First it was a short article in Christianity Today, and then Sam Hamstra’s piece came in, and today I read that John Piper preached his last sermon Easter Sunday in his congregation in the Twin Cities. Suddenly, everywhere I turn retirement is being written about, and I think that is good, although late for me since I retired in 2008.
While the two latest articles had some good advice, I want to be a little more positive and helpful for those who face retirement decisions soon. Perhaps my experience can help you along in your trek into what is sometimes considered to be “the great unknown.”
First, don’t overlook the simple fact that the Lord can and will guide you into whatever kind of retirement He wants for you. If he has tailor- made your ministry thus far, will He not also do the same as He leads you on in further service for Him and His church? You are NOT quitting, you are changing from an official daily and full ministry to a full-time unofficial one. When I retired after twelve years in my last congregation, they did not want me to leave and told me that in plain language. But they came to see that the Lord was moving me on and sending them needed change. They have since thrived and I am thriving in my second interim pastorate.
Second, take a good look at your ministry strengths, what gives you real joy, and seek to use those gifts in any way you can for the benefit of the wider, broader church. In my own case, the Lord began to give me a great burden to encourage dying, rural and small churches several years prior to when I decided to retire. I call them Colossae congregations, for changing demographics are killing them and they will never recover. Your giftedness may be writing, visiting, intercessory praying, counseling, or something else, but whatever it is, find a needy spot in the vineyard and get to work as you like and are physically able to.
Third, get involved on a regular basis as a visitor in the classis in which you reside, if for no other reason than to keep up fellowship ties. Just because we are retired, does not mean we are dislodged and disassociated from the functioning of our church body and its workings. We are still brothers and sisters in ministry and we need each other and that personal contact. To me this is the most important advice I can give my CRC retiring pastors, especially those of us in outlying areas where there are not a lot of CR congregations. Let’s face it, as time goes on we will need not only the fellowship, but also the firm and loving support and guidance from our ministerial classical contacts.