Staying in Place!

I officially retired effective July 1st. In my brief letter to the church family a couple of months back I mentioned how blessed these 26 ½ years had been for me and my family. I also noted, with a twinkle in my eye, that while my plan was to vacate the pulpit, I did not plan to vacate the premises all-together!

Monique and I plan to be gone on occasions ‘doing what retired people do!’ but we promised that we would continue to seek ways to serve our church family. I plan to keep teaching Sunday School, serve on the Property & Grounds Team, and resource the Sunday School in leadership development. I want to keep busy and productive for the Lord!

To some who question whether pastors should retire, I quote my good friend Joe McKeever, who has said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that retirement is not in the Bible!” Then, Joe quotes Numbers 8:25 and how the priests stepped down from their responsibilities at fifty. I celebrated my 67th birthday this past April 7th and feel that I have met that requirement by 17 years!

An acquaintance who is Catholic referenced the example of a saintly nun who made the decision to retire and “rest back into the body in order for new leadership to have its time.” I like the expression “resting back into the body” and that’s what I intend to do!

Like many of my peers, I have been on a “ministry trajectory” since I gave my life for special service at 15 years old. For the past 45 years, I have been receiving compensation from a Southern Baptist church. Although trained in college to be a high school teacher, God had another plan for my life... a better plan!

I was just asked recently by my parent’s pastor Ben Foxworth to “imagine giving counsel to a young Mike K. just beginning his ministry, what would you say?” That got me thinking about a lot of things. Here is a quick list that might stimulate further thought about how to “stay in a place” for several years of service…

  1. Take care of business… faithfully preach the Word, lead the church to reach others for Christ, and care for the people. If you do your job well in these three areas, it allows you to become a respected leader in your church.
  2. Develop your core leaders. Jesus had His Peter, James and John. Turn to these fellow servants for support and guidance in times of decision and crisis.
  3. Encourage, equip and empower others (Ephesians 4) to do the work of the ministry. I waited too long to learn the importance of this. For far too many years I tried to do it all by myself!
  4. Be patient with others. They actually have a life outside of the church and it takes a lot longer to get things done than you initially think. Call it job security!
  5. Forgive others and look for ways to rebuild your relationships in adversarial situations. You may end up actually liking some of your “noodle heads!”
  6. Keep growing in your skills. Attend a seminar, read a book, interact with others outside of your comfort zone, set some personal goals, and commit to life-long learning.
  7. Be real, transparent. It is much easier to be who you are… in and out of the pulpit. Discover your Divine Design and work from your strengths.
  8. Do something good in your community without expecting anything in return. Give blood, volunteer as a chaplain, relate to and serve your neighbors.
  9. Keep fit – physically, spiritually and emotionally.
  10. Ask for feedback. When it is given, listen to the critique, process its validity, and make changes that are appropriate.
  11. Don’t neglect your family. Spend quality time with your spouse, children and grandkids!
It may have been at an anniversary service several years ago that our daughter, Michelle gave a testimony of what our church family had meant to her and our family. In her remarks she candidly said, “We didn’t really intend to stay this long!” Since my retirement announcement I have said, “I may have overstayed my welcome, but for me, it didn’t seem as long as it was!” It’s as we say, “Time flies!”

So, in answer to the question, “How did you stay so long?” Follow God wherever He leads. He knows better than you where you can flourish. Get in the right church! Springfield Southern has been a good fit for me!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

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