So, you’re no longer a pastor. What now?
It’s a question many individuals find themselves asking. What do I do now that I’m no longer serving as a pastor?
First, let me take the liberty to say that it’s ok that you’re no longer a pastor. The world will continue to turn. People will still attend churches all throughout the world. And the Dodgers will continue to lose, year after year.
Before we get too involved with our “what now” conundrum, I think it’s more important to ask ourselves one direct question that might actually be a catalyst in finding that answer: In what do you find your identity?
Pastors and leaders, myself included, often become so entrenched with our ministry identity that we associate ministry with identity. Ministry is not our identity.
A friend of mine, Karl, who wrote What I’ve Learned Since Leaving the Ministry, gives a great example of what ministry is and what identity should be.
“Life is ministry,” he wrote. We are called to seek and reach the lost, those who haven’t yet called upon Jesus as their Savior. As Christians, this is our calling, our ministry, our life. So, life is just that: ministry.
But our identity, well that’s a different song altogether. As we can learn from Karl’s life, identity is found not in ministry but in a solid relationship with Jesus Christ.
Elementary, you’d tell me. And I agree. However, if this were such an easy answer to such an important question, why does it always seem to get lost in the mix of the often emotional wreck we call “life?”
Karl wrote, “I was right where God wanted me and my family – to remain in the area, shift my thinking to reinvent myself, and look for life investment in a new career. What that looked like, I had no idea. What that would feel like, I had no clue. How that would come about, I had no plan. But there was one thing I knew for sure, God had the plan and He would unfold it how He wanted to.”
It’s evident that my friend Karl didn’t find his identity in being a pastor, even though he served faithfully for more than 21 years. He learned that devoting his life to ministry and finding his identity in Jesus were two separate, yet equally important, things. Now, Karl’s new ministry can be found in the office of a social services firm, in which he serves as Chief Operations Officer. But Karl is not an executive. He is not a boss. That is what he does but that’s not who he is. He is just a normal guy, an ex-pastor, doing his best to find his identity in Jesus Christ.