Retiring from Ministry?
Retirement is the dream of most Americans. We work hard throughout life with the hope that someday we won’t have to work anymore. We will be able to just relax and enjoy the remainder of our life without any worries or concerns.
However, for those of us who have been called by God to the ministry, the word “retirement” should not be in our vocabulary! We know that Scripture never teaches the concept of retirement. We believe that when God calls us to serve Him, it is not for a limited period of time; rather, it is a life-long privilege and calling where we serve Him until He calls us home to glory. When God calls us to serve Him, He also puts in our heart a deep desire to continually serve Him – to be “abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58) and that desire is what keeps us in the ministry, even during difficult times when we feel like quitting.
From a financial standpoint, most of us in the vocational ministry often can’t afford to truly retire. The salary that many receive doesn’t allow us to put much away for future retirement. We don’t have the kind of retirement or pension plans that are offered by secular employers.
So, what is a pastor to do when he reaches retirement age and feels it’s time for him to “retire” from the pastoral ministry? How can a pastor continue to serve the Lord through his retirement years? Is there a ministry that he can be involved with where he can continue to make an impact in Christ’s kingdom?
These were the kinds of questions that I struggled with last year as I was completing 35 years in the pastoral ministry. My wife and I felt it was time for me to retire from the pastoral ministry and to “pass the baton” on to younger men who have been trained for the ministry. But yet I didn’t want to “sit on the sidelines” and idly watch others serve.
My heart’s desire was and is to continue to serve the Lord and make an impact in His kingdom throughout my “retirement” years (Psalm 71:17-18). Little did we realize the Lord had already started preparing our hearts for our “retirement” ministry.
The Urgent Need
Over the past several years, we had learned that 75% of all Christian believers today live outside the US in the “majority world,” where the majority of the world’s population resides – in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Many refer to this area as the “10/40 Window.”
As a result of the advancement of the gospel in these parts of the world, many churches are being established and are growing at an astounding rate! However, there is an insufficient number of pastors who are theologically trained in God’s Word to shepherd the growing number of believers in these churches!
It is estimated that there are approximately 5 million pastors outside the US. An overwhelming majority of them (85%) have very little to no solid theological training or have no access to it. This situation has been described as a “theological famine.”
When my wife and I first learned about this immense need, the Lord put in our hearts a deep desire to help with the training and encouragement of these national pastors. I wanted to share with them what the Lord has taught me through my years of training and experience in the ministry.
While I was still in the pastoral ministry, I was able to participate in a number of short-term ministry trips to help equip these national pastors and church leaders in various countries around the world. Through these trips the Lord truly opened our eyes to this great, pressing need. We learned that the number one need and request from missionaries, churches and pastors outside the US is for pastoral and leadership training.
Last year, as I was considering retiring from the pastoral ministry, it became very evident to my wife and me that the Lord was leading us to become involved in this ministry. As we stepped out in faith in following His leading, the Lord sovereignly led us to serve with Training Leaders International.
We’re excited and humbled about our new ministry and to see how the Lord will use us through our retirement years to not only impact the lives of many national pastors and church leaders around the world, but also the churches that they lead!
The Encouragement – From Pastor to Pastor
Let me encourage those of you who are currently in the pastoral ministry to consider being a part of a short-term ministry team (1–2 week trip) to help in the training of these national pastors in other countries around the world*. It is a great opportunity for you, as well as your church, to make an immense impact for Christ around the world.
Let me encourage those of you who are veteran pastors, those who may be considering “retiring” from pastoral ministry, NOT to retire from the ministry. As Dr. John Piper exhorts us in his booklet Rethinking Retirement**: Finish life to the glory of Christ!
Utilize the remaining years that the Lord graciously gives you to continue to serve and to glorify Him. Pass on what the Lord has taught you to national pastors and church leaders around the world who are eager to be equipped to teach the Word!
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2