During our time in Southern California, a family member asked when I was going to retire. I think my answer of “70” came as a surprise. I said that as long as I’m healthy, there’s no reason to retire at 65. But as I think about the topic, I have other reasons that go into my answer.
65 is an arbitrary number. It was initially established because the life span tended to be in the 50’s. Now, people tend to live longer. At my present age of 61, 65 is looking younger all the time.
Health –As long as I’m healthy, I want to serve, minister, and preach as long as possible.
Biblical – According to Scripture, God’s retirement plan is called “Heaven.” As long as we are drawing breath, we are to continue serving and ministering. If you examine the lives of biblical characters, some of them had their greatest impact after the age of 80—Moses, Caleb, Abraham & Sarah, Zechariah & Elizabeth, Anna, Simeon, and Jacob. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) challenges me to be faithful and fruitful until God returns or calls me home.
Purpose – I believe you cannot merely retire from something, you must retire to something. While I enjoy traveling and visiting family and relaxing, I don’t want that to be the sole focus of my life. I don’t want to retire at 65 and spend 10, 20, or 30+ years sliding for home. I want to be productive and fruitful.
Having said all this, I recognize that some jobs come with a mandatory retirement age. Others are physically demanding and you get to a certain age where you cannot continue. Others have the financial resources to retire early from one career but then go into a second career with a ministry focus. The reasons I stated above reflect my personal values.
Personal goals – I would like to be a senior pastor for a longer time than I was an associate pastor. This September, I will complete 30 years in ministry—18 as an associate and 12 as a senior pastor. To reach my goal means at least 6 more years as a senior pastor. Since I’m 61 years old now, that takes me up to at least 67 years old. Why not aim for the round number of 70?
None of these reasons address the economic issues. While Carol & I have retirement accounts and Social Security, it’s anyone’s best guess whether or not they will be enough to sustain us for as long as God extends our lives.
My ideal is that when I retire, I would like to continue in a part-time ministry role, either as an associate pastor or an interim pastor. One of my role models was Owen Hollingsworth. After retiring from his career as a Senior Pastor, he joined the staff of Crossroads Bible Church as part-time Pastor of Senior Adults. His only request that he not be required to attend Elder’s meetings. He served in that capacity for several years until his health was compromised by a stroke.
As with every other plan I make, this one comes with the qualifying phrase, “Deo Volente,” “God willing.” We will see what God has in store for the future.