastors of the Wesleyan Church’s largest churches, and this topic kept surfacing from high calibre, godly servants, who desperately want to be done with ministry. Just yesterday I had coffee with the pastor of a church on 200 in Maine, and he’s struggling to stay in the game when everything in him wants to be done. We shared how the ministry is far more complex than it was 20 years ago. The issues are heavier, the expectations are higher, the comparisons to other pastors and ministries are unending and it just gets heavier by the day. A thought for another post might be how denominational leaders and others can triage this epidemic. Pete Scazzero and others are doing some great work by inviting pastors into a process of evaluating and improving their emotional health. The stakes are high. This is an opportunity for the church to shine. May God sustain us and give us wisdom as we care for one another.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks Tim. Appreciate you and your ministry so much!

  37. Max Vanderpool on September 16, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Probably the biggest thing that has helped me STAY in the ministry is the decision to walk away from notions of success centered upon numbers and size. I stopped attending conferences that were designed to help me “break through” some numeric barrier or propel me to a larger platform. I started reading more Eugene Peterson. I asked not to see the Sunday morning “count” any more. Today – I am more free, more healthy and more encouraged than I’ve ever been. And, while I don’t get invited to pastor’s conferences, I consistently turn away speaking engagements from businesses, etc. No, this isn’t a “big churches suck, small churches are great” post. People who think that are simply wrong. What was wrong was rooting my identity in cultural (and yes, church) definitions of “success.” I suppose what I’m saying is this: God has been far more concerned about the state of my heart than the state of my ministry. And I’ve now been in ministry 20 years – and I’m still pastoring the church I helped launch in 2004. And yes, God’s grace and the state of my heart are big, big factors in that.

  38. Felicia Carter on September 16, 2016 at 12:24 am

    While I love and admire Perry Noble and Newspring Church, Pete’s situation hits a little closer to home for me. I attend and serve at Cross Point, founded and led by Pete Wilson for the last 14 years. Cross Point saved my life. I found Pete and Cross Point in a moment of complete distrust in the institution of church. They had one shot at convincing me they weren’t like every other church I had ever been in. And they succeeded. Pete’s message of God’s grace, love and hope kept me coming back week in and week out for years before I even started to dive deeper into purpose and community at Cross Point. It is a different kind of place. It’s a place where doing good together and serving our communities truly does help ignite everything else we do. It’s a place where you can belong before you believe. A place where everyone is welcome because nobody is perfect and anything is possible. It is a place where it really is okay to not be okay. This church loves Pete Wilson. This church also wants for the world to learn from Pete Wilson. Listen to his heart. Learn from his wisdom. He was raw and authentic on Sunday. He shrugged off pride and lead well, even in his final moments, by having the courage and wisdom to be honest with himself and the world. Pastors and ministry leaders, have balance. And when you feel tired, broken and like it is time to step into a new chapter of life, be discerning enough to be able to do that with grace. The Wilsons and the Nobles have my prayers. So do all of you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2016 at 4:56 am

      I love the Felicia and love the story God is writing in you! Thanks for sharing this!

      • Felicia Carter on September 16, 2016 at 8:55 am

        Thank you for writing this post. I have read lots of blogs, articles and statements from different people lately with opinions about Noble and Wilson. This one is, by far, the best. You nailed it on so many levels. You have gained a new reader for sure…I have great respect for someone who can see the good in people and situations.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on September 19, 2016 at 3:35 pm

          Thank you Felicia. I’ve messaged both Perry and Pete back and forth since the article came out and continue to pray for them.

  39. Brent Steeves on September 15, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    I have founded two companies in my life. Both of them were very successful. One company employed 20+ people, operated in 4 provinces, and had annual sales of over 23 million dollars. I was called into ministry and walked away from my company (it took more than two years to successfully shut it down!).

    I now lead a church that God has blessed to the degree that it has more than doubled in size in the last two years. Leading a church has been the most difficult–and rewarding!–experience in my life. Leading a church is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It doesn’t get easier with more staff, more attenders, more volunteers.

    Church leadership is always difficult because if you’re doing it right new people are arriving each and every week. Every new person represents a teaching/learning/growing curve that starts the process all over again. I have not led at the level of a Perry Noble (or a Carey Nieuwhof!) but I constantly learn from leaders like them–because at its’ heart, effective leadership depends upon effective learnership.

    I didn’t have the opportunity to live in the first century and experience Acts 2 in person–so I won’t pretend to know how ‘real church’ should be, based on the few hundred words written about it in Acts. I’m stuck in this century, this culture, this country (Canada) and my city (Sarnia). What I know is that people all around me are going to hell. I want to do everything I can to reach as many of them that I possibly can with God’s saving truth. If the church that God has asked me to lead ends up impacting dozens, hundreds, or thousands, of people it won’t be because I followed a model (be it found in 1’st century Israel, Anderson SC, or Barrie ON)–it will be because I followed God’s guidance and learned from the wise men who have gone before me whose path God has allowed me to cross!

    Thank you Carey for your dedication to leadership–your impact is deep and often profound. The full extent of your influence will only be known when we get to discuss it in Heaven!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2016 at 4:56 am

      Brent…so good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing this!

  40. Another One Bites the Dust | mattgrube.com on September 15, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    […] – in both big churches and small. While many in the blogosphere are acting out a form of “damage control” in response to the amount of high-profile, mega-church pastors leaving, it makes me wonder if the […]

  41. Abiss on September 15, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Well said.

  42. James C. Higgs on September 15, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    I struggle mightily with this, while I am called, I never feel adequate, and know I am broken. I have a passion for ministry and preaching, and have only been at this ministry 9 months, but its hard, harder than they said it would be. I am taking a small dying Church and turning it around. While we have grown 30% in these 9 months, the struggle is real. We could build momentum so much better. I thank you for your reason and encouragement here. What I take for this, is that I, if I am to survive this long term, and make the most difference here in Flint, MI, I need to find a good qualified Christian Counselor. This is not the first time I have read this on your blog. It is the first time I have let it sink in.

  43. A Amos Love on September 15, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Carey

    Was wondering…
    Why was my second comment deleted?

    I was ordained. In leadership. 🙁 Oy Vey!!!
    I’m familiar with the challenges. The expectations.

    In my experience…
    With the “Title/Position” of *Today’s* pastor/leader…
    That “Title” comes with something – “A Little Bit Extra.”
    Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Recognition, Reputation…

    ALL those things Jesus spoke against…
    ALL those things that become “Idols of The Heart.”
    ALL those things “Highly Esteemed among men…
    But, is abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15.

    In my experience…
    “Titles” become “Idols” ……….. “Idols” of the heart – Ezek14:1-11 KJV
    “Pastors” become “Masters”…..A No, No. Mat 23:10 KJV, Mat 6:24 KJV
    “Leaders” become “Deceivers”….Isa 3:12, Isa 9:16 KJV, Mat 15:14 KJV

    Could this, “A Little Bit Extra,” be a reason for the “Burnout?”
    This Power, Profit, Prestige, is like most addictions…
    Once you get a little taste of power, only more, and more will satisfy.
    Eventually this power, this addiction, destroys the one trying to control it.

    And, in the Bible…

    The “ONE” Shepherd – The “ONE” Teacher – The “ONE” Leader

    IS {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2016 at 4:59 am

      Amos…I didn’t like the bashing you were doing on guys who are honestly down. I agree that there is one Lord…and I promise you none of the leaders I’m talking about would disagree with that. I felt you weren’t playing fair and that honestly, you were mean while claiming to speak in love. And frankly, none of the people we’re talking about care about titles. Nor do I.

  44. Michelle Nolan on September 15, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Great article Carey! People in ministry aren’t perfect, they hurt just like anyone else. The pressure to be everything to everyone can take a toll on people in ministry. It isn’t realistic and ministry isn’t a clock in, clock out job. Your heart aches when people hurt, when they struggle, when tragedy strikes their families. The struggle to not give “leftovers” to your own family is tough. I can remember feeling like I was on a train track and the train was slowly catching up. The drowning feeling began to swallow me up. It’s easy to throw stones at people in ministry expecting perfection. It’s unrealistic and the reality is that people in ministry hurt just like others, they feel incredible pressure to “keep things running”. It is their love for God and others that made them want to serve. Thanks for shining a light with such grace Carey. It means a lot. I sat in Cross Point under Pete’s teaching for 3 yrs as I healed and got restored. We love Pete and his family and are praying for him and Perry also. Thanks again for a great article!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2016 at 4:59 am

      Thanks! I love the stories of redemption and grace flowing from Cross Point.

  45. Art Good on September 15, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    And if they don’t resume pastoral leadership – that is ok too.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2016 at 5:00 am

      So true.

      • Ronni Hall on September 16, 2016 at 9:09 am

        You don’t have to be a pastor to be a leader. I’ve been blessed to be under Perry’s teaching for a while and learned from him on many levels. I hope that continues, because we learn lessons in brokeness we will never learn otherwise and his heart is what drew me to him, not his platform.

  46. Mark Newman on September 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    If you really think about it, Christ never told anyone to create a big building, preach, and be the leader of multiple ministries or ministry leaders and depts which is what most senior pastors do.
    While they may hire other positions to handle things, ultimately, it all rolls up to them. Hence a burn out.
    I think there are people that are gifted and called to preach. But it doesnt necessarily mean they are called to lead a “Church” as we define church today.
    Nor should they have to. I dont believe its the preachers duty to organize or come up with the mission statement, ministries, staff, etc of that church body.
    That should be left to the elders or whomever is gifted in that area.
    If a preacher let go of all responsibility except preaching and teaching, and counseling if gifted there, you would probably see so much less burn out.
    But how many Churches are started by a new pastor, who instead of just preaching, has their hands in the worship time, sunday school, ministries through out, etc…
    If you look at Paul, why wasn’t he burnt out? After times in prison, failing churches that he had to discipline over and over, etc…?
    Maybe because he wasnt resonsible for everything. He pretty much just preached. He never built a synagogue, he went into others and preached.
    Unfortunately this issue is self made as most preachers want their church to be a certain way. Ran a certain way, etc… and making preaching just one of your many responsibilities is going to burn you out.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2016 at 5:02 am

      I appreciate this Mark but I’d challenge you to think through the logic of your argument. You’re basically saying anything organized is not from God. And most people who say the things you say don’t actually model the first century church either. Few are up at dawn praying daily with other believers, meeting together daily, breaking bread daily, feeding the poor and sharing Christ with their neighbours. If you are, you have my infinite respect.

      • Mark Newman on September 16, 2016 at 7:43 am

        I think you misread what i said. I never said anything organized was not from God. I specifically said that the role for that should be someone gifted in that. Not necessarily the preacher.
        I thought this discussion was on preacher burn out. Not what i do daily or weekly.
        If we want to discuss the congregations role, we can do that.
        But what Ive noticed is that tje wenior pastor isnt just preaching, but is also trying to lead an organization. One can even say a non profit company of sorts. Dont take that wrong, but you know what Im trying to say.
        How much easier eould it be if the pastor just had to come on and preach and teach? Their main gift.
        And not have to worry about offering, childrens ministry, youth ministry, facilities, counseling, etc…
        I believe if you look at Acts, with the poor. Its just what they did. Ie., “we dont have time for this due to our preaching, find someone else to do it. ” very paraphrased.
        Im not against churchrs at all. I love the local church, but MAYBE, trying to do everythimg may lead to early burnout.

  47. Leann Carrick on September 15, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Carey thanks for being real about the struggle being real. I was once hired to a ministry position because I understood first hand that the “business” of church was not glamorous, but instead hard and sometimes very messy. Being called doesn’t make that easier – just allows those of us who hold a leadership position in Christ’s church to operate under his grace in a special way. We need to remember while we’re caring for everyone else – we need to care for ourselves too.

  48. Doug Levy on September 15, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Since I can’t find my comment below, I’m going to assume that it has been deleted… one would think we can honestly discuss the causes of these issues. I didn’t speak ill of any person, only of the system that I’ve seen in person (full-time ministry for over 30 years) that has wreaked havoc on church after church and leader after leader and congregation after congregation… Yes, the role of Pastor is biblical, but it is not the only biblical leadership role. Yes, megachurches have many support staff , but the system is still set up like a business model more than it is what we see in the book of Acts. Americanized Christianity will continue to see burnouts as long as it holds to the triangle, top down model it embraces across most of the spectrum.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 6:10 pm

      This is a much more civil and respectful comment than the last one Doug. So yes, I deleted it. Thanks for the fresh tone.

    • Eric Cummer on September 16, 2016 at 1:47 am

      Disappointed that your other comment was deleted, because I think you have something important to say. The model of today’s church is indeed the standard business model. The bigger the church, the bigger the corporate team needed to manage it. We need to think this through. Moreover, “Could it be that a cause of burn-out among leaders and others in the Church is because of the almost obsessional practice we have adopted of believing we must ‘always’ somehow mask how we truly feel about things?” Nothing is so draining as striving to lead a life of inner-contradiction…and doing it day after day, because we feel we must perform as is expected of us. We cannot be honest with Christ if we are not prepared to be honest with ourselves.

  49. Nilda Trinidad on September 15, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Carey I loved everything you wrote.
    I have always been a Catholic and until a few weeks ago I am a new born Christian. I am now in a place where I can find understanding and compassion for both of them. No it is not easy and it’s like you said just because you are in ministry it is not a go to heaven free card!
    I just want to pray for them both to stay strong and understand the path God is leading them to. Only He knows our destinies and our pitfalls know matter how holy, saved, or broken we are.
    God bless.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      That’s exciting Nilda. So glad you made a decision to follow Jesus, personally. 🙂 Thanks for your prayers and God bless you.

  50. Shannon Olson on September 15, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Carey, I really appreciate your thoughtful responses to the toughest issues. You handle them with love and respect. I’ve followed your writing and podcast for some time now and I’m impressed and thankful for your views. Keep it up!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Thank you much Shannon. I appreciate that!

  51. Doug Levy on September 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Here! Here! to A Amos Love below… the issue continues to be the “system” not the people. American Christianity and modern evangelicalism is to blame for putting a structure in place that is not Biblical. The senior pastor, top down model for doing church is found nowhere in the Scriptures.

    The Kingdom way is that of a circle, not of a triangle. One man was never meant to hold all the cards, do all the work, nor bare all of the burden. Read Ephesians 4 and you will see the design for God’s body, one made up of multiple leaders, each using their different gifts to equip and train the Saints.

    Whether it’s burnout, or moral failure, this will continue to happen as long as we, as the Church, continue to hold to this faulty structure.

  52. Matthew David Brough on September 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for this post Carey. I really appreciate that you mention the struggle we all have, and that pastors have in particular in all size of church. This is not a Mega-Church problem. I recently came off a 15 week sabbatical from my own small church, and about 6 weeks in I encountered something unexpected and only vaguely familiar to me. It was joy, and I realized I had not felt that way in about 2 to 3 years. Nothing particularly bad had been happening in my ministry or my life – in fact lost of good things, just accompanied by the regular day to day grind. The thing is, I didn’t recognize that I was burnt out until I took a step back from it all. Now I’m back in ministry and once again operating from a place of joy. I’m so glad I had the break, and had an understanding congregation—things could have gotten a lot worse and quickly.

    I will hold the pastors in prayer that are struggling, including Pete Wilson and Perry Noble, both of whom I have learned from through books, podcasts, and the like.

    Thanks again for your ministry in your congregation Carey, and the ministry you provide for all of us in the tenches.

  53. Carol Nash-Lester on September 15, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    I’m saddened by the resignation of both these men of God, as I have been blessed by both of their ministries. As one who has been in ministry for 30 years, I do know that the struggle is real and that the weight of expectations (some from people, some from self), along with all that comes with serving others can be overwhelming.
    I pray that , after a season of rest and refreshment, that they will find a way to share the treasure of who they are and what God has given them, in a way that adds to, rather than takes away from them and their families.
    Thank you, for providing a place where we can speak our hearts without condemnation.
    If you are able to share anything with them, please let them know that there are masses of people like me who love them unconditionally and are praying for their comfort.

  54. Antonio Teeheehee on September 15, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Pastoring is hard enough without Prayer Support of your team and congregation. Not a lot taught about Prayer and the power that is available to us in the place of prayer from pulpits (John 17). There is also the struggle with the kingdom of darkness which is real, but instead of exposing it, we seem to ignore it. My prayer is that we as a body would not be ignorant of the schemes of our enemy, that we would enforce the victory of the cross from the place of prayer and that we would see His Kingdom come and His will be done in the lives of our leaders and body in Jesus mighty name!

  55. Forrest Long on September 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I began in pastoral ministry 43 years ago. Over those years I have seen the role and expectations for pastors change, as well as the stress level change. And the backdrop to all of this is that we are living in a changing world. Every pastor has low times, times when we feel like throwing in the towel. And there are times we need to step back or step down for our own survival. I have been through that. But I have discovered in later years that there is a spiritual well that I need to drink deep from continually if I am going to be able to feed, nourish and lead others. Thanks for sharing this post with us- it’s so relevant.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      So glad to see you serving for 43 years. Thanks Forrest. And good advice. 🙂

  56. Jon Pyle on September 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I’m on staff at a church and hanging oit with young leaders in churches of all sizes, we regularly have discussions about whether becoming a Senior Pastor is worth it. That sounds selfish and we do understand it isn’t just a job but a calling, but the demands appear to be overwhelming with significant consequences that effect health, family and overall quality of life. There’s really no way to balance it all.

    At this point, I assume anyone taking a Senior Pastor role is selflessly committing their life to the Church (big C). I know there are a few egregious exceptions (we’re all a little prideful/selfish) but the personal cost of leading a church is so significant I will give the benefit of the doubt.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      That’s fascinating Jon. I haven’t heard those discussions. I know having been one for two decades, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Tough, but worth it.

  57. Tony Mitchell on September 15, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Way back in 1985, the pastor at the church where I was member introduced the assistant pastor. Of course, everyone knew who this individual was and it was not a new hire. It was how he introduced him that remains with me today, “This is the person I turn to”. We forget that being a pastor carries a pretty demanding workload and they are susceptible to the same problems as any professional.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      We all need someone to turn to. Thanks Tony!

  58. A Amos Love on September 15, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Carey

    Thanks for your response earlier.

    You write…
    “Pastor is a biblical description of an office people hold.”

    Haven’t you ever wondered why? In the Bible?
    NOT one of His Disciples held the office of pastor?
    NOT one of His Disciples took the “Title” pastor?

    And, how are Today’s pastors, shepherds, “Biblical?”

    In the Bible – Did any of His Disciples become?
    Paid, Professional, Pastors, in Pulpits?
    Preaching, to People in Pews?
    Weak after Weak?

    Seems most of what today’s shepherd gets paid to do…
    Is NOT in the Bible.

    Could that be a reason for the “Burnout?”

    Non-Biblical expectations?
    From the congregation?
    From the Pastors?

    Seems, in the Bible…
    His Disciples did NOT need, or desire, the “Title” Pastor…
    In order to “Go… into all the world.” “Go… teach ALL nations.”

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  59. Steve on September 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

    What is moral failure?

  60. T. Ramsey on September 15, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Hi Carey,

    I can so relate to this. After 10 years in ministry myself, I reached the edge of burnout in April. I think what’s so hard about ministry is that there are very few people you can share these feelings with. I led my small group, ministries and subordinate staff with a smile on my face, and had it not been for a well-timed move of a ministry colleague to a church nearby, I don’t think I would have had the strength to carry on. I took 2 weeks off and completely unplugged from my role, and am still working on a part-time schedule to keep the pressures low. Ministry is a battlefield with few comrades. We should endeavour to have no man left behind.

  61. […] Source: Some Thoughts About The Recent Exit of Two Megachurch Pastors – Carey Nieuwhof […]

  62. Marty on September 15, 2016 at 9:42 am

    I thought the line that most resonated with me was this “sometimes you need to go to a counsellor not because you have a bad marriage, but because you want a good one.”

    Perry has been a leader I follow and admire. As have Bob Russell, Dave Stone, and Kyle Idleman in Louisville, KY. I have opportunity to know them personally, and I’ve always regarded them very highly for their integrity. But Bob in particular, who is “retired” now seems to be an example of someone who runs the marathon of ministry (even megachurch leadership) with staying power. What do you think the difference is between someone who succumbs to burnout and someone who overcomes it? Is there any real predictor?

    I’m in a 3 yr old church, 200+ people, 130 attendance, and my family is taking a vacation next week because we need it – and we’re fortunate enough to have the time and a generous beach homeowner friend. But what else can I do to brace for the inevitable pressures?

    Love you’re writing!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Thanks Marty. That quote is from Sarah Piercy, my assistant and friend!

      I don’t know that I can identify factors between those who make it and those who don’t. Like I said, I’ve had conversations with both Perry and Pete about soul care and they were great conversations. They were doing the work…I promise you. Why it wasn’t enough…well, one day they might be able to isolate the factors for us.

      I know for me, I got help in the nick of time. I’m grateful for that. But I’ll think on this.

      No easy answers for sure.

      • Deborah Carlyle Enman on September 16, 2016 at 8:04 am

        Some thoughts on why you can do “the work” to avoid burnout and why it might not “be enough” –
        The word “burnout” to me is like the word “accident”. I remember an advertising campaign that was proposing taking certain actions or not taking others to “avoid” an accident. An accident is an event that happens because it wasn’t avoided. You can’t prevent it and I would say that you can’t prevent burnout either. You can do all the right things that you know to do but burnout may still occur because we are not in control of all the factors that contribute to it.
        I have experienced burnout and have come back from it. It taught me much and has given me a perspective/compassion I would not otherwise have had.
        I am not theologically qualified to say whether God “allows” burnout but I would confidently testify that it’s fruit is often very positive.

  63. Ben DiStefano on September 15, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Hey Carey, thanks for the article. I can relate to tired and burnout. In fact when I met you last month at The Summit Church in Indiana, PA with Mel, (we are doing the church plant in Erie, PA) your message spoke right to me and I’ve been taking step to get healthier and it’s paying off. This news and your response are reminders to stay the course and see health as a priority. Thanks Carey!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Ben! Was thinking about you the other day. Good for you man, keep it up! I’m with you!

  64. Jenn Williams on September 15, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Thank you so much, Carey. As usual, you are right on and doing a great job approaching the topics we need to talk about with both grace and truth. I think one of the things we have to talk about, especially in today’s culture, with regard to pastors and burn-out is the very real and enormous pressure to fund the church’s mission. In a culture where people attend less and expect more in terms of environment and technology, it is overwhelming to consistently want more for people than they want for themselves and also help them see just enough to invest in the mission as they grow. As a church planter and lead pastor, I know that is what so often keeps me up at night and suffocates me in the morning. I want to share the burden, but I also don’t want to discourage and burn-out my leaders and volunteers, so far too often I take the lonely road of keeping it to myself. Thank you again for the conversation! I have big love and respect for Perry and Pete and the church’s they started and have led faithfully. They are definitely in my prayers.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Hey Jenn thanks for this and for sharing part of your struggle. I can identify. Often we bear burdens we don’t need to not because we have the wrong vision, but because we just need a better strategy. On funding, once I found the right strategy, the vision was so much easier to execute. I keep looking for the simple answers more and more these days…it’s amazing how God is in those.

  65. greg walker on September 15, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Nothing profound to add. Just a thank you.

    I’m new to vocational ministry, and will serve in my first lead pastor role once I get the church started. But I’ve been leading in the military and in the corporate world for 30+ years. I’ve seen great leaders burn out in all professions, and I’ve managed to do it twice. Your wise counsel will help me not burn out in ministry, if I’ll just put it into practice.

    Keep leading and mentoring, Carey. We need it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Thanks Greg. And you are so right…burnout is a life condition, not a ministry condition. Keep going my friend! We’re with you!

  66. Alan Bradley on September 15, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Great article. As I have read about Perry and Pete, it’s amazing that we’ve been going through some battles at our church with people who don’t realize the immense pressure we pastors face. Everyone seems to want something from their pastors and when they don’t get it, the pastor and their families take the hit. I understand why pastors leave the pastorate. I am praying from Perry, Pete, you, myself, and the many pastor I know and those around the world that God would protect them so they can continue to fulfill the calling God has placed on them.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 10:14 am

      It’s not easy Alan, but it’s worth it. Thanks man!

  67. Cory MacNeil on September 15, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I started meeting with a coach several years ago and started addressing some of the stress points in ministry. Most recently, I’m beginning to understand the importance of pouring into other leaders so that they can help shoulder the load.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Good for you Cory. I’m with you man. Keep it up.

  68. Sean Seay on September 15, 2016 at 8:46 am

    This is very well written bc it’s real and coming from a man who knows it well. Thank you CN! I appreciate & respect you. I also pray for Pete & Perry. They are good men who have done so much good!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Sean. So appreciate you and being in this together.

  69. A Amos Love on September 15, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Carey

    Is it possible the reason “Burnout” is such a problem…
    For **Today’s** “Pastor/Leader” is they have found themselves…
    With a “Title” and “Position” NOT found in the Bible?

    For one of His Disciples?

    Seems, in the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples took the “Title/Position” pastor/leader.
    NOT one of His Disciples was Hired or Fired as a pastor/leader.
    NOT one of His Disciples called them self pastor/leader.

    “Pastors/Leaders,” and their families, pay a horrible price,
    attempting fulfill a “Title” and “Position” NOT found in scripture.
    For one of His Disciples.

    Let me NOT, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give “Flattering Titles” unto man.
    For I know NOT to give “Flattering Titles”;
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
    Job 32:21 KJV

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Thanks for this Amos. But I’m not sure I agree. Pastor is a biblical description of an office people hold. And leader is an adjective that describes almost every character you read about in scripture. These roles are very scriptural.

  70. Jenny Mops Coordinator on September 15, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Gosh this made me cry. As a wife of a pastor whos seen depression way to often and a child of a pastor who had a mental breakdown im so very greatful for those like you who go before us and say its ok to not be ok and theres real healthy church leadership out there. Thank you Carey for all you write and say you are a HUGE blessing and i pray we can get the balance of rest right just as Jesus did!!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 7:13 am

      Hey Jenny…thanks for serving in the Kingdom. Seriously. You’re making more of a difference than you know.

  71. jenae weinbrenner on September 15, 2016 at 6:39 am

    Thank you for this article! After 15 years in leadership I had to make a change. I had to do it for my soul. I wasn’t seeing clearly and I started to become cynical about everything and everyone– which is how I knew it was my time to step away. And it’s wild how far you feel sometimes when you are working like the devil for the Lord!! I love the church and serving, so Maybe I’ll come back after a break.

    I believe the gospel is too important not to share and I thoroughly believe the local church and its people.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Thank you Jenae. I agree so much with that! It’s too important not to share through the local church. May you find complete renewal and healing. It was hard for me, but the other side of burnout can be life-giving!

  72. Tim Cyphers on September 15, 2016 at 6:25 am

    No matter the size of the church, big or small, the pressures to lead are tremendous. I experienced burn out in a church of 85 and had to step away for a season. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to see/hear people throwing negativity at these guys (or any) just because they feel the need to step away. I love your words on this issue and I appreciate your heart for these guys and for the Church.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 6:26 am

      I agree. Burnout is not a size issue. It’s a heart and boundary issue and I say that as one who succumbed to it.

  73. Lawrence W. Wilson on September 15, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Carey, these are good thoughts, but what if self-care is not the answer? Is it possible that the towering expectation that pastors be omni-competent leaders is the true problem? Have we’ve created a job that is simply hazardous by nature? If so, perhaps that’s the place to target change.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 6:28 am

      Larry…appreciate your thoughts! I would personally say no, that size doesn’t lead to this. It makes it harder, but see Tim’s comment above you. Burned out in a church of 85. I get that…we were 700 when I burned out. I think we remember the people who lead large churches who stepped out, but we rarely talk about the guys and women who stayed in. Andy, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Willie George, Mark Batterson and so many others are doing this for 20-40 years and they’ve led without needing to exit. So I think it’s mostly that it’s news when people go down if the church is big.

      • Lawrence W. Wilson on September 15, 2016 at 7:01 am

        Good examples of long-term, healthy pastors, and that’s helpful to remember. My comment is not about church size, though. I think the same pressures and expectations exist in all churches, and that can be a problem. Maybe the long-timers have been better at changing or setting those expectations?

        • RWilliams on September 21, 2016 at 11:07 am

          Not sure why my original comment wasn’t approved. But, I agree with what you are asserting here Larry. Not sure if that’s what led to the specific exit of Pete Wilson and Perry Noble. But, I do believe that the pressures that some congregations place on pastors (or they place on themselves) to be and do everything absolutely leads to unhealthy situations.

          I bet some of the long-timers did work on those expectations early on and maintained their healthy boundaries.

  74. Jonathan Mast on September 15, 2016 at 6:08 am

    A few months I received an email from the Newspring network explaining Perry’s resignation from ministry. Reading your post this morning and hearing about Pete reminded me again of the dangers we face as Pastors and leaders. Most telling was to see how an over obsession with ministry and church growth can stunt personal spiritual growth, sensitivity and lead to unhealthy escapes to cope with the stresses of it. It’s a danger we can all to easily fall into even if you don’t serve in a mega church with multiple campuses and many staff. Actually, for the small town pastor who is expected to do and oversee everything there is equal if not more pressure placed on him within the local church.

    This reminded me to take an introspective look at my priorities in life. When I was hired right out of college as a Youth/Music pastor at my church in rural Paden City West Virginia I remember distinctly sitting down with the leadership and being told that my priorities in life were important to them. The model they laid out and that I had always been taught was that my priority is first to God, second to my Family and third to my work. This made sense until I started to dig deeper. I realized that within this commonly held order of priorities that prioritizing “Self” (spiritual, physical, emotional health) was left out.

    Here is the way I see it now.
    #1. God
    #2. Self (spiritual, physical, emotional health)
    #3. Family (wife, kids)
    #4. Work (for me, the church)

    When it cones to priorities, as a pastor it is easy to put the church on top, thinking that because you are serving God there it has first priority. So when a need arises within the church you drop everything and go. Maybe it’s a funeral while on vacation, a work day planned at church on your day off, a church member in the hospital, a disrupting phone call at the dinner table, a text message in the middle of a date with your wife. While some of these can be important and urgent, most of them can wait.

    As a pastor I have experienced this and fight against it because placing these things as first priority has lead me to become spiritually unhealthy, physically unfit and it has lead to tension in my marriage and in my family. Don’t take this the wrong, our marriage and family are doing good. But good is the enemy of great. When I place the needs of the church over the spiritual and physical health of myself and my family I have experienced it leading to destructive patterns in my life and I need a realignment. I know that I am not alone in this and it is a struggle for each one of us no matter what profession we work in.

    As a pastor the greatest gift that I can give to my congregation is my own spiritual, emotional, physical and marital health. As you have heard, “More things are caught than taught” If I cannot model it I certainly should not be teaching it.

    My prayers are for Perry and Pete and and for their families as they realign their priorities and also for the many other pastors out there like me who can identify with him. Pray that we can model spiritual health in our values and priorities.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 6:29 am

      Couldn’t agree more. Thanks Jonathan!

  75. Clay Scroggins on September 15, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Agree. This is gold. Thanks for your maturity and character, Carey. Don’t burn out. But if you do, we’ll show you the same kind of grace. And to quote Whitney, “And Iiiiiiiii, eeeeiiiiiiii, will always love you!!!”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2016 at 6:29 am

      Clay…you and I will always have Whitney. (Thanks man! Love you brother!)

  76. Jonathan Smith on September 15, 2016 at 5:27 am

    Hey Carey – thanks for that. You do such a great job at pulling back from the issue and building in perspective. Great leadership in this article.

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