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Biblical Reasons For Removing A Pastor

This article will talk about biblical reasons for removing a pastor. It is written in a way that would be beneficial to any church. The reason for these reasons being on this blog is to promote new understandings of biblical leadership and governance. This is a chance to explore why we do what we do, and how to make churches better and more effective. We have an opportunity to remove our pastor because of a Biblical reason.

In the Bible, Paul writes about removing a pastor: “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. Not at all meaning the morally upright but rather the immoral, or covetous, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11). If this passage is true, then it’s clear that we should remove our pastor for his sexual immorality. This passage also tells us that we should not associate with people who are guilty of sexual immorality.

Biblical Reasons For Removing A Pastor

There are many reasons for removing a pastor, but we need to make sure that they line up with the Bible, God’s written word. The Bible says a person must be above reproach before being a pastor, that teachers and heretics are to be removed from church membership, and it also tells us that bad shepherds should be removed from the fold.

The bible says a person must be above reproach before being a pastor.

The Bible says a person must be above reproach before being a pastor.

The Bible tells us that pastors must be faithful to God and His Word, (1 Timothy 3:2). They are to teach sound doctrine, (Titus 1:9-10). Good shepherds would never present false doctrine or mislead the flock. They are also expected to lead the church in prayer and prayer can only be effective if the pastor is living righteously before God. The Apostle Peter said that “a bishop [pastor] must not be given to wine or pugnacious drinking” (1 Timothy 3:3) not only because it would make him unfit for leadership but because it may lead him into sin or temptation.

What Does The Bible Say About Removing A Pastor

The bible says that false teachers and heretics are to be removed from church membership.

The Bible speaks of false teachers, and it is clear that they are not to be tolerated in the church. False teachers are not allowed to teach or preach in the Church.

The Bible is clear on this issue: “But if anyone pays attention to him (the false teacher), I will be forced to come and remove his lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5).

If you have a pastor who teaches false doctrine, then he must be removed from your church membership immediately.

Jesus said he would remove bad shepherds from his fold and replace them with good shepherds.

“I will appoint shepherds over them who will care for them,” declares the Lord.

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:11-30)

The bible calls the pastor an elder, and elders are to be removed from leadership if they are immoral.

The word elder is used to refer to a pastor, but also to people who are in charge of churches. In addition, it’s used for people who oversee groups of people. This means that if you’re in a church where the leader is immoral, and he calls himself an elder (or even if he doesn’t), then he can be removed from leadership because he has broken his calling and position as an elder. The Bible calls pastors elders so we must follow what it says about them!

Paul called for the removal of elders if they led the flock astray.

Pastor’s are the spiritual leaders of their flock. Pastors must be humble, not proud, and they must teach their flock with love and patience. If a pastor leads the flock astray, then he should be removed from his position as a shepherd (1 Tim 3:2). Paul called for the removal of elders if they led the flock astray because this was a serious problem that could destroy God’s people (1 Tim 5:19; 1 Cor 5:4-5; 2 Thess 3:6-15).

However, there is another reason why pastors should be removed if they lead people astray…

Titus said that elders who cause trouble should be admonished publicly, then rejected.

In Titus 3, Paul said that elders who cause trouble should be admonished publicly and then rejected. If you disagree with this principle, consider the following verses from the book of Titus:

  • “Admonish them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith.” (3:10)
  • “You must rebuke them when you have opportunity.” (3:9)
  • “Admonish those who are unruly” (3:11).

When Should A Pastor Be Asked To Step Down

there are several reasons for removing a pastor from office

There are several reasons for removing a pastor from office. One of the most important is that he must be above reproach before taking on such an important position. According to 1 Timothy 3:2, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior…” (KJV). In other words, shepherds must lead exemplary lives and not have any kind of problem in their past before being appointed as pastors or elders in their church.

Another reason for removing a pastor is if he teaches false doctrine or heresy (1 Tim 4:1; Titus 3:10). As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Peter 2:1-3: “But there were also false prophets among the people… And many will follow their sensuality…and because of these things God will send them strong delusion so that they may believe what is false…” If a person using his position as authoritatively teach error out of ignorance or malicious intent should be removed from his post immediately – whether this means resigning himself or being removed by others who are concerned about spiritual well-being within their congregation.

When to Fire Your Pastor


From seven to seventeen I grew under the ministry of Brother Baker. He was a fine man with strong morals and values. He grew the church from about 75 people to over 500 in worship on Sundays. Five Hundred was a big church in the 1950s and 60s.

When I was in high school two very powerful and influential men decided it was time for the pastor to leave. Mr. Powerful and Mr. Influential decided that was time for Brother Baker to go. They schemed and manipulated to blame failure on the pastor. The church family was “hood winked” into believing Brother Baker needed to be replaced.

I had an inside view. You see, I was best friends with Mr. Influential’s and Mr. Powerful’s two sons. I played golf with Brother Baker and my dad every Saturday afternoon.

I watched the pain and lived through the struggles as my pastor attempted to understand what he’d done wrong. I remember him on the golf course shaking his head in bewilderment wondering about just what he had done to deserve the personal tragedy that was inflicted upon him. He had three fine sons. They are now successful business men. I remember the day they drove out of town so angry and bitter. They hated the church for what it had done to their dad. At least two of them have not darkened the door of a church since.

These two divisive men had no business doing what they did. Brother Baker had done nothing to justify their behavior.


Let me say as we begin: the reasons I give here are the ones I observe in the Christian church today. They are by no means the only ones.

Let Me Give You Several Guidelines.

1. MORAL FAILURE (Exodus 20:14; 1 Timothy 3:1-13)

This is an easy one. There are consequences to this sin for a pastor like no other. They are no longer qualified to serve as pastors.

I’ve fired people on the administration level and felt no need to tell the whole church.

On the other hand, the congregation must be told about church leaders who fail (1 Timothy 5:20). On too many occasions I’ve had say words like these to the congregation: “I want you to know that X can no longer work in our church. He has done something that violates our trust and compromises his ability to continue in his/her job. I want you to treat him/her and their family with love and grace as we work through this difficult time for both him and the church. I will not tell you what he/she did. But, I want you to remember that there is not one thing he did that many of you haven’t done, too.”

This kind of a speech stops the rumors, let’s the congregation know that leaders don’t get away with sin, and assures the congregation that the matter is not being swept under the rug.

2. FISCAL MALFEASANCE (Jeremiah 2:265:31 Timothy 3:3; and 1 Peter 4:15)

In other words, they are stealing money, misusing funds. They are loving it and what it can do for them too much. Pastors are fired immediately for stealing money. Misusing funds needs a little more scrutiny (Acts 5:1-11).

My father served as church treasure for many years. Each Sunday, after the tithes and offerings were counted, the money and checks were locked in a floor safe in an office closet. Even still, they knew someone was stealing money from the locked safe. He and several leaders set up sting operation to catch the thief. One Sunday afternoon about three o’clock the worship leader entered the office and went straight to the closet safe and began to spin the combination. The safe opened; he had cash in his hands. My dad fired him on the spot.

In some small churches the pastor puts the offerings in his own personal checking account or in a checking account which only he/her can access. The pastor must agree to a check and balance process to protect the church’s money from perceived or actual misuse. If the pastor refuses, fire him/her (1 Timothy 3:7).


A sacred trust exists between the pastor and his/her sheep.

As we read the Gospels we are immediately struck that Jesus’ favorite name for Himself was not teacher or father, or Lord. He liked to think of Himself as a Shepherd. The good Shepherd knows his sheep by name. He leaves ninety-nine in order to search for one lost sheep. He is the door of the sheep pen; He lays down his life for his sheep. These things are the job description for a pastor.

In fact, the Christian faith begins with Jesus commissioning Peter as a Shepherd, no longer a fisher man: “I am a Shepherd, you be a shepherd, too.”

Shepherds don’t parade sheep down Main Street. The Shepherd’s best work is done on the back side of the mountain when no one is looking. But, don’t kid yourself, news of the work when no one is looking gets around fast.

Andrew Blackwood used to say, “A house going pastor makes a church going people.”

Shepherding involves caring for, protecting, nurturing, healing and feeding the sheep. Pastors in larger churches will organize meeting the needs of the sheep—both those inside and outside of the sheep fold.

One of my young pastor friends invested much more time meeting his own needs than the needs of his sheep. He didn’t last long before he was fired. And, tragically, he never understood why they let him go.

If pastors neglect pastoring, they ought to be fired.

4. LYING, DECEIVING OR MISLEADING THE CONGREGATION (Romans 9:1; and 2 Corinthians 11:31)

The issue here is trust and truth. One of my close associates used to say, “Telling the truth always turns out better than making up all sorts of lies to cover your tracks.”

One of our pastors failed to accomplish an assignment. That was not the problem. That happens to all of us. The problem was that he lied about it.

I knew he was lying and gave him multiple opportunities to admit the truth. I found the evidence of his deceit in his car. The church leaders and I let him go.


As a pastor, these passages frighten me. God was accusing the religious leaders of telling the people that all was well when it was not well (saying “peace, peace” when there is no peace). I was afraid that I might minimize the claims and cost of following Christ. I was afraid that I would succumb to watering down the gospel by making it easy to receive while neglecting to teach people that “when Jesus Christ calls a man He bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonheoffer). Following Christ means full surrender at any price. It is so easy to preach the first part and neglect the second.

I believe that in an effort to reach people at any cost in today’s Christian culture that we have forgotten (if we ever knew) that the gospel is not properly communicated until people have enough information to reject it. That is how Jesus did it. Remember the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:20-22).


When I was six our church had a big “Good Bye” party for the pastor and his family. I remember the light-hearted atmosphere and the food and the singing and talent show and funny skits of entertainment.

It was common knowledge that the church had decided to ask him to leave. He was fired and I was confused. How could they have a party, pretending everything was fine, when they were terminating the man?

When I grew older I found out the rest of the story. He was a Southern Baptist in name and a Methodist at heart. His preaching and doctrine reflected his true allegiance.

A group of church leaders sat down to discuss their concerns with the pastor. He was surprised at their observations. The leaders were in no hurry. Over time he concluded that he was more Methodist than Baptist. No one got angry or demanded his resignation. They talked it over for several months and worked out a plan of transition. The church was involved early in the process and the leaders told him that they would keep him as pastor until he could integrate himself into the Methodist system.

In less than three months he was pastoring a Methodist church and they had the party. No one got hurt. The matter was handled in a Christian way and peace reigned in the congregation.

Here is what I learned that was so right.

Spiritual men and women handled the issue (Galatians 6:1-2).

The issues were dealt with up front and in a loving way. No one was manipulating anyone.

The pastor knew exactly what the problem was. Not like poor Brother Baker who was never told exactly what he’d done wrong.

The church doctrine was upheld. This is not to say that Methodist doctrine is wrong—it was just different from Baptist doctrine.

The pastor was given plenty of time to conform his preaching and teaching to basic Baptist beliefs, but they all finally agreed that changing his basic beliefs was not possible for him.

Christian fellowship was upheld. Everyone enjoyed the party.


I’ve fired sixteen paid staff (that I remember) in forty years of ministry. As far as I am concerned, that is about sixteen too many. But it had to be done.

Here is what I’ve learned about firing a pastor:

1. Give them time to improve their performance to well defined, acceptable levels. If they won’t or can’t succeed, it is time to let them go.

2. No one ever feels that they deserve to be fired.

3. There is no correct to way to let someone go.

4. However you do it they are never going to like you again.

5. Have them turn in their keys, clean out and vacate their office immediately. Not everyone needs to be dealt with like this.

6. People in the church who know and love the one being fired will often express displeasure in public ways.

7. Give a nice transitional severance package to help them pick up the pieces and start over. Let them know that if they start causing disunity or trouble in the church that the package will end immediately.

8. Remember that hurting people need comfort and care.

I have no illusions that anyone will agree entirely with my article. The subject is too complex and subjective.

Different situations require different solutions. Moral failure and fiscal malfeasance are rather clear cut. Everything else needs understanding, wisdom and care before proceeding and attempting to bring resolution.

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