Retirement is kind of a funny word. It seems to me that it carry’s different connotations for my generation (I think I’m classified as a “gen X-er”) then in generations past. For starters it seems like most people these days who are approaching “retirement” age (65) are not financially able to stop working completely due to our terrible economy and changing culture. Others of that age group seem reluctant to retire even if they could. People are living longer and seem to have a greater sense of personal mission and purpose (at least some of the people I have spoken with). It is as if we should view it more like “reassignment” then retirement. On to the next assignment… journey… challenge… adventure.
9 months ago I officially (or maybe unofficially) retired from ministry. Better stated, I have retired from full time vocational church work. After 15 years of serving as a pastor on staff at churches – I had enough. Don’t get me wrong, I loved most of it and I definitely loved serving God through loving and encouraging others to grow and go deeper with Jesus. What I didn’t love was the times when it felt like a job and when I felt like my efforts had little to no lasting impact on others. All of my years serving in ministry have been part of God’s design to make me more complete, lacking nothing.
I have learned a couple very important lessons I want to pass on to others.
1st: Faith is easier and better in community/relationships. Being away from the safety and comfort of daily and weekly interaction with others who know me has been a challenge. We loved the church we served at, and yet felt like we needed a change of scenery and to start a new chapter in our faith journey as a family. There is safety in numbers for sure. We were part of a weekly small group bible study, as well as serving in various capacities with others. Life on the “outside” is difficult and can begin to wear on a believer in isolation. It is important to find great people whom you can do life and faith with as well as who can challenge and stretch you spiritually. Thank God we were never called to this life alone!
2nd: It is harder to live for God when no one (or very few) are watching. Ministry that is done in private is as important (maybe more) as ministry done in public. In fact, I might be as bold as to say that private ministry is of more power and significance too.
It is evident from the pages of scripture that God is much more concerned with the condition of our hearts then what we “do” for others, even for Him. To walk with God in purity of heart and to seek Him in the secret places is a high calling and privilege.
Being a pastor for so long conditioned me to do and say the “right” things at the right times. It wasn’t that I was being fake or dishonest, but for some reason when people expect certain things from you as a pastor it becomes easier to just do those things then to be true to who you really are.
It is much easier for me to fake my relationship with God while leading music or preaching a sermon then to daily submit my will to His when no one is watching. Living for God when no one is watching (something I haven’t done in 15 years) is much harder then living with the built in accountability of being responsible to shepherd others. I have much greater appreciation and respect for Christ followers who labor daily, unseen by others, for their Jesus.
3rd: I will never retire, just be reassigned. With God there is no such thing as retirement for those who follow Him. We are all a kingdom of priests, on a mission for His purposes and for His glory. One of the unfortunate results of people like me “working full time” for the church is that Christians begin to buy into the idea that some people are called to ministry and everyone else is just relegated to “worldly” or secular work. Every bit of work done by a Christian is to be worship. I am thankful to be God’s kid and to be assigned to a new journey.
I would love to hear from you – especially you pastor’s and people in vocational ministry. Leave a comment, let’s chat. Or feel free to email me at email@example.com