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You posed these questions, Dave: “How will I picture myself after I leave full time ministry?” “How will others relate to me when I no longer have this role?” “What will be my contribution to the world?” “What will I do with my time?” “Where will I/we live?” 

There may be a better starting point for the pastor who has devoted most of his/her life to the ministry. It's simply going to Q and A #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism: "What is your only comfort in life and death?"

We approach retirement knowing that we belong 'body and soul, in life and in death' ,, to God.

As one approaches retirement, there needs to be a season of intentional prayer. It might even start with something like: "Lord, you know that I am thinking about, even planning, my retirement within the next year. Please help me to go through that transition with you. May I depend each day on your leading as you show me what my next chapter looks like.  This isn't about me; it's about being faithful to you and to be used by you in this unknown life beyond retirement. i know, Lord -- I have full confidence -- that you will lead me through this period of transition. I belong to you; You are my identity. I pray that I may continue to be used by you in your Kingdom for the next 20 or 30 years."

It's not all about 'retirement'; it's about retiring FROM pulpit ministry (or whatever it is that you do) and retiring TO my next chapter.  May it become a peaceful, prayerful process.

Having been part of a few search committees over the years, back when pastors were a homogeneous bunch, this article should prove to be helpful.

Even though we have an increasingly varied congregational makeup and approach, and an equally varied mix of talents among pastors, it strikes me as though it should be important to identify a few common traits or characteristics of today's CRC pastor.

I raise this as the result of a long-time, informal 'survey' of evangelical Christians as well as some CRC folk. I have been asking: "When you think of the CRC, what comes to mind?" I was hoping for words and phrases such as "evangelical", "mission-minded", "The Heidelberg", "praise and worship."

The most common response? "Poor preaching." Pressed for a more precise answer, they would regularly suggest that pastors like telling stories or picking up a quote from a recently-watched TV program, or commenting on the latest news story ... and then eventually pointing to a text or two to back up their point.  In other words, they'd focus on a theme, find a few illustrations, and then finally finding a text to match.

Good preaching, they would probably argue, could involve preaching through a book of the Bible where Scripture is explained rather than mentioned in passing.

I am suddenly imagining a Search Committee phoning a pastor on a chilly Sunday afternoon and asking: "Are you a good preacher?" No one would dare answer: "No, I'm pathetic, but I play good game of golf."

 

I have served as clerk numerous times over the years as well as stated clerk of classis for six years. I don't ever recall having the chair of council sign the minutes.  Minutes of the last meeting are always approved by motion in a subsequent meeting. That way the entire council endorses those minutes.

So here's a new twist. What could a council meeting in 2024 look like? Would it be more efficient to meet via Zoom, from the comfort of your own home ... but then meet in executive session (in person) for sensitive matters?

I raise this because I regularly host meetings via Zoom and I use AI -- artificial intelligence -- generally offered free by Zoom.   AI automatically records and transcribes the meeting, it provides a meeting summary and it provides action items at the end of the document. Those minutes could be stored on your computer for future reference.

I would venture to say that 90 per cent of council minutes could be considered public. In other words, church members should have the right to access those. The other 10 per cent could be considered executive session matters that would be safely secured by the clerk. 

"A new thing" has indeed emerged through COVID-19 ... especially within church leadership.

Pastors/preachers, accustomed to hundreds attending a worship service, now find themselves preaching to a physical audience of one ... the camera guy. And after several weeks of not being able to hear an 'amen' from a parishioner, or seeing nods of approval across the congregation, I've seen pastors becoming discouraged if not outright depressed.

"A new thing" for them is to really, truly discover who those men and women and children really ARE who sit in those pews every week. Perhaps for the first times in their pastoral careers, they are discovering that each one of those men and women and children are 'called' by God to their profession, their jobs, their role as students.

The church, as you correctly point out, consists of a gathering of hundreds (thousands?) of God's image-bearers. And while they collectively form the church, they individually serve as God's image-bearers and God's 'aroma' from Monday to Saturday. They are putting into practice on Monday that which is preached on Sunday.

"A new thing" may very well come from the realization that it isn't all about the Sunday worship service or the quality of the preaching, nor is it that which the church collectively does in the community through the week. Perhaps we are discovering for the first time that the church has an incredible influence in the marketplace through individual parishioners who feel 'called' to the work that they are doing. This is the body of Christ at work; its aroma permeating every sphere of life.

There is a question that we all must ask ourselves -- whether we are church leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, mothers, retirees: "Whose Kingdom are your building: yours or God's?

This message from Canada's religious leaders can be considered generic fluff. Given the broad spectrum of denominations, sects and organizations, we can expect little else. I would hope that a more Christ-centred message is coming from an organization such as The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada of which the CRCNA is a part.

To quote the letter: "We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives."

I would hope that as Reformed Christians, we draw our hope, our rest, our peace, from Christ. Psalm 46 comes to mind, best known as Martin Luther's 'A Mighty Fortress'.  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way ...  Our hope comes from God's own words: "Be still, and know that I am God."

We draw our hope from just one source" Christ. That is the message that every Canadian and every global citizen needs to hear, and that is the message that the Church needs to convey to a broken, hurting, fearful world

Thanks for your response, Darren. While I do see some merit in having all religious leaders come together for a generic, light celebration of humanity in this joint statement, it is my hope that either the CRC independently or as part of a larger evangelical voice through the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada present the gospel to Canadians.

I cringe at the notion that the church needs to "be careful and not over-speaking". On the contrary; the Church needs to be strong and bold. The nation needs Christ, and those who are Christ-believers need to hear God's voice in Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God.

My hope is that the CRC and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada come out with their own statement, signed by all EFC members, that presents the gospel to the nation. Hope is found in Christ, not in religious institutions, family or friends ... as indicated in that ecumenical statement.

 

My initial reaction to the document was not one of condemnation. I completely understand that a document signed by a wide range of religious institutions and organizations needs to be generic enough so that all can sign it.

I did express the hope that the CRC and other similarly evangelical minds would create a Reformed document that expresses our hope in Jesus Christ .... especially as we approach Easter.

God is at work through COVID 19. This is not only an appropriate time to convey that message to the nation, it is incumbant upon us to show the nation that our hope comes "in Christ alone. "

Or have we become ashamed of the gospel to the point that we will settle for politically correct niceties.

 

Even as this post appears, it is out of date. Across Canada, at least, no groups of 50+ may meet together. That, I suspect, involves every CRC across Canada. And by the time this gets posted, the same may apply across the United States.

So, the need to develop a plan of action should probably focus on when congregations should RESUME regular meetings.  Worship services, small groups and all youth group gatherings should be suspended until further notice.

For most schools, the school year is over. Classes have been cancelled until June. They don't expect to resume until September.  Churches should consider similar action.

The Body of Christ should be among the first to take a pro-active role in caring for the health of the most vulnerable ... within their congregations and within the communities in which they serve.

Posted in: Let’s Be Well

I am not a pastor but I hang out with a lot of them. I've served as stated clerk of classis for six years, and I occasionally speak at ecumenical ministerial gatherings.

A pastor who is 'well' is one who is in great shape: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

- It's important to get out to the gym at least two or three times a week. Sound body and sound mind, and all that. That's a great way to stay physically active while listening to your favorite podcast or musical group.

- It's important to have at least one or two days of 'sabbath rest' from one's work. But that also applies to sabbath rest from your technology. Make a point of regularly turning off your computer, phone or other digital gadgets. Seek solitude, even if that involves quietly sitting in your office. Set aside regular time when you will be unplugged; whether that's during dinner time, on weekends or on your formal day off.

- Be accountable for the websites that you go to. Excellent software exists where you can work with an accountability partner who 'sees' the websites you visit or the questionable emails you receive. Pornography is rampant across our church membership, and the church office isn't immune to those temptations.

- There isn't a better spiritual exercise than spending time in the Bible. That should be a given. I have often heard pastors in conversation with each other who invariably ask: "Read any good books lately?" Sure, read devotionals, novels, commentaries but be grounded in the Word of God.

- Pastors, like all of us, worry ... about everything. Worry only about things that are under your control; then fix it. Anything that isn't under your control is in God's hands. He'll handle it.

 

The 'success' of a small group ministry rests with the content. Small groups have a tendency to become social gatherings rather than spiritual formation gatherings.  Our small group spends the first hour discussing the past Sunday's message, using questions provided by the church office.  The second hour is much more significant; men and women separate, meet in separate rooms, and become accountable for their personal lives over the past week. They share -- frankly and openly -- about their struggles over the past week as they dealt with sin, temptation, the amount of time they spend in devotions, their relationships (spouses, parents, children).  And throughout the week, they connect to each other by email or phone to see how they're doing.

This is spiritual development. It's accountability, something that few small groups seem equipped to do; nor do they desire to become that vulnerable.

Your "Ten Ways.." are a given. They are the ground rules.  It's what happens during that weekly discussion time that shapes one's faith journey, and that ends up strengthening the entire congregation's faith journey.

This is an interesting discussion. I wonder if the comments would be different if the theme was "Defining Obedience in Ministry". What does it mean to be obedient to God?

"Success", a very secular term, connotes images of kingdom-building. I have regularly asked groups of pastors, as well as groups of Christian business owners: "Whose kingdom are you building; yours or God's"?

It seems to me that if the pastor preaches to an audience of one -- God -- then he is fulfilling his calling. If it is God who can say 'amen!' to your sermon, then you've preached properly ... even if the congregation determines that your sermon was too harsh, not 'uplifting enough'.

"Obedience" in preaching may not be as comfortable or as popular as a sermon determined to be "Successful". It is, however, imperative within our North American culture.

Getting church-goers to become engaged in scripture. What a novel idea.

One might start by removing all of the Bibles from the church pews. Have folks bring their own to worship that they can mark up and wear out. Smart phones will finally have a place in worship as parishioners -- especially young people -- become exposed to their favorite Bible app.

We as Reformed Christians have become lazy when it comes to opening up scripture. We've been conditioned to depend on the pew Bible, and that -- sad to say -- if often the only exposure that we have to scripture through the course of the week. We need to get trained to actually choose our favorite Bible translation and then take it with us to worship, to Small Groups, to work, wherever.

Biblical engagement is a huge issue within our churches, simply because we haven't grown up with the need to have an intimate relationship with our very own Bible. Without that intimate relationship, how can we expect to have meaningful small group discussions around biblical content?

 

 

 

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