Don’t Call Me a Retired Pastor

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.

12 thoughts on “Don’t Call Me a Retired Pastor

  1. I, m busier than I ever. so you might be able, there’s a bible conference the first saturday through the following Wednesday at Denham Baptist church, Waynesboro, Ms. Preachers from all over the Southeastern US will be there. They will give you a check to cover traveling expenses, even if you don’t get to preach.

  2. Joe, just so you know…your “flock” also includes the many people you unknowlingly reach with your blog. I remember the first time I encountered your blog…I was online searching for articles to motivate my sales team in a time of great change in our organization. I came across your article advising pastors to embrace change, and talking about the new wine in old wineskins. I copied that and sent it out to my team, and signed up for your e-mail updates. Ever since then (which has been over a year and a half ago), your updates seem to come at just the crucial time for me…almost as if the Lord is listening and you are the answer. Several times I have been moved to tears after reading your wisdom, since it seems so well-directed to whatever I have been dealing with at the moment. I’m sure many other thankful prayers like mine have been offered up for you by your “cyber flock”. Please hang in there…many of us need you! As you said, He is faithful and will bring it to pass. Thank you so much.

  3. Joe, $2.34! The first month after the regular paycheck stopped, I met all my expenses and paid all my bills and had $2.34 left over. Sure I had other money but I was relieved to know I could make it with retirement income and Soc.Sec. Since then, funerals (74 last year), invitations to speak, and now a “part time” (whatever that means) pastorate are the Lord’s visible way of continuing His call. I followed you as National Pres. of NOBTS Alum and treasure a picture you drew in response to a gift from an Illinois church where I served as Interim when we sent Katrina relief. I am blessed by the blog (that could be a song).

  4. I too, have been a silent listener to your blog, until today. My husband and I are (retired, haha) from ‘jobs’ in America. We answered God’s call to help others in the Dominican Republic just over 3 years ago. Thank you for putting in print (or cartoon) the words of the Lord to us, it has been a great encouragement. Come visit down here anytime…the flock is plentiful.


  5. You just completed a special time at NGBC in revival and I want to thank you for the many blessings. Thanks for allowing God to use you at NGBC and in Greenwood.

  6. I agree with Sylvia. I don’t read the blog daily, but you can be sure the day I pick to pull it up and catch up, there will be something I need to hear. Thanks for all you do.

  7. Joe: A very good article. The call of God on my life is just as real today as it was in 1954 when I surrended my life. If God has truly “called” one to serve Him that call never ceases. In Isa. 6 after Isaiah had that wonderful experience he surrendered his life to God.Later in the chapter he asked the Lord how long he was to serve. The Lord said,”until the cities be wasted without inhabitant…..”. In other words he told the Prophet to keep going as long as he could. The call of God never ceases on our life.

  8. You most definitely will NEVER be a “shepherd without a flock”!!!!! Some of your sheep may be rather scattered but we are still part of the flock…….Doxology.

  9. Joe…I thought that one day I would re-tire. That of course was back when I was about 30 years old. I am 83 days away from that so called date that we call our 65th birthday. My 401k has turned into a 101k and everything that I thought re-tirement would mean has changed so much that I think In am going to just shift gears and keep on going. I am sometimes “tired” but re-tired, I don’t think so. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like everything else I’ve learned about life. It’s the “journey” not the destination. Since I put Jesus in the “pilots seat” I really have enjoyed the journey a lot more. I’m just along for the ride. I don’t have to plot the course and worry about the flight I just say, “fly baby fly.”

  10. We’re looling forward to having you in Revival here at FBC Leakesville, MS in October. Great article.

  11. I haven’t even retired (four more weeks) and already my time has been filled up. But I take comfort in the following:


    God bless! Woody

  12. Brother Joe,

    You are now, and ALWAYS will be a very special “teacher”. It’s such a comfort and an honor to have been “taught” by someone so willing to give so much time and effort in helping others.

    I admire and love you Bro. Joe,,,, no matter where you are.

    Your Friend In Christ,

    Shelly Romano

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