Wednesday, July 6, 2016

You are not indispensable

I retired as a Resource Minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky December 31, 2015. Prior to my retirement I was responsible for relating to the 133 churches in my area plus I worked indirectly with the additional nearly 200 churches that made up our region. Nearly every day there were phone calls to answer, e-mails to address, and meetings with the various churches to attend.

After 14 years I retired from that ministry...and there was nothing. My home office phone was disconnected a couple of days after I was retired. Various internet accounts were closed. If it wasn't for SPAM e-mails I would hardly receive any e-mails anymore. Before, I was involved in much of the work going on in our region; now I have no idea what's happening. It was like I had fallen off the face of the earth.

My ministry has certainly not ended. I've preached in numerous churches since I retired. I've led several conferences for small church leaders since retirement and have several more to do this fall. A couple of churches have asked me about doing some consulting work with them, and we are in the process of exploring that possibility now. My ministry has not ended; it's just taken a different direction.

My experience has been a good reminder that none of us is indispensable. Early in my pastoral ministry I never took all the vacation the church allowed. I think I was afraid that if I wasn't there things would fall apart. That's terribly arrogant when I read this on paper, but I've seen many pastors with the same mindset. They just won't say it out-loud.

The cemetery is full of people who thought they were indispensable. So far, the world has done OK since they've been gone. There will come a time when you will no longer be the pastor of your church. You should not be surprised when it goes along just fine without you. In fact, a few years after you're gone some will struggle to remember your name. That's OK, too.

Remember this, it's not about you. You are filling a role for a period of time. Unless you're in a new church plant your church has had many pastors before you, and if the Lord tarries, it will have many after you're gone. Take your vacations. Take sabbaticals. Spend time with your family. Develop hobbies and interests outside the church. When the time comes for you leave your current ministry you won't be sitting around wondering why the phone never rings. Instead, you'll be prepared for the next stage of your life.

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