My Advice to Every Pastor: RESIGN!!
Or…something like that. Resign? Okay, maybe NOT that drastic. But something like it.
Here is what I mean.
Last summer I strongly felt the Lord leading me to step aside from my role at Christ Church as its founding Rector of 31 years. It has been a great relationship. Fran and I have been (and are currently) delighted to service here. Who wouldn’t? The people in the parish are wonderful. I have some ministry to do in the wider church (read about it at my website LeaderWorks.)
But I didn’t resign and leave. I announced my intention to resign and asked the Vestry to elect a new Rector. They have…and he is due to be installed this Fall. (Paul Donison, our Rector-elect, is a Canadian citizen and we are working with an immigration timeline.) So he is, in the language of Paul (Phil 3), here but not yet.
And the reverse is true of me: I am out…but not gone. That has created a ‘space’ in me to find energy, passion, and joy!
So, now, Sunday by Sunday I preach the gospel to this group of people I have known and loved for 31 years. And I have found a freedom that I have seldom felt before. In a sense, I preach like I am ‘going out of business’…because, in way, I am!
W. Griffith Thomas gave some advice to young preachers that I discovered years ago. It is imbedded in my mind and in my prayers as I spend my time in preparation for each Sunday. “Think yourself empty, read yourself full, write yourself clear, pray yourself keen–then enter the pulpit and let yourself go!” Perfect! And in these last months of ministry here, I am experiencing a renewed sense of ‘Letting Go’ every time I enter the pulpit.
The great Puritan Richard Baxter put it this way, “I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.”
It is true…my days are numbered. (August 14th is my last day in the pulpit.)
I am preaching with one aim in mind: the communication of the Gospel. As a fully-vested Rector, I always did try to have that in mind…always. But other things crowd into the mind of a busy Rector and thus the pulpit:
- Where am I leading the church?
- Why is that usher checking his Facebook feed right now?
- Why is attendance a bit off today?
- How long is that announcement about the picnic going to take?
- What time is kick-off? Noon or 12:15?
The list, sadly, is endless. But in these days, when I am counting down the days, the list is reduced to only one question: Is there someone here who doesn’t quite get the Gospel…yet?
I am not suggesting that every minister resign! Of course not! But I am saying that as a “resigned” pastor preaching from a pulpit, I find that I am going for every sermon as if it were my last. That produces a clarity and freedom that is a joy to me.
(Posted at my website LeaderWorks . D. )
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