Yesterday was my first full day of, what I’ll call by default and surrender, “retirement.” I live in a blue-collar, carry your lunchbox, and wear a hardhat community. When I announced what I was going to do—step down from the lead role at the church I have pastored for forty+ years, assume a supporting role there, and engage in some other ministries on the side—almost every one, after my careful explanation said, “You are retiring.” J What I have in mind for this next phase of life just doesn’t fit very well in a lunchbox. Most of the guys I know work hard until they are done, and then they quit. An uncle of mine, former high-iron worker, gun smith, cabinet builder, and contractor, told me a few years ago he wasn't working any more. He was “drawing,” as in drawing a pension. Uncle Jim’s explanation is an apt way of putting how most folk in my community see it. It's a binary thing. So, even though I’m not “drawing,” Since I quit doing what I used to do, I guess, in that sense, I am retired.
Part of my first post-what-I-used-to-do day was spent caring for some odds and ends. That was a lot like a lot of Mondays have been for decades. I went to the bank, Post Office, and the insurance office. A car had broken down and I had to make arrangements to have it towed and get it fixed; again, nothing new there. I've never owned an automobile that didn't break down now and again. Some of my errands were personal, some related to work. I found myself engaged in a dialogue in my head. I was asking a conjured up lunchbox/hardhat guy, "Tell me this. If I'm retired, why do I still have a job?" He just got his bologna sandwich out and while chewing gave me that look reserved for fools who don't get it.
As well as those mixed-bag kind of tasks, I visited an inmate at the local jail. If I weren’t still a pastor I couldn’t have gotten in, and more importantly, I might not have gotten back out. I payed a call on, read scripture to, and prayed with a dear lady who is dying with cancer. I spent a couple of hours working on our church’s website and doing some other cyber-work—part of my new job description—my wife and I had supper and serious conversation with a missionary couple, and I got ready to leave on a short-term mission trip—again, part of my new job-description. I figure that since my new church job calls for about twenty hours of work a week, I came close to getting half-a-week’s work done in one day, yesterday. Not bad. Today, or tomorrow--I’m crossing so many time zones I don’t what day it is—I’m on my way to do a short term stint as adjunct faculty at Pacific Islands University, a school with a definite missionary emphasis. Again, I've done this kind of thing before.
So, so far everything is exactly the same except it’s different.
I received a really timely article the the other day. It was in the week building up to March 15, the day when I officially stepped down from the role I have filled, or tried to fill, for the past four decades. Ten things for Old Preachers. I think you can see how the title grabbed me immediately. Let me digress a moment.
Back when I was a student at Appalachian Bible Institute there used to be a wonderfully Godly, kind, and wise old preacher on staff. To tell you the truth, I never did know what Mel Seguine’s job was. As far I was concerned all he need to do was just be there. I don’t think I was alone among the preacher-boys in thinking, “When I grow up I want to be like Mel Seguine.” The other day I looked in a mirror and thought that in one insignificant way I have grown to be like Mr. Seguine. My hair is now white, like his was. I pray that I will become like him in ways that are far more important.
That brings me back to the article. When I read #4, I thought of Mr. Seguine, and I thought that, in large measure describes what I hope to do in this next phase of my life.
Embrace the transition from king to sage. Too many leaders have undone their good work by resisting this transition and clinging to power. As we age, “strategic ministry” shifts from a position and office to an attitude and role. We need sages freed from leadership responsibilities, who have a fresh passion for the gospel and enthusiasm for the next generation of leaders! (http://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/peter-mead-10-pointers-for-olderpreachers-2131.asp)
I don’t want to run things, though, from time to time I expect to be in charge. What I want to do is help others run things, and help prepare those who will run things. I don’t think I have stepped down. What I have done is step over into a new role. In a lifetime of ministry I have learned some things, much of which is not contained in books, or found online. Some of what I have learned was taught to me in the school of Hard Knocks, an institution that I’d like to help others avoid.
When Pastor Doug, the newly installed Senior Pastor at CBC, and I discussed the transition that we completed this last Sunday, one topic of conversation was what our new titles would be. I don’t think he’ll print it on his business cards, but I kind of like the “Right Reverend Boss Man,” as a title for Doug. We never discussed this one, but how about this as new moniker for me, The Sage?