Chapter 22: Leave the Right Way at the Right Time for the Right Reasons 

Leave the Right Way at the Right Time for the Right Reason

Staring across the tiny sanctuary before a recent Sunday morning service, I prayed for the upcoming gathering. The people who would come and the people who would not attend that day. The people who were going through difficulties. The people who had recently started attending. The people who had been there before I arrived and would be there after I depart.

And that was a reminder to me. I came to that small church a year before to minister while also evaluating the condition of the congregation. Though the church was different than many of my preferences and styles, I told our denominational leaders that we should keep the church open, that more people would come, that great opportunities were there, and that, yes, I would be willing to serve as an interim. I put strong emphasis on the word interim. I did serve. I did enjoy. When the year was up, I was asked to continue serving—this time no longer as an interim.

So, back to my early Sunday morning prayer meeting. My thoughts—or probably one of those times when God whispers an alert to us—silently voiced this reminder: “You’re still an interim. You’ll always be an interim.”

I knew the meaning. I got the message.

I pastored in Orlando Florida almost twenty years. As I type these thoughts, I have served at Emmanuel College over fifteen years. But when I surprised myself and others by accepting an additional role as the interim pastor of that local church in Georgia, I began gaining a better glance of ministry.

My conclusion? We are all interim pastors. We’re interim-whatever-the-title.

As I wrote in the previous chapter, I do not endorse or encourage staying in one job briefly while regularly searching for another position in another place. Too many of us want too much change too quickly. Escaping replaces perseverance. The mentality of more and better and bigger doesn’t sit well with dedication and commitment and endurance. I’ve never been a fan of pastors staying briefly at churches. I believe it takes time to build trust, to lead well, and to shepherd people into and through their fields. Those who came with initial excitement often left a church in shambles. Those who always stared out the door glancing for another opportunity never seemed to care deeply for their sheep.

I applaud endurance. I celebrate dedication. I cheer for the marathon, not the sprint.

But, like this book’s theme, there is a balance. The equilibrium comes from refusing to stare out the door lusting for something else, while still glancing out the window knowing there is a future of surprises and possibilities waiting. Each job prepares us better for the next job. Each role arranges us for another.

Wherever we are serving today, we are interims. We should serve with commitment and dedication, while balancing that with a belief that we are not in control, we are not there forever, and it’s not all about us.

One day will be the day to say goodbye.

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  1. Why do I believe now is the time to leave?
  2. Why do I believe this is the right next step for me?
  3. What are my deepest fears about leaving?
  4. What are my major concerns about staying where I am?
  5. What do my closest friends— those who have no ulterior motives—think is best?
  6. Why do they believe that?


Equilibrium is a collection of beautifully written stories, reminders and encouragements for us as we journey through life. It’s an invitation to slow down and be present in the moment and find the chaos in our lives fade into a time of rest. His pastoral heart and his desire for people to know the love of God is evident on each page. Once again Chris Maxwell has written a book that will engage your mind and serve to help restore your heart along the way.

Dr. Charlie Dawes

Lead Pastor, Hill City Church, Alexandria, VA