I’ve noticed that for a lot of people, specifically I mean followers of Jesus Christ, it seems like retirement is the end game. That is the focus of life. That’s the preoccupation, that’s the plan. That’s the destination.
There is lots of debate as to whether or not retirement a biblical principle, which I don’t want to get into, my point is even if retirement is fine and proper, it’s not supposed to be the end game. We are supposed to be thinking beyond retirement to our ultimate retirement. We are to be thinking into eternity.
In our second transitional pastorate, there was a couple in the church, who arrived after we got there and were themselves doing transitional ministry for a different denomination. They were in a small city in northern Canada doing what turned out to be their last transitional role, and they were both right around the age of 80. Eighty years old engaged in fairly intensive crisis management, transitional pastor ministry.
They returned to the church where we got to know them and they became friends and mentors. Bob and Myrtle are just an outstanding couple. That was their last transitional because Myrtle talked some sense into Bob and got him to to stop and stick around home so some more.
We look at them and say, if we could be like that and stay engaged in front line strategic ministry beyond, “retirement age,” possibly into our 70s and 80s, how how amazing would that be? When I look at them and think about what it means to do that, it’s obvious that retirement, for them, wasn’t and isn’t the end game. They’re thinking ahead to something beyond. They’re thinking ahead to eternity.
I think we need to do as Christians as we need to recalibrate and look at our lives. We have these big blocks where we have our school years, possibly post-secondary education years, our working and family years, and our final working and prime earning years, then retirement. It’s all these lines kind of heading towards that retirement. We need to open up the trajectory bit and shoot a little higher and shoot a little further and think beyond retirement into eternity.
Now, what does that change? How would that actually change the way we live each day? How would that change we the way we do pastoral ministry?
Well, one thing that is done dramatically for us is it calls us to sustainable ministry. It calls us to do pastoral ministry and life in a way that is not a sprint based on our limited endurance, but is at a pace that at whatever stage of life and health we are currently in, is sustainable. A pace of life and ministry where you can keep doing it as long as the heart is beating.
Now you may think you’re just putting in time trying to finish off ministry and get out of “vocational pastoral ministry” so you can go do something you enjoy. While that may be the case, maybe you should do that before retirement and find out what you’re actually called to be and do because ministry, while hard, should have some some inherent reward.
You should have a sense that you’re digging your teeth into something that really matters. Not just bolstering the retirement fund but looking ahead to eternity and bringing people with you and and beautifying the Bride of Christ and getting her ready for that time when the Groom returns.
So if you’re in pastoral ministry, I encourage you to firm of all, personally set a sustainable pace that can bring you not just to retirement, but into eternity. Yes, you might stop vocational pastoring at some point, but you can still be in ministry and gun for eternity all the way to the end and bringing people with you.
So lock that in for yourself and then begin to model it. Begin to teach it informally and preach it explicitly to your people. Don’t just shoot for retirement, shoot for eternity. Live in light of eternity and make all your decisions based on what will set you up for that and not what will set you up for retirement.
That’s the call. Jesus said in Mark 8, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself. Take up his cross and follow me. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and furthering the Gospel will save it. Lose this life in the right way and follow Jesus. Invest this life and following Jesus.
That’s what sets us up and prepares us for eternity. God bless. Press on.