For almost four decades, I have been in pastoral ministry. This morning, I led my final service in my current appointment, and it concluded another era of my life. After today, I will no longer be the pastor of a congregation. After all these years, it’s difficult to imagine what it will feel like to be a free agent. I guess I’ll know soon enough.
We all go through these sorts of transitional periods from time to time, of course. Retirement is one that many of us look forward to for a long time. For me, it’s finally arrived. Frankly, I think I’m going to enjoy it.
Happy in Retirement
I remember when my Dad was about to retire. He was such a workaholic during his life, I assumed he would be miserable in his retirement years. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was happier in retirement than ever before. I should be so fortunate.
Being a preacher, however, places me in a slightly different category. My Dad worked in a factory all of his adult life. When he retired, he never went back—nor did he have a desire to do so. Factory life was not his calling. I, on the other hand, have worked in a calling that lasts a lifetime. I will leave the pastorate, but the calling will not leave me.
I’ve heard for years that preachers never really retire. I’m totally convinced of that. I can’t imagine a life devoid of sermon preparation and expounding upon the Word of God. As long as I have a voice and an invitation to fill a pulpit, I’m guessing I’ll continue to preach the Gospel. It’s become a part of me, and maybe it’s who I am.
I’m Down With It
I suppose the reason why we preachers never really retire has something to do with the Apostle Paul’s questions to the Romans. “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Paul was a preacher, himself, so he may have been a bit biased. But he certainly had a high regard for the activity of orally transmitting the Word. Since there’s a strong Biblical admonition to do so, I’m down with it.
We should never forget, however, that preaching doesn’t require a pulpit. Nor does it require having the term, Reverend or Pastor, in front of your name. Knowing what Scripture says and passing it along to someone else is something any and all of us can do. Sometimes it’s called preaching, but it’s always called witnessing. Every Christian is called to be a witness to the love, grace, and salvation of Jesus. It’s definitely who we are.
Whether or not I ever stand behind a pulpit again, I will be cognizant of the fact that I am a witness to the saving work of Christ. Regardless of where we are or how old we get, our job is to give a good word to our fellow travelers.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]