Monday, September 19, 2016


Last week after 32 years at Calvary Church (48 in vocational ministry) I retired from the pastoral staff. It was the culmination of many years of thinking and working on transitions and a year of very intentional preparation along with the elder team and staff. The church provided the most amazing retirement party imaginable for Gloria and I! As the retirement day approached I reflected frequently on the idea that retirement is a little like death. It is a time of endings and new beginnings. More specifically, knowing the time of your approaching retirement is, I suspect, a little like knowing the time (approximately) of your approaching death -- as when your doctor says, "six to eight months is my best guess." Thankfully, I can only speak from experience about retirement. This knowledge can bring joy and gratitude as you recall great memories from the past; trigger deep regrets for your failures and unrealized dreams and goals; bring into sharper focus what is important or trivial; and motivate you to getting important things done that might help and influence others in a positive way. There is an awareness that your ability and opportunity to influence others is going to dramatically change (not end). This clarity can increase productivity much like the big push to get things done just before you leave on vacation. Among many other things, I preached a final sermon series entitled, "Before I Go." The exercise of planning what topics and Scriptures I felt were most important to share in those last dozen sermons was challenging -- kind of like creating a very serious "Top Ten" list. What did I want our dear church to remember most from the LAST sermon? Along with numerous meetings with individuals and groups, I prepared two documents to share with key leadership groups in the church: "Parting thoughts for Calvary's elders and staff," and "Missionary strategy suggestions for Calvary Church." Reflecting on all this, I wish there were a way to secretly "pretend" you had an approaching retirement date so as to bring about the kind of clarity and urgency all this produced. There is a big part of me that wishes I had perceived and acted on many of these things more strategically and emphatically years ago. Perhaps that's why as part of my retirement I would like to be involved in "Encouraging Churches & Pastors" (a possible logo for my post-retirement ministry) -- pulpit supply, writing, interim ministry (maybe), Seminary teaching, consulting, coaching, mentoring, etc. Pastor friends, think about secretly scheduling your premature and pretend "retirement" date. If you can fool yourself, you may be very pleased by the clarity and urgency it empowers. Oh yes, there's another way that retirement is a little like death -- because of Jesus, there is wonderful new life beyond death (and retirement) with exciting new possibilities and opportunities. Let the journey (retirement) begin!

No comments: