My friends email in this direction asking, “So what are you going to be doing now?”
The retired ones as a rule don’t ask that. They know. If you’re in the ministry, you keep on doing what you’ve been doing—serving the Lord, taking opportunities to preach or teach or lead or counsel or serve. The big change is they take away your office, your mileage allowance, and the regular paycheck. (Sounds like quite an adjustment, doesn’t it.)
I will now give an honest confession, which may or may not be good for my soul. For the most part, all I’ve done for the last 5 years has been: what I’ve wanted to do. And what has that been? Meeting with pastors, speaking whenever the opportunity arose, drawing for the Baptist Press, sketching people at block parties and church functions, and blogging. Once in a while, something of a denominational nature came up where my presence was expected and I attended or led or participated. But mostly, I did exactly what I wanted to do.
Tonight, on my way to the church where I’m preaching a revival, I called my wife back at home in River Ridge. I told her what I’d done today—speaking at the noon luncheon, sketching high school students at a local school, combing a used bookstore and coming away with a couple of gems, and I was then headed for the evening service where I would draw people before and after the worship times. Margaret listened to this and calmly said, “You’re in heaven, aren’t you.”
A wife knows.
Nothing much will change, except for the disappearance of the regular check. But I will look to the Lord and everything will be fine.
The Lord straightened me out on something the other night as I lay in that zone between waking-and-sleeping, and sent me a comforting message about the immediate future.
First, a tiny bit of background. Last week, I wrote here about the verse of Scripture found in I Thessalonians 5:24, “Faithful is He who called you and He will bring it to pass.” I mentioned that the Lord spoke that to me in the Spring of 2004 just as I was taking the job as Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, and then gave it to me again last week at the national meeting in Ridgecrest, NC, of Southern Baptist Secretaries where I was speaking and drawing.
I saw that as bookends to these five years as the DOM, sort of opening and closing this period of my life.
Wrong. Bad wrong.
Now, I’m fairly certain I recognize the voice of the Lord when I hear it. And what He said to me in the wee hours of the night was that the second coming of that verse (last week at Ridgecrest) had nothing to do with closing the five-year chapter of my life which has just ended. It had everything to do with the future.
The first time the Lord sent me that message, in the Spring of ’04, I was feeling anxious about the future and the Lord was comforting me, assuring that He was in control.
The second arrival of I Thessalonians 5:24 came at a time of transition too, when I’m a little anxious about this period of my life when I’ll be counting on steady employment of revivals and outside speaking to supplement my income. So, the Father sends word that He is in charge, that He is still leading even at this stage, and I’m not to worry.
That’s one of a dozen reasons I want to say, “Don’t call me a retired pastor.” Pastor is a shepherd, and it’s not a hired job. It’s a calling, and God has not revoked the call.
Someone will say, “You are a shepherd without a flock.” Again, wrong. The flock is whoever the Lord sends my way for me to minister. That might be the people in the mall I’m drawing and chatting with, the missionaries-and-their-families I’ll be sketching in Richmond later this month, or pastors-and-their-families I’ll draw at the Southern Baptist Convention in June. Or, the congregation I speak to.
Whoever. As the Lord leads.
Ask any pastor. It’s the hardest and best life there is. Anyone with the call of God on his life cannot do anything else.