I have been retired from the pastoral ministry for over a year now. It ha s been a much more difficult transition than I envisioned. I have been engaging in some self-talk (I suppose people wonder why I am talking to myself...) and asking, "Why?" "Isn't this what you wanted?" "Isn't this how you felt God was directing your life path?" The answer to both of those questions is a resounding "yes". I would add without hesitation that not for a moment have I ever felt I made the wrong decision.
Still, it has been difficult. And I guess, in the final analysis, after forty-six years of being a pastor, it is "painfully" true--once a pastor, always a pastor. I think it's mostly the things I miss, like...
Preaching and teaching--I prayed, prepared and looked forward to the task of sharing the Word of God every Sunday morning and nothing gave me a greater sense of fulfillment than standing in the pulpit--fearful though the responsibility was--and proclaiming the truth of God's Word.
Staff meetings--I loved the guys (and ladies) I worked with. We were a team and each of them contributed something special to my life. Having just shared in a memorial service for our former pastor to senior adults, i was reminded of how many good times of fellowship and deep friendship we as a staff shared together.
Work days--I enjoyed working shoulder-to-shoulder with the men of the church. There is something about getting your hands dirty and breaking a sweat that creates a bond with your brothers-in-Christ. We spent a lot of hours together building a facility and maintaining the grounds, and I personally enjoyed that.
Crisis visitation and counseling--I was drawn to the "fellowship of suffering", recognizing that deep attachments are formed in the valley of suffering and even death. It was in those times of coming alongside those in need with the comfort and counsel of the Word that I felt the presence of God most real.
Worship and music--I loved our music and every Sunday morning Beverly and I came early for a sneak preview of the music for the morning. It was always a special time for both of us and we were doubly-blessed, because we heard it several times. There was a comfort zone with out worship leader and our worship teams that I miss.
Yes, there are some things I don't miss--I am glad I am not in charge, that I don't have to make key decisions, that I can go home at night and be truly done with my work, and that my phone rings less.
But I miss the pastoral ministry that gave me such joy for so many years.
Before anyone feels sorry for me, let me assure you that we attend a great church pastored by my stepson. He's even let me preach, and recently, I concluded a ten part series on "Commitment: The VOW Factor in Marriage" for an adult SS elective. I am doing referral pastoral counseling for the church pastors and enjoying a Growth Group in which we participate. I have had some mentoring opportunities as well, so we remain committed to ministry.
And sometimes, even for a moment, I still feel like a pastor.