I've been thinking a lot lately about retirement. Friday I got to use my Medicare card for the first time! That fat check from Uncle Sam will appear in my checking account in about 14 months! That time is drawing near.
Actually, I started thinking about it about ten years ago when I hit "double nickels" in age. It's at about that age when you realize that you've reached (or passed) the top of the hill and are starting down the other side. If all works out as I'm hoping and praying it will, I'll preach my last sermon as Lead Pastor of Nags Head Church sometime in the Spring of 2021. It's coming fast!
While the news of my retirement has been made known in recent weeks, our pastors and staff, along with my wife and family have known for a while. We just kept it quiet. And as the word got out there have been mixed reactions. Everything from "Good for you!", and "You deserve it!" to "You're too young to retire!".
I don't know that I'm deserving of it, and I hope it's "good" for me, but way back a decade ago I truly hoped to retire from my lead pastor role at NHC while I was still young enough to do some other things - other things that I hope that Lord has prepared for me. So, how do I know the time is right?
In January I will have been the lead pastor of this one church for 30 years! That's a long time, and in my heart I know it's time for someone new to take the reigns and lead a great church to become greater.
Frankly, I'm tired. Not so much a physical kind of tired (although I do enjoy a good nap!) or the kind of tired an extended vacation would relieve, but anyone who has been a pastor understands the tiredness that comes with the job. And at 65 I don't bounce back as quickly as I did at 35, 45 or even 55.
Our culture has changed drastically in the years since I started pastoral ministry in the late 1970's. Most of those changes have not been for our spiritual good, but for our detriment. And so much of what is going on simply frustrates me as a Bible believing, Bible teaching Christian. Paul was so right as he described the latter days to Timothy. Confronting those changes needs energy that I no longer have. So, my hope is for a younger man to take the baton and lead our church to overcome the things that work against us.
Leading change is hard work, and we have cultivated an environment ready for change here. The changes took place - to God be the glory for that - and a dying church came to life. More changes will come, I'm sure as our church finds new ways to reach our world with the Gospel. I'm excited about where the Lord is taking us online, and thankful to have gotten in on the ground floor of it. So, I think we're poised right now for greater things ahead with new leadership.
Bottom line (for me, anyway) is that it's time. While I'm sure that it will take a bit for me to get used to not preaching to eager parishioners every Sunday, I know it's time. Maybe God is using this pandemic to prepare me! I honestly never imagined my last year of full-time pastoral ministry would include not preaching to a live congregation for months.
The final date has not yet been set. But it's getting nearer. My confidence is that God sets our seasons (Ecclesiastes 3). He is in control. And I'm good with that. It's time!
What will I do? Maybe that will be the subject of another post. But, I honestly don't yet know!