On Leaving Ministry

The Long and Winding Road

My first sermon at each church I have served has been on the call of Abram (who becomes Abraham):

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Each time I found myself in a new community, a new place to work and serve, a new adventure. It is time for another such adventure in answering God’s call.

For much of this year I have been discerning the next steps in my middle-aged life. Late last year I had a health scare that turned out to be something minor. But the experience left me reflective on the trajectory of my life. And this November 29 I will turn 50. A time for thinking about the second half of life and work.

For several years I have been sure that I would not end my pastoral career at retirement age. The reasons are many… the journey has been a long and winding one. Some pain and struggle. But also a deeper understanding of how God has gifted me. What do I do well? What gifts and experiences has God given me? And is the best stewardship of them in professional ministry? I have many years of work remaining and plenty of time for another career.

In early May the call came as it did decades ago. As clearly as God called me to leave a great job and future, so God has called me again to leave what I know to journey to what God will yet show me. My personal ministry is not ending – just the professional one. I know God will continue to use the gifts I have received to serve others, to speak and to share, to honor Christ in a new way.

I thank God for a spouse and children who support me in following this path. It means a huge change in our lives and perhaps lifestyle in the near term. My children have no memory of living anywhere except in a church parsonage. Or of their dad as anything but a pastor. And Dana has sacrificed much over the years including professionally to follow me around Ohio. I am grateful that they understand and affirm my decision and are excited, too, about this call to a new season of life.

My last day of ministry at Aldersgate UMC and as a professional pastor will be October 31. What comes next I do not know. Like Abram I can see some paths ahead to follow, some of what might be. Like that adventurer long ago – not just Abram but the young man who in 1992 began a journey – I know God will show me a new land and life. I am looking forward to it.


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