Dear First Baptist Friends,
Several of you have been kind enough to ask my thoughts as I face retirement, so here goes:
Some well-intentioned pastors have claimed that there is no such thing as retirement in the Bible, so they intend to keep on preaching as long as God gives them life and breath. I admire their tenacity, but not their biblical understanding. In Numbers 8:25 it actually says, in black and white, “but at the age of fifty, they [= the Levites, who were the “altar boys” of the Old Testament] must retire from their regular service and work no longer.” That sounds like a very young age for retirement, until you remember that life expectancy was much shorter in those days. And God may also have instituted mandatory retirement in order to give others a chance to serve. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty clear to me that retirement is in the Bible.
But that doesn’t mean that pastors need to retire from ministry. I will retire from pastoring this church at the end of this month but, God willing, I intend to remain in ministry for some time yet. I just won’t be doing it full-time as I have for the last forty-two years. (By the way, the same principle holds for lay people, as well. We’re always on duty for the Lord, whether or not anyone pays us for it.)
So, how do I envision that I’ll be spending my time? I plan to do virtually nothing in July and August except to get settled in at our new place (which we expect will be in Rhode Island, where Joanne’s family is from) and get some exercise that my too-sedentary body sorely needs. After my “summer sabbatical” I might like to make myself available for supply preaching—filling in on Sunday mornings for pastors who are on vacation. Maybe a year from now I anticipate that I might explore the possibility of serving as an interim pastor—helping to lead a church between the departure of their former pastor and the arrival of their new one. In any case, we fully intend to find a home church, and I expect that we’ll both be fairly actively involved there.
I also have some hobbies that I haven’t pursued much in recent years. I used to enjoy astronomy with a small reflector telescope that I owned. I once knew my way around the night sky pretty well, but I’m going to have to brush up on the constellations. (That’s O.K. They haven’t changed!) And I have long enjoyed dabbling with foreign languages, so maybe I’ll learn a little conversational Mongolian or something! There’s always plenty of reading to catch up on, as well as the aforementioned exercising to do. And many of you retired folks have told me that retirees get so busy in retirement that they wonder how they ever found time to work.
I’ve always firmly believed that, as a pastor, I get paid to do the very things that I would love to do in my spare time if I were working at some other job—things like Bible study, preaching, teaching, and the like. Soon I’ll have the chance to find out for sure.
Thanks for asking!
Your fellow-laborer in Christ,
(Rev.) Peter A. Brown