Why I Resigned Yesterday

weakness

Yesterday, I stood in front of the congregation that I dearly love and read the following letter. It was horrible, tough and extremely emotional. My hands were shaking holding the letter and I never get nervous speaking in front of groups. Here’s the letter and why I had to resign from a church I love.

Resignation letter for Greg Atkinson:

Hello Carthage family. It’s bittersweet to see you all again. On one hand, I am thrilled to worship with you today. On the other hand, I have some hard news to share with you.

I regret to say that I will not be able to continue on as your Campus Pastor. I have a mood disorder (which I’ve been very open about and blogged about and posted on Facebook) which is controlled by medicine and allows me to function normally and at a high level. I say this to reinforce what I’ve always said, “God uses weak, messed up people.”

As things would have it, the church’s insurance company just recently found out about my mood disorder and classifies me as a liability. Pastor John and Forest Park were put in a very difficult situation by the insurance company of losing their liability insurance as a church (which would open them up to law suits for all their staff and pastors) or releasing me.

I am stepping down as Campus Pastor so that the church doesn’t lose their liability insurance. As a leader, I learned a long time ago that you make the right call for the many, even if the few don’t like it. In this case, my family and I are the few and the right call is to protect the entire Forest Park Church.

Please know I would have stayed here a decade or longer. I love you. I don’t want to leave and this breaks my heart. I love Carthage and we plan on living here unless God calls us somewhere else. I hope I will run into you in town or see you at a restaurant or stay in touch via Facebook – I just can no longer be your pastor.

I wouldn’t trade these last nearly 3 years for anything in the world. This was where God wanted my family and we have been amazed and blessed to see God move in this church. Over three hundred new people have joined this campus since I started and out of that I’ve baptized well over a hundred of you. I have nothing but sweet and special memories of Forest Park Carthage and I thank you for the privilege of serving you these last few years.

I’m leaving you with the strongest pastoral team we’ve ever assembled at this campus. You’re in good hands. Again, this is an amazing church (I know because I’ve been visiting other churches in the area the last month and none compare to here) – this is an amazing church with strong leaders and tremendous leadership from Pastor John. I have no doubt your best days are ahead of you. God has just begun what He wants to do at this campus.

Please pray for myself and my family as we transition and look for another ministry to serve. Again, we’ll live here in Carthage unless God calls me away somewhere else and opens a huge door of opportunity – which I’m confident He will do. Know I will miss you and I love you. God bless you all.

Greg Atkinson

_____________________________________________________________________

*** That’s the letter and the truth. I’m now praying for God to open a huge door of opportunity for my family and me, where I can serve the Church and the Kingdom and not be considered a liability. Please pray for us as I search for what God has next for us.

I’m also thankful for my friends Rhett Smith, DJ Chaung and others like Ed Stetzer and Rick Warren (read THIS) who have been speaking out about mental illness and disorders. I know that my mood disorder is completely controlled and neutralized by medicine (which I take everyday) and that I can lead, serve and pastor at a high level. Maybe the Church can move forward with me sharing my story.

My counselor told me that 30% of Americans have some sort of mental illness or disorder and out of that, only 5% are diagnosed. As people came down front yesterday at both services and cried and hugged me, you would not believe how many people in my congregation told me they take medicine for some sort of mental disorder (depression, anxiety, etc.). They wanted me to know they loved me and they understood that sometimes you need to take medicine.

I once served with a pastor that struggled with depression and was very open about it from the pulpit and shared about his struggles and his need for medicine. My mom told me yesterday that she knows of a loved and respected pastor in their association that suffers from a mood disorder and he leads a growing and healthy church.

I say this to speak hope to myself and others. There’s somewhere I can serve and be used effectively by God (this wasn’t an issue at my last church – Bent Tree in Dallas, TX) and I’m prayerfully seeking the right fit and opportunity to be used by God. Please pray with me.

I’ve never hid my thorn in the flesh, nor lied about it. In fact, I’ve blogged openly about it in the past and posted my blog on Facebook for my church to read. For many years, I’ve told my church and people in classes that I teach at conferences that “God uses weak, messed up people.” – It’s one of the things I talk about in my new book Church Leadership Essentials.

Please know (as I mention in the above book) I never burn bridges. I left with dignity, honor, character and integrity. I took the high road and said nothing but nice and positive things about my church and its senior leadership (which I used to be a part of). I will not blast or say anything negative about anyone. I’m simply sharing my story because I don’t think I’m the only pastor that struggles with anxiety or a mood disorder.

God is faithful and God is our provision. I’m passionately in love with my Savior and cherish His word more and more every day. I always say that my favorite line of a song is from Your Grace Is Enough - in the second verse it goes: “You use the weak to lead the strong…” That’s the story of my life and I’m sticking to it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

56 thoughts on “Why I Resigned Yesterday

  1. Wow Greg, thank you for your openness and sharing your experience with us. I will pray for you and your family. There is one thing I am convinced: God is not through with you! Keep listening keep obeying keep following. I think you may find your definition of church has been a little…small. God is building the Kingdom in vast ways. He has opportunities for love to flow through you to others again. Keep faith and stand firm. Stay connected to people; mentors, friends, and family. You are never alone on this journey. There is a time for healing…
    May God continue to bless you and heal you and may you feel His love deeply during this time. Amen.

  2. My Prayers are with you Greg! Sorry for what you have had to endure and experience. Trusting his wisdom for you in the transition!

  3. Greg, sorry to hear of this news and hard decisions being made. God be with you through this season of change and walking by faith. May God provide for you and your family in overabundant ways. You have my # 949-243-7260 any time you want to call. Your friend for the journey, @djchuang

  4. Breaks my heart, Greg. I'll be praying that God leads you to the place where you can share your gifts without threat of insurance and the like. I know firsthand your capability in leadership, so I know you'll find a place. Maybe even FPC can work though the insurance issue.

    God bless.

  5. I have added you to my prayer list. I have never heard that before and I still do not understand what liability you could possibly present. If the Lord called you to preach, he would not make it impossible to do so. If the Lord called you to that church, He would not make it impossible for you to preach. I think the work of the Devil is there, I still think you should look into this. Remember .what happen to Johan, you must go to where He leads you no matter what.

  6. Prayers for you here, Greg. For a wounded healer to be pushed out for being wounded is such a harsh indicator of how cold-blooded our nation's approach to health care, and specifically mental health, has become. Are you already working on your book?

  7. Dear Pastor , I just read your story , dont know you, but you are my brother in Jesus name. Dont worry, its not the end of the world, this can be already a new open door waiting for you. God works in very strange ways, but his work its more than perfect. God bless you … By the way I'm Karla Bravo live in Miami Florida.

  8. Greg – your story was forwarded to me by a pastor in Canada.
    I must admit to struggling with the insurer's threat. This action on the part of the insurer violates so many human rights, not the least of which is its breech of privacy laws. In my opinion as an insurance consultant, you and/or your church should be filing a complaint with the government insurance regulator if not taking the insurer to court.

    I do realize that you went public with your mental health struggles, but again this shouldn't jeopardize your church's liability policy. If anything in going public you actually reduced the liability the church faces. Had you kept it to yourself, neither the insurer would have been forewarned nor the church in a position to take precautionary measures to help you through this period of stress.

    In a US context, the insurer could be liable for both compensatory and punitive damages.
    I join with the others in their prayers for you, especially remembering not only you but those closest to you, who are essential to your recovery.

  9. Hi Greg,

    You are a great example of how to 'finish well' my friend. Good on you for keeping your own integrity and dignity intact when it would of felt so easy to go down another pathway.

    God sees that and will honour you in your next steps.

    It's not the end, but just the beginning of a new fruitful season for you. You are a massively talented person and have lots to contribute in whatever space is next for you.

    Bless you and your family mate.

    Steve

  10. Greg, I will keep you in my prayers knowing that God has a plan that is already in motion. That's how He rolls! Grace to you, Jeff Hook

  11. Sorry to hear this happened to pastor Greg. We do not know the details of the insurance company's reasoning, but it does not seem right. Perhaps the real liability is the liability insurer. Sorry, just trying to insert a little humor into a sad situation. .

  12. Suck! I have ADD, Depression, Possible bi-polar, have had "nervous breakdowns" panic attacks along with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and about 5 surgeries because I fall down or get sick or im old. I cannot imagine having to not be a pastor because I was like 50% of my congregation. Im sorry dude.

  13. Hey Greg, you may not remember me but I remember you from my days at Burke Community Church. I played drums for the worship team every once and a while. Reading your post breaks my heart, saddens me, and makes me angry. You, and your family will be in my prayers. As a mental health professional I would of hoped your church would of saught a new insurance carrier. However, your courage, openness, and honesty will hopefully continue the churches late awakenening to the realities of mental illness and chart a grace-centric way forward. In the Kingdom that is to come, your struggle will be no more and your "risk" will be reward.

  14. Hang in there my man. We have had a very dark 3 years ourselves. Don't be surprised if the church/people distance themselves. It was a shocking thing we went through, but we came out on the other side. Proud of your heart, courage and ability to move on in light of what happened. Love ya bro.

  15. Hey Greg my heart is heavy for you. Not because of your future – it will be great! But because a meaningful chapter is ending. That's an emotional roller-coaster. I pray you can rest knowing that the God who used you in the last chapter has already written your next chapter. Praying with you today.

  16. Pastor Greg, I'm very sorry about this situation. I'm also puzzled. Why is your Senior Pastor letting you go? If this is a case if liability issues with insurance company, that will follow you wherever you go, as long as you serve as Pastor. Now if the problem is the insurance company itself, your senior pastor should consider the possibility of changing insurance company, not letting one of his pastor go, especially when you mention that this Campus is growing under your care… Isn't all about people after all?
    Maybe for now you can't serve as a Campus Pastor Until the church changes its insurance company, but it doesn't mean you can't serve at your church at all!
    It just doesn't make sense…
    Are you planning not attend the services either because if the "liability issues". If so, thousand of people should not be aloud in churches!!! A CHURCH isn't a social club, it is a HOSPITAL and that is why they exist! To bring sick, broken, messed up people to know and get help from the great healer Jesus Christ.
    I sincerely hope that you and your family stay strong before The Lord. Blessings.

    • I am a member of the main campus of Forest Park. I cannot understand why this would happen except to say our healthcare is a mess in this country plus I believe the church was taking the easy road out. I, too, would have changed insurance companies if I were in the position to do so. The churches of this land have become so afraid of offending someone but yet they dismiss one of their pastors doing the work God called him to do. I, too, am on medication for depression but my husband's company has never mentioned this as being any kind of problem. It is necessary for me to see doctors for many ailments but it has not cost my husband his job out in the working force. When we try to do God's will instead the will of a few staff members then I believe it is very wrong. Where are we when someone on staff needs help? We seem to hang them out to dry and this isn't the first time, not for insurance purposes but because they are too worried about upsetting someone or going against the government and all of its rules concerning churches. It is a shame and I am so sorry for Greg and his family. I had them on my prayer list already but I will add this to their needs. I have been a faithful member at the main campus for almost as long as the senior pastor has been employed there but yet I have only received one phone call from him in 4 years. None of the others have bothered contacting me either. I understand some of the hurt that comes from members like me. Forgotten until your funeral.

  17. Wow! This is such a look down thing for some fellow believers but most don't realize when we read Gods word that the people He used were pretty messed up people at first but God takes the weak or the worst there is turns them a complete 360 and uses them, and we are still human as well, I have struggle with mental issues now since 2003 and it as been worst in the last four years but God as been there and still is helping me through and teaching me lessons through my illness so glad you were honest about it and it will help a lot others to approach you about it so you can be there for them and enter into their feelings God bless and your family and would love if you add me to Facebook of that's cool, Sheldon J Hodder:)

  18. What? This is unbelievable!

    I've been in business management 30 years and I have never heard or read of any insurer threatening to cancel a liability insurance policy because the insured company employs someone who has a mood disorder.

    The National Institute of Mental Health indicates the 12-month prevalence of affective mood disorder occurs in 9.5% of the adult US population. That's about 20 million people. And given patients' medical information that is readily available to insurers through insurance exchange bureaus, I think we would be reading a lot of press over insurance companies threatening to cancel or non-renew a company's general liability insurance policy over an employee who has a mood disorder.

    This is either a gross misunderstanding between the insurer and the insured or an intentional tort on the part of the insurer.

    I'm frank to say I do not understand why Mr. Atkinson would voluntarily resign over this. It makes no sense. The idea of sacrificing one's livelihood over something like this to help the church, much less the insurance company, is ludicrous. Even more so is the pastor's acceptance of a valued employee's resignation over a baseless, unlawful threat to cancel an insurance policy.

    You should dispossess yourself of a martyr syndrome, appeal for your job back and, if the threat was made, take action to right this wrong in a court of law.

    • I understand your outrage, frustration and being appalled – believe me I do. I've already resigned though and what's done is done. It's time to move on and see what God has next for us.

  19. Hey fellow Back Tweet Boy. Praying for you and know that God is WAY bigger than all of this. I know you know all this. Living through it doesn't make it easier. I pray a fast open door for you.

  20. Hi Gregg. I'm also a pastor. I live in florida. Many of my family members have and do have some form of mental illness. God has placed a burden on my heart for ministry to the families of those who struggle with this illness. I read your letter and was very disappointd in the church again, but I do greatly love the church. I believe the church can have the answer. Jesus has the answer. I would really like to talk to you. My email is royfam1037@gmail.com God bless you my brother. Jim

  21. I agree with Appalled. As someone whose family has been battered by mental health issues for generations, I'm deeply sympathetic with those who face the challenge of conditions like mood disorders. We know what it is to lean hard on God's amazing grace. So, your blog report alarmed me, and I consulted with our church's property & liability broker (30+ yrs with church-specific insurance products, fellow believer). He knows of no carrier that will refuse coverage because an employee has a mood disorder. But he shares my intuition that there is probably more to this story. If the church insurance provider is truly being Orwellian, then I agree with Appalled that you should drop the martyr complex and (if you can) push back and seek justice for all those who will be next in line. But, it's also possible that the provider is not really concerned bout the mood disorder itself, but the behavioral consequences that create a high-risk situation. I won't speculate beyond what you have said of your condition, and I don't at all mean to imply that any of these fit your situation. But I can easily envision mood disorders that provoke behavior such as disorientation, anger, paranoia. It's the behavior not the mood disorder that creates hard decisions for employers and insurers. So, either the insurer is really being Orwellian — in which case I'd encourage you to ask for justice — or there's more to be told — in which case you own your readers more transparency and the insurance company an apology

    May the Lord give you wisdom and courage as you continue to trust him to guide and provide

    • All I can tell you is what I was told by the Lead Pastor. I've never seen anything in writing from the church's insurance company. I have no behavioral issues or consequences and like I said in my post, I'm perfectly fine on my medicine that I take daily. I led the fastest-growing campus at our multisite church and was able to do my job at a high level. I have no symptoms that affect my job. If I didn't take my medicine (which I do), I would be a mess and a liability. However, since I was diagnosed 8 years ago, I've never missed a dose of medicine and I have led and served well.

      • I hear you.
        Then there is a 3rd possibility.

        You've made a significant career and family decision based on hearsay. You've not actually seen what the insurance company actually said, but given the scale of things, it's something you should be allowed to see.

        If the Lead Pastor's report about the insurance company's claims are accurate, then church administrators need those details to respond and be prepared. IT'S A BIG DEAL that could impact a lot of God's money.

        But… if the Lead Pastor's report is NOT accurate, then the issue is not about insurance or your mood disorder. In either case, I strongly urge you get the evidence in writing. Your Lead Pastor does not deserve your trust if he is unwilling to show you the evidence.

        My sense is that you have tried to take the high right and honor the Lord with your decision to "lay it down." I genuinely commend you for that, and it speaks well of you… even though it was not wise of you to base your decision on hearsay. But it is no less honorable or trusting of the Lord to ask that brothers and sisters act with justice and truth — that takes another kind of courage which God's Spirit can provide as well.

  22. Greg –
    Your story just doesn't add up. My heart goes out to you. What the insurance company was threatening is unlawful and I think your pastor and senior leaders have decided to do seems to me to be unethical. At the very least, I hope they have offered a significant severance package. Praying for you and all involved.

    • Keep an eye out for me. Pray that God opens a huge door of opportunity for me to serve again. I'd like to be a Campus Pastor, Multisite Director or Executive Pastor/Chief of Staff. Thanks.