The idea evolved quite by accident. Some time ago in a Spokesman article on our CLC outreach efforts in Albuquerque, New Mexico mention was made that the Rev. Norbert Reim, a retired pastor residing in Phoenix, made monthly visits to that city by chartered plane to serve the little flock of worshipers. A reader, in turn, suggested something along these lines: “Many of our retired pastors are still actively serving in the ministry, preaching and teaching as they are given opportunity. Why not expand on the subject?”
The suggestion led us to distribute a questionaire to a dozen or so of our retired pastors and professors. We invited each of them to recount for us the various sites of their stints of service to the church — both during their active years in the public ministry and during their “retirement” years. We asked them to pass along to us, if they would, reflections on changes they have witnessed and experienced during their years of ministry. Finally, we sought from them words of counsel and advice they would like to give to new pastors today.
For almost a year now we have put off — largely due to space considerations — sharing with you the kind responses we received from these seasoned veterans of the Cross. More than that. Not only were the responses and reflections kind. They were insightful as one would expect from undershepherds of Christ’s flock who have “borne the burden and heat of the day” during many years of faithful service to the church.
We would be remiss if, while mentioning pastor and professor emeriti, we overlooked the wives. What a blessing is a spouse — seasoned veterans of the cross in their own right — who over the years have stood faithfully at the side of one of the Lord’s public servants.
The decision has been made to feature these CLC “Retirees,” and some of their chosen reflections, in connection with the next couple issues of the Spokesman. Their good counsel and advice to new pastors we plan to include — together with biographical introductions to last spring’s seminary graduates — in a future issue.
One thing is clear. Our retired pastors and professors do not use their retirement years to flee the Lord’s work. One who has had the privilege of serving publicly in “the highest calling on earth” for so many years does not find it easy to refuse an invitation to keep on telling “the world” about the best news that it can ever hear — God’s love for sinners shown in the person and work of His Son. Each of the men who returned our survey listed a number of locations at which they have, or are still, serving as “supply pastors” upon request.
If you are fortunate to belong to one of our congregations within reasonable traveling distance of one of CLC retirees, you have no doubt benefited from hearing the Gospel message proclaimed by one of them. I so benefited when I pastored in Washington state a few years back. Our Lenten pulpit exchanges, for example, would include wonderfully comforting and solidly biblical sermons preached by now sainted pastors Maynard Witt, Robert Reim, and Ralph Schaller.
And what preaching it was, dear friends, as a retired, and often tired, pastor spoke — with childlike boldness and simplicity — of the wonderful works of God?! As Elijah passed the mantle to Elisha, so our veterans of the Cross. As they prepare to pass the mantle along to a younger generation of pastors, they bring Spirit-filled Gospel messages “straight from the heart.”
When you have the opportunity, may you enjoy the privilege of hearing the glories of Christ’s Gospel as that message is proclaimed by one of our retired pastors.