December 13, 2022


I've talked with several pastor friends who are getting older and beginning to think about God's timing in transitioning out of their current pastoral ministry. I don't think there's any Biblical warrant for "retirement," but there is a clear precedent for transitioning to the next phase of ministry.

Here are just ten general thoughts. They may also apply to those not in professional ministry, but this has been my context. It may be close to a transition time when ...

  1. God begins to continually burden my heart about a change, and I cannot seem to be released from the thought.
  1. God seems to be raising a leader(s) to succeed me, and I have a growing confidence that they are God's next choice.
  1. I realize that if I don't open the door for the next generation of leadership, the church may miss God's best, and younger leaders may lose heart.
  2. I find it harder to discover God's next steps for the church—His vision for the next phase. God begins to wean my heart from this responsibility.
  3. God begins to give me vision for the next chapter of my life that excites me. I begin to see a path, both ministerially and practically.
  1. I realize that my highest and best use now may be mentoring and coaching the next generation. I begin to find my greatest joy there.
  2. It seems a bit harder to keep the pace needed to do the demanding task of pastoring with excellence.
  3. I find confirmation through the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the counsel of mature believers that I trust.
  1. I realize more and more that I am not indispensable but am one link in a long chain of God's servants, and His work will go on without me (often better!)
  2. And finally, when I so hear His voice that I know that I know it is time for the next chapter to begin.

Don't be afraid of God's next steps! If you're following Him and surrendering to His will, you will find that the next phase of ministry may be the most thrilling and fulfilling. You must continue to give yourself wholeheartedly to ministry, but in different ways and at a different pace.

The accumulated wisdom you have gained is extremely valuable. The transitioned pastor may discover his ministry changes from a "shotgun" (covering many areas for which he's responsible) to more of a "rifle" (able to focus on what God has uniquely equipped you to do best.) Some of your most significant contributions may be in this next phase.

Continually ask God for His direction and tell Him your desire to be used for His glory. Keep presenting your physical body to Him to be used as an "instrument of righteousness," even if it involves suffering or is more taxing. Your suffering may be your greatest ministry in some ways.

Resist the temptation to become a grumpy old guy! Allow others behind you to learn like you learned. Give them the grace you received from others. Become their greatest cheerleader and never criticize them from the cheap seats.

A transition is not a time to give up, but also don't feel guilty about a relaxed pace. Invest more in your family. Cherish close friends and make time for them. Write and record what God has said to you in the past and what He is giving you now if even to pass down to your children and grandchildren.

Give more time to the Word of God and deliberate prayer. The most powerful man in the room is the one who prays. Ask God to make you a greater prayer warrior than you’ve ever been. Pursue Christ. Make growing intimacy with Him your great goal. Live to know Him and make Him known to others. Never relax in your pursuit of Him.

And as always, humbly and continually thank God for the extraordinary privilege of serving as a bondservant of Jesus Christ!

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