As I neared my 60th birthday I resigned from being the pastor of a church I loved. Nearing the end of my 10 years as pastor I knew I needed to go. I cried. A few of the people cried. They baked us a farewell cake. And I moved off into the sunset uncertain of what to do next.
That’s right. I quit with no job on the horizon. Why would I make such a move? I did it to keep a promise I made to myself when I entered the ministry decades earlier. Here’s the promise: If I get old and start to coast into retirement, I will resign. There it is. Now you know.
Pastor, please don’t stay in ministry if you are watching the calendar for age 65 to appear. If you are starting to coast you might get the mojo back with effort. Do everything possible to get that happen. But if you are a coasting pastor and can’t get it back, do us all a favor and resign.
Here’s 4 reasons every pastor shouldn’t coast into retirement
1. The church suffers.
You answered the call of God to build His Kingdom, not to harm it.
Do you remember the thrill when God used you to help someone find Christ? Can you recall the joy of leading the church to become more effective? Can you remember when you trembled with excitement before you got up to preach?
Ministry is about making a positive difference. But pastors who coast make a negative difference. The ineffectiveness, lack of passion, and failure to lead hurts the Kingdom. In an ironic twist of fate your ministry hurts instead of helps.
The stakes are too high for you to use the church as your way to ease into retirement. Your church deserves better.
2. Your integrity will not allow it.
This is an issue of integrity. Your church is counting on you. The people in the pew look to you as an example. But if you are hanging on until you reach retirement it shows a lack of integrity.
Your people will notice if you’ve partially checked out. If you are coasting and have close friends in the church ask them for an honest assessment. See what they say when you assure them it is safe to be honest.
Here’s my point: I’m pretty sure the people in your church know if you’re coasting. Don’t think you can fool them.
Integrity demands you fix yourself or remove yourself.
3. God isn’t happy.
It is hard to imagine God doing the happy dance over a pastor going through the motions while awaiting retirement.
Do a Bible study and see what you find about the responsibility of those in leadership. There are requirements. And there are consequences for those who fail to lead with effectiveness.
As a pastor you know how important it is to please God. True, to resign will cause personal hardship. You may suffer financial difficulty. Friends may think you are crazy. Colleagues will wonder “what happened?” But God is the One and Only that must be pleased.
4. There’s another ministry waiting for you to use your gifts.
I believe if you cannot restore your effectiveness in your current ministry you should resign. But I also believe God will honor your boldness and provide you with another ministry.
Since resigning my church God gave me another ministry. I serve as an interim pastor to churches going through a time of difficult transition. It is a ministry I love. And, I still use the spiritual gifts which make me excited.
What ministry does God have waiting for you when you dare to follow His leading? God isn’t finished with you!
Being a pastor is more and more difficult with each passing year. But it is especially challenging for the pastor who tries to coast into retirement. Be honest with yourself. Work hard to get the mojo back. But if it isn’t possible, resign and see what God has in store for those who follow with boldness and integrity.