Thursday, November 21, 2013

Two full years of semi-retirement

Two years ago today, I woke up to one of the strangest days of my life. The day before, a Sunday, was my last day as a pastor of the church I had pastored for fourteen and one half years. I preached that morning, had a funeral that afternoon, and a retirement dinner that evening.

The next morning I was just an old dude laying in bed thinking about what I would do that day.

It was strange, twilight zone strange, to think that I no longer had any pastoral responsibilities - no one to visit in the hospital, no meetings, no church issues to handle, no church finances to check, no Wednesday Bible study to prepare for, and no sermon to prepare for the coming Sunday or any Sunday on the calendar. Odd day then.

Here are a few things I have observed after two years of semi-retirement:

1. Everyone asks about retiring and not a few offer that they always heard that preachers don't retire; hence, my description of being "semi-retired."

2. There are lots and lots of retired or semi-retired Southern Baptist pastors around. The local minister's conference I attend regularly is mostly made up of retired dudes. I'd bet the average age is over 70. Consequently, there are far more guys looking for supply and interim work than I ever imagined.

3. I have supplied in a number of churches but most Sundays I'm free. I miss preaching regularly and consistently and have found that the rhythm of regular preaching, being able to preach series of sermons rather than one here and another there, is much to be preferred over sporadic preaching.

4. Folks who have joined the churches I have pastored have often commented on how unfriendly many congregations are. They're right. We visited numerous churches for over a year after I retired. Most were not friendly. I don't get that.

5. True biblical preaching, much less expository preaching, is more scarce than I imagined. While my evidence for this is strictly anecdotal, it is troubling that many of the brethren just string together some nice illustrations and hang them on a text, or offer thoughts on the issue du jour. It's tough to come up with a couple of sermons every week, I know, but really brethren...

6. God has been gracious in providing. Although I had plenty of time to anticipate semi-retirement, my weekly schedule is not anything like I imagined and I am doing some things that just fell to me by divine providence. Some of them even yield an income. Some of them, like spending time with a grandson, don't but have greater value.

7. I fish less than I ever have. Go figure. There is hardly a day in my life that I couldn't decide to go fishing if I wanted; I'm just not all that fired up about it anymore. I bet I haven't been fishing ten times in two years.

8. GuideStone gets my biggest check every month, for health insurance. ObamaCare doesn't look like it is worth the risk.

9. I have changed my mind on ministerial sabbaticals. I once thought these were luxuries for large churches and their pastors. I conclude now that any pastor who has been at the same church for five or more years would benefit with a sabbatical, even if it is only a month away from the pulpit.

10. I miss most of all the pastoral relationship with people.


Matt said...

Appreciate these perspectives as one with a long road ahead.

RLBaty said...

Did you happen to hear that Judge Crabb ruled that IRC 107(2) is UNconstitutional yesterday; the ruling was posted to the FFRF case docket history today.

Scotty Karber said...

Not surprised by 2, 4 and especially 5. I am surprised by 7 and especially 3.

William Thornton said...

Scotty, I'm not following you on 3. My point was that preaching sporadically makes one rusty.

Robert, I have now. Shocking.