Last month marked one year since I stepped away from the pastorate. I’ve shunned the idea of “retiring from ministry” like the plague, vowing to remain active in ministry and seeking to use the rest of my life to serve the Lord. Over these past twelve months, the clamps of life have tightened considerably for us all. Personally, I’ve reflected more on both the starting and finish lines of my ministry. A number biblical passages come to mind as I’ve reflected on finishing well, but three texts from Paul’s ministry stand out.
There’s No Such Thing as Retiring From Ministry
1. “Fulfill your ministry”
Forty-two years ago as a Bible college student, I was drawn to Colossians 4:17. Paul’s words presented themselves as a challenge to my young and eager heart: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
At the time, I didn’t know what that “ministry” would look like, but I was committed to serving the Lord without an expiration date. So I applied those words to my heart the best I could. I prayed, “Whatever you have for me to do, Father, I will be committed to it . . . to its conclusion.”
I confess I haven’t always kept that charge as faithfully or as well as I would have liked. But God has been abundantly merciful to forgive me and gracious to pick me up and brush me off time and again—setting me back on my feet with fresh resolve to continue the journey with him.
2. “Finish the ministry”
Acts 20:24 records Paul’s farewell words to the Ephesians. He tells them, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” These words struck a chord with me in the final days of my pastorate, and they continue to.