In the movie, “Nanny McPhee”, a house of unruly children receives a visit from a mystical Nanny who excels in teaching children to behave appropriately. Nanny McPhee explains to the children, “When you need me, but don’t want me, I will stay. But when you want me, but no longer need me, then I will have to go.” Nanny McPhee’s mission is to stay until she has done her job and the children no longer need what she has to offer. Nanny McPhee never needs the children. The children need her and that is why she is there.
There is a temptation as pastors to evaluate our current position based on what we need. We need more staff. We need more money. We need more people. But when the church doesn’t grow and you reach your limit for what you can do, its easy to ask, “Do I need to go somewhere else?” Is reaching your limitation a sign from God for you to go somewhere else? If you have done all you wanted to do, does that mean you should leave? Consider the perspective of Nanny McPhee before you take off for greener pastures.
Your congregation needs you as their pastor more than you need them as a congregation.
Often we assess our pastoral assignment based on our needs. But I think God bases our assignment based on our church’s needs. He cares more about the needs of people in the congregation than he does about your needs. Pastoring is not about you! Pastoring is about the people you serve.
Maybe you have reached your limit of what you can do to grow the church. Maybe you built the building you wanted. Maybe you implemented the vision you had in your heart. That may be true, but what if God is not finished with using you to disciple the people you have reached? If you were to survey your congregation, I would suspect that they would want you to stay. They still need you for your teaching and care. They just want you to be there for them to lead them as they follow Jesus.
A Pastor is a shepherd, not a CEO. You are not there to build an organization. You are there to take care of people. If you are able to care for people and the church grows, that is great! If not, it is not a sign that you should leave. What should be a sign for you is how much people need you where you are. Do your people still need you? Do they need your perspective on the scriptures? Do they need you to help them grow? Does the church need your direction to fulfill the vision God has given you? Like Nanny McPhee, as long as your congregation needs you, that is a reason to stay. If they want you but no longer need you, then it may be time to look for what God has next for you.
“Keep watch over yourselves and the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought by his own blood.” Acts 20:28