Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Should a Pastor Ever Retire?

...but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer (Numbers 8:25 NIV)

Some people might say, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about retirement for ministers.”  Most of the time I would just let it go, but I’m feeling a little feisty today, so here’s my reply, “Sure it does.  The Old Testament priests were required to retire from active duty at the age of fifty.”  (That’s Numbers 8:25).

There it is, in black and white.

And to think.  I could have retired seven years ago. 

I have no idea why the Lord stopped the service of OT priests at that age, unless to give others a chance to serve.

That doesn’t mean that God would un-call me so I could sit around doing nothing.  All those OT priests were bi-vocational anyway.  They had a line of work to return to after their temple service; usually their farm or agribusiness. 

There is no getting away from the call that God has given me.  That assignment, however, is not rigid.  God’s call is fluid, meaning the role and duties may change.  It means my status could change too.

The day comes when every pastor cleans out his office and turns it all over to a younger generation.  That can be, and should be, a good thing.

Here are few suggestions for anyone considering retirement (including pastors)

1.  Figure out what to do with the rest of your life.  For most of us, having to mow the lawn and rearrange the tools in the garage is not enough motivation to get out of bed in the morning.  We need bigger things than this.  Give thought early on what you will do when you can no longer pastor the church.

2.  Find out where the old geezers in your town meet for coffee.  I’m tempted to say that this will be your new office.  It’s not, of course.  But having such a place is a good thing.  If you don’t connect with the other retirees in your town, consider starting your own group.

You will need some buddies, mostly just to laugh with, talk politics with, and to help one another keep your sanity.  Most of these guys won’t be preachers like you, so mostly be quiet for the first 20 visits or so.  Otherwise, they will yield to you (because you are the professional speaker) and that will completely change the character of the morning visits, and before long they will resent your presence.  So, be quiet and laugh at their jokes for a while.

3.  Plan to get out of the house for a couple of hours every day.  Go to the bank, the hardware store, the post office, the drug store, or whatever.  The daily excursion will give you something to do – and will give your wife some peace and quiet without being under her feet all day long.

The day will come for me when I retire from being “the pastor, but  I will never leave “the ministry."   I can do other things for the Lord.  We are always on duty for the Lord, whether anyone employs us or not.

I would continue being a personal witness for Christ… write Christian articles… mentor new believers towards discipleship… help those in need… serve my neighbor…. teach a Sunday School class… fill-in as a guest speaker for other pastors on occasion... be deeply devoted to Christ…. contribute generously… and remain a diligent student of the Word.  Plus, I would devote more time to myself and my own family.

I would be doing ministry in hundreds of little ways.  People to people.  One life at a time.   Organically.  Not organizationally.

I might even start a business and simply become a Christian businessman.

In such a scenario, Sunday morning would come rolling around and I would not be the speaker that day.  I would be sitting on the pew (like everyone else), hold my wife’s hand, enjoying the church service, enjoying the music, bringing the Lord’s tithe as an offering in an act of worship, and listening to someone else deliver the message.  I would also be praying for a number of people who are on my heart.  

That’s ministry too, you know.

And I will be rejoicing that I am not the person that deacon Crenshaw wants to talk to after service with "some concerns" he has.  (Smiley face goes here).

After the benediction, I'll drive to the local greasy spoon to have lunch with a few friends, and then I'll spend the rest of the afternoon in my van down by the river.  (A big fat smiley face goes here).

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