On Sunday, a friend of ours, Ken Hale, said to me, “I haven’t seen much new posted from Pursuit of Character lately. You know I read all of them.” I have written about an experience nearly identical to this once before (see, This Ship Has Sailed ). What was represented there has happened here. Then, unbeknown to the world, all my time and writing skills were being dedicated to a new venture, beginning to write The Hope Series of books. Now, it is in finishing that same series as well as working with Bethany Rae on her new worship album. But now, as then, point taken. And now, as then, the person doing the “poking” will be the muse for this post. Further, I will attempt, the Spirit willing, more posts this week leading into the New Year. (& yes Ken, there will be a quiz 😉
Over the past year, P.O.C. has put most of our time and resources into “Going Out.” In so doing, we have enjoyed the support of a few, like Ken Hale. Those few have informed us that their support continues in the form of prayers for Direction for the course of P.O.C. These prayers are not only appreciated, but much needed.
Just over a year and a half ago, God brought us together with Ken, and a year ago, we began an occasional and ongoing discussion. What was this discussion? Retirement. We talked about some of the greats whose only retirement was the grave… literally. Men like Whitefield, Nicholson, Finney, Tozer, etc. literally preached up until and often on the day they died. While Ken was looking at this question for his own reasons, the question was raised because I, at 57, was looking to expand the Going Out of our ministry in a substantial way. So, for me, the question truly was, “How does a person who makes a dedication before God to Go Out and minister, retire?”
Interestingly, on our vacation to South Carolina in August, I met another Pastor in a diner who was looking at that same question. He, as Ken has now, stepped down from his position as Pastor of a particular local church, but was actively seeking how his ministry to The Church would continue. When I asked that South Carolina Pastor the same question I had asked Ken, “How does a Pastor retire?” He responded, without hesitation, “They don’t… they re-purpose.” This is what we are talking about here.
You can’t hardly turn on a DIY show today but that they are making a big deal out of saving the planet by using “re-purposed” or “re-claimed” materials. As Christians, we know the fate of the planet is not in their hands, and no amount of barnwood tables or industrial lamps is going to change that. However, as Christians, we also know this, “Anyone who loves (put anything here) more than Me is not worthy of Me…” As Christians, Pastors or not, we were not put here to enjoy the physical world but to be “strangers in” it. God did Create a world for us to enjoy, but at that very moment of Creation, He instructed us not to enjoy it above all else, above Him. For at the moment we do, we “will surely die,” separate ourselves from Him.
A very well-known and worldly quote is this, “I am going to enjoy my retirement!” Usually meaning, “I am no longer going to do the work to which I was called, but instead will do what I want to do, to enjoy myself.” Which brings us back to my question. How does a Christian no longer do the works to which God called them, i.e., retire? What is it they would dare say they enjoy (love) more? Here’s an interesting study: go through the men in the Old Testament and see how old they were when God gave them their major works to do. Once you are done, consider this, the Apostles, most of the disciples, and millions of their disciples “spread the word of Christ” until the moment they died, leaving everyone and everything else they loved behind.
Well, maybe health is a good reason to retire? You know, every one of those men I mentioned were in terrible health, some in their 80’s. Whitefield had known poor health and a view of death’s door his whole life and had to be carried from the ferry boat before his last sermon. Nicholson had heart surgery scheduled at the end of his mission, but his time on earth ended when the mission ended. One I didn’t mention but often quote, Reverend David M’Clure, saw one of the world’s greatest epidemics (Yellow Fever) as presenting an even greater need for Love, Charity, and Christ’s message. He didn’t close the doors of the church but preached right through it, packing the pews with people who felt a real possibility of facing their Maker. In the last couple of years, a lot of local churches closed for good, and their pastors retired under a much lesser threat. But maybe that was for the best. “In times like these,” God’s sheep do not need a bunch of A.W.O.L. shepherds returning only after the wolves have had their fill and left the pasture. “The Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits…”
Important Note: Every one of those few mentioned above whose prayer supports us now, including Ken Hale, were found because we went Out in the pandemic!
Don’t get me wrong, we should manage our health (and let’s be honest, most of us don’t), but we should never let our health manage us. If you have read the first two books of The Hope Series, then you know of the cancer threat that has been chasing me for eight years now, the three stints of two years ago when the doctor said I should be dead, and the tree that fell on me a few days before that that should have killed me. Not to mention the slipped disc in my back that put me on the floor a year and a half before that. This is not self-aggrandizing; it is to make one simple point. That slipped disc happened at the very point we committed to take P.O.C. out from our morning coffee into the world. None of these attacks on my health or well-being discourage me into retirement but encourage me to continue in my Father’s work. After all, if the Devil wants me dead, I must be doing something right! Even more, if God has kept me alive in these attacks, He must have more for me to do!
So, God took this former painter, woodworker, salesman, manager, business owner, etc. and He took all the skills He gave me in those works and, in P.O.C., He Re-Purposed them for His works. Will P.O.C. last the rest of my earthly life? I don’t know. What I do know, or at least pray, is that if the day comes for it to end, I will not retire but look to God to Re-Claim His work in me and Re-purpose it in a continued dedication to His Great Commission, for I Love nothing more!
As children we were taught my Grandmother Caughel’s bedtime prayer,
As long as I do wake, however, my time is His to Re-Claim!
So, to every pastor, preacher, teacher, and disciple, who follows Christ, there is no retirement, only Re-Claiming and Re-Purposing. By the way…Did you ever notice Christ continued teaching lessons (sermons) from the cross…
Matthew 10:37, Hebrews 11:13, Genesis 2:16, Acts 8:1, Matthew 28:16-20, Ezekiel 22:23-31, 1 Timothy 4:1-16
© Scott A Caughel 12/27/2022