Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

Written by: on October 8, 2015

Do I stay or do I go?  That is the question!  When I experience discontent within an organization, I have to ask whether my presence is still helpful to the organization or has the internal conflict I feel risen to such a level that I am doing more harm than good?  If I should choose to speak up, am I able to control the tone of my voice so that it accurately conveys my concerns without crossing that razor’s edge into venomous?  If I’m being honest, sometimes I do better at this than other times…

I think some of the leaders who I have served alongside (or under) during periods when my opinions have not been in alignment with their decisions would have been happy for me to take the “exit” option when I have chosen to use my “voice.”  Most times I think (or I LIKE to think…) I offer a dissenting voice that is anchored in the purest of motivations — a desire for our organization to thrive and live up to its fullest potential.  I’m simply trying to help our group overcome what Hirschman would refer to as “slack,” that “gap… between actual and potential performance,”1 right?  Isn’t this what I have been divinely called to do as I selflessly give myself to the role of constructive deviant?2  I’m just trying to do my best, even if I have to become an organizational martyr in the process!  Here again, if I am completely honest I must acknowledge at least a smidgeon of self-servitude, entitlement and greed.  On some level I want the organization to serve ME, to fulfill MY needs, to provide a platform for MY substantial giftedness.  So, do I stay or do I go?  THAT remains the central question.

If my history up until now is any indicator, I stay…  I’m a serial stay-er.  And I talk pretty loud, both in word and deed.  Here, I tend to agree with Hirschman.  To stay and exercise voice is a much more messy proposition3 than to simply jump ship and find another organization to link up with.  It would be easier, and probably less painful, to just exit but I really feel a sort of divine imperative.  I HAVE been called here.  So in a sense I am compelled by loyalty but not loyalty in a consumeristic manner, not because it has cost me a high price to enter nor because there is a steep cost to exit.  My loyalty is to God and his design for his church.  I really believe he has placed me here, both to shape and to be shapedSo I stay.

I finish with a question for consideration.  If my life is really not my own, if I really am living as a follower of Jesus, do I really get to choose?

  1. Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), 14.
  2. See definition provided by Bella Galperin in “Determinants of Deviance in the Workplace: An Empirical examination of Canada and Mexico” (Concordia University, Montreal: PhD Diss.  2002).
  3. Hirschman, 16.

About the Author

Jon Spellman

Jon is a husband, father, coach, author, missional-thinker, and most of all, a follower of Jesus.

12 responses to “Do I Stay or Do I Go?”

  1. Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Jon…You highlight a point that Hirschman can’t really address in his book and that is Loyalty to our calling. I think you are right on, but what I too often have seen is people remain loyal to their organization/church instead of remaining loyal to their calling. We say things like, “I have to stay here because God called me” but in truth it’s stubbornness or comfort that keeps us. You are right that, “My loyalty is to God and his design for his church. I really believe he has placed me here, both to shape and to be shaped.” But sometimes we make ourselves into a martyr when God has given us freedom to play out our calling someone else. It’s definitely a tough balance and I appreciate you bringing it to the discussion.

  2. Brian Yost says:

    “am I able to control the tone of my voice so that it accurately conveys my concerns without crossing that razor’s edge into venomous”

    Choosing to use our voice in one thing, how we use our voice is another. I am reminded of James warnings about the tongue. Two people can speak he same truth but not necessarily convey God’s love in the same way.

  3. Travis Biglow says:

    My brother Jon, my blog title was almost identical to yours. I used to be the type to exist when i was young and in my twenties. But now i know that life is not simple and leaving quickly is a sign of immaturity unless it is something going on that requires you to exist quickly. I feel a loyalty to my denomination and I am trying to come up with some antidotes for some of the problems we face before I use my voice. I know them they will look at me and say what do you have to back up what you saying? And then convey the thought to be quiet if you dont have something better. Blessings

  4. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Jon, I wonder how central is the variable to the leader in and organization for the culture of exit, voice, and loyalty. I think I am pretty high on feedback and collaboration with a team of people who I hope bring many voices to the table. I know other leaders who have a high need to call the shots. From these two angles I wonder if where we fit as followers or members of organizations are into places we the leader has a similar band with for the amount of voice we like to follow and be a part of a team with. Nice thoughts and honesty in your post!

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Probably. It seems that a leader who tends to call the shots might create an environment where “my way or the highway buddy!” might prevail. In that environment, “exit” would probably happen more than voice. Leadership sets the tone I think?

  5. Mary Pandiani says:

    Can I just say what a gift it is to walk alongside you, Jon, as you continue in some significant self-reflection, especially as you express your place “to shape and to be shaped.” I remember asking my spiritual director awhile back, what do I do when I get nothing out of where I worship? She responded with, “it’s your place to be shaped…and do a lot of praying.” It has forced me to pray more.
    When I read your title, I couldn’t help but look up the lyrics to “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” In reading them, I am reminded how indecision leads to paralysis. For a parishioner, he/she doesn’t necessarily see that he/she has a “call to a church which makes it easier to leave. But for the call of a pastor is just that, it’s a call. And that means, unless it is REALLY clear that you are to leave, you need to stay. I’m glad you are a “serial stayer” – I think you’ll need to trademark that word TM. 🙂

  6. Dave Young says:


    So I think using your voice and staying, being loyal, dancing with the one you came with – is almost always the best practice. It should be our norm, our go to. BUT, for a few their calling can be to be a catalyst for change, for movement but then – and hopefully with God’s discernment – they are supposed to exit their organization or church for someone else to establish roots. What do you think about that. Are some called to ‘battle’, to ‘plough up’ hard ground but then like David they have too much blood on their hands to build the temple.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      I definitely think there are times and seasons for people to be in and out of organizations. I’m contending for us to be Spirit-led rather than consumer-driven… Let’s do what the Holy Spirit tells us to do and the whole conversation about “do I stay or do I go?” dials down considerably doesn’t it?

  7. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Do I stay or do I go? It is a question that I’ve asked myself too at times in life. It isn’t always easy to speak against the norm of an organization. But, sometimes that is what the Lord calls us to do.

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