OVERCOMING THE RETIREMENT SYNDROME
By Henry Jaegers
ROMANCE VERSES REALITY
The Great Awakening
By Henry Jaegers
I thought that this topic would be the best way to begin this book. An interesting definition of what romance is can be defined this way. Romance is: "An expectation dealing with idealized events remote from everyday life." Most of my former high school classmates have been married for over 50 years and I am a novice compared to them. Anyone who has been married that long knows what I'm talking about. At first we think that we have married the perfect person (and maybe we have) but we are dealing with humans who have a tendency to be selfish. As time goes on we change, and reality sets in. Once our false expectations are dealt with, then love begins to emerge and maturity and reality results.
But romance and its expectations are not confined to marriage alone. It deals with many experiences throughout life. I have experienced many disappointments because the things I expected to happen didn't turn out as I had hoped. I attended a Bill Gothard seminar in life principles. He shared with us many subjects but the ones that stand out in my life are the ones that I have personally experienced. One of these was" the birth of the vision" and " the death of the vision". I have been taught over the years that God always answers prayer. Now that is where things get tricky because He does not answer in the way that I expect (most of the time He doesn't). I I heard one preacher say that there is the direct answer, the delayed answer, the denied answer, and finally the different answer. I thought that was a classic way of describing this matter of answered prayer.In my case it always seems to be the different answer but it is an answer nevertheless.
Sometimes when I experience the death of the vision it causes me to look inwardly to find out why. Failure is not easy for any of us but I have discovered "that it is safe to fail and failure is usually our greatest teacher". Sometimes there is sin in my life that needs to be dealt with. What comes to me often is the verse that says" if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalm 66:18) At times in my life when I face failure, I go to God and asked him to search me, try me, cleanse me and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23, 24) most of the time when I do not receive a direct answer from God it is not because of sin. Sometimes, His timing is different from mine and that means, I just need to wait and trust Him to do what is right. For some people, it may appear that this kind of reasoning is an escape from reality, but to me, God is the only reality that matters because He is the one in control. When we choose to live our life without Him it is no wonder that everything goes crazy.
Several weeks ago I received a copy of Charles Colson's book " the body". picked up by my sister-in-law which she purchased for one dollar in the bookstore. She probably doesn't know why she picked that book up, She is married to a Muslim. She sent the book to my mother-in-law who had no interest in reading it so it wound up in my hands, and I am reading it now for the second time. Charles Colson is a great writer. For those of you who don't know who he is, he was very much involved in the engineering of the Watergate problem during the presidency of Richard Nixon. His writings are very relevant to our time and his experience among prisoners has helped him to understand what is important. I am presently reading his book "The Good Life" and much of what he relates in this book confirms what I am writing about. He shares many stories of people whose expectations were disappointed by reality. Several years ago when Lee Iacocca retired, he expressed the desire to go back to work again and come out of retirement. He stated at that time “How much fishing and golfing do you have to do?” I love to golf and I enjoy fly fishing, but since I started writing, and still work full time, there is not much time to do these. I also enjoy tying my own flies and being surprised when I catch fish with them. However, this past year I was able to go out golfing twice with my friend and neither of us even purchased a fishing license. What's the point? Spending my life in pursuit of personal pleasures is being replaced by something much more meaningful. The purpose of ministry is not self-serving and when I spend my life in pleasing myself it results in emptiness. The idea of looking forward to retirement where I have all of my life to do with as I please does not bring pleasure. I have a goal for my life that I try to live by and share with others. It is, " Be a servant: Be a friend: and Be faithful,” As a Christian, I find that that these three simple rules are important in my relationship to the people I work with and associate with.
I would like to share a personal experience with you. Over the last 45 years of my married life I have had the privilege of pastoring three churches. My passion for preaching and sharing the word of God has led me to pursue this occupation. In my last church I experienced great disappointment especially when they came to me after five years and told me that they were no longer interested in my ministry. I should have expected it when my district superintendent warned me about the problems in that church. They were a family church, and they had a camp ministry for the children in the area. That's not all bad except the camp was owned by the family and controlled by them. Our church had a reputation in the community that was very negative. The pastor of one of the churches in town came to me one day and told me that my people were a bunch of isolationists. The fact is, they were. There were many serious problems with the family members that resulted in some of them not coming to church at all. People in the church who had gone through a divorce were not allowed to be members of the church. It was very negative and my goal was to try to change the image of the church in the community.
After a few years I encourage them to bring in the "James Dobson, " Focus on the Family film series”. The community was all excited about the project and allowed us to use the local school to show the films. Never in the history of this church has there been such a positive response from the community. Each Sunday night the auditorium was filled and one pastor came to me and said " you're church has become quite ecumenical". Now I am not a ecumenical person, however, I took that as a compliment. For two years I coached a little league girl’s softball team that was a great experience. I look forward to a third-year but that was not to be. Immediately after the film series I enrolled in a program called evangelism explosion with the intent of teaching my people how to be effective witnesses in the community. They had other ideas concerning ministry and it was not to the community. Everything centered in the camp ministry.. During that time a missionary served in their camp and told them that he was interested in pastoring a church. Here was their opportunity for the people to make a change. They let me know that they were interested, that I had been there five years, and they wanted a change. They had hopes of having him, as a replacement but instead, while he was waiting for me to leave he decided to take another church. Several years after I left and came back to Michigan, I received a letter of apology from them. I believe the church made a mistake by making this change. I cannot know what may have gone through their minds as they contemplated what they did and why they did it. That is all in God's hands. I have forgiven them and I would go back again if that was possible.
I have a lot of guilt over that experience. Fortunately God was still there when we needed him and provided employment quickly. For 12 years I labored over the fact that I had failed the people and this is the consequences of my actions. During this time I entertained the idea that any opportunity for ministry was gone. I gave all my valuable books away and the Greek course of I took which was so helpful to me, thinking that I didn't need them anymore. During that time I began to exercise and jog every day to keep myself physically fit. One day I became very sick without any previous notice and wound up in three different hospitals because the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I had seizures and for a two-year perod. I had no recollection of what was going on or what had happened. The doctors concluded that I either had meningitis or viral encephalitis. Those were just big words that we use to say that they didn't know what was wrong. They said that I would never go back to work again but thankfully God had different ideas.
When I turned 65, I was working part-time in a grocery store thinking that was all that I had to look forward to. Some of my employers at the grocery store were facing great difficulty so I went to the unemployment office to try to find work for them. While I was there the manager asked me to see if there was something for me that would be of interest?. There was a floor care specialist position at a hospital in Grand Rapids that was posted. I wasn't looking for any more employment, but I put in the application thinking that nothing would come of it and it really didn't matter. After having taken the posting down, they received my application and two days later I was called for an interview. Imagine someone hiring me is 65 years old and asking me how much money I wanted to start with. Well to make a long story short I received the job. Several people at work knew that I had been a minister and told me that they were interested in knowing about the book of Revelation. Prophecy was not a priority with me.. (Since then I have written three books on biblical prophecy and am working on a fourth at the time of this writing) After writing short articles for these friends on my word processor, I decided to put it into a book form and from there writing has been my ministry. I cannot say that I have written any bestsellers or that I have made any money from my books. I wind up giving them away but I know that for those who have read them, they have expressed appreciation and have received a blessing from them. I have written over 100 articles in the Faith-Writers group and over 50,000 people have read these articles. Perhaps there is someone that God could speak to through all of this. One of the short articles I wrote was called, " My church fired me, now what?" I thought there would be other pastors who may go through a similar experience, who would be helped by this article. Personally I do not know how many people have been affected by my writings. It really doesn't matter because God is the one who takes the seed and make it grow. It is good to see that someone down here has received the blessing but someday all of that will be clear when the time for reward is given. (I don’t write for the purpose of receiving rewards, but if God chooses to give me any I’ll receive them with gratitude)
Now you are probably wondering about how the story relates to romance versus reality. I have been around pastors long enough to know that the great aspiration is to have the church that he can pastor full-time and not have to work at a job that is physically demanding. Personally I had to work bi-vocationally at all my churches. I would not have it any other way. It is important for a pastor to understand what's going on outside the church. I know a lot of pastors who do not know that and they are in full-time ministry. One of the problems in the pastorate is that your time is your own. No one but God knows what you're doing and that can be a real temptation for some. It is easy to twitter your life away in activities not related to the ministry. There is more time for leisure and no one is holding you accountable for how you spend your time. Maybe I spend too much time on the golf course or fishing or watching too much TV. I am not retired but I'm acting like I am because I'm only working part-time in the ministry. I speak out of experience and I often wonder if these things were the reason that I was fired. God knew when no one else did and I wondered if what happened to me was the consequence of my not being faithful. I will never know but my experience outside the ministry has changed me. The ministry begins with who I am and continues with how I serve others. As I mentioned earlier failure is a great teacher and I have learned a great deal from mine.
For many, who are preparing for the ministry, there is the romance of pastoring your first church. We have many ideas of things we want to happen and things we want to say. We have great expectations that many will be anxious to hear our great sermons. That is the romance of the ministry however, reality does set in. Churches do not grow overnight. It takes a long time and sometimes a lot of pain (accompanied by a lot of failure) for a pastor to see his church grow. Often he must take extra training in order to feed his flock more effectively. I use this experience in ministry as an example of romance versus reality because it is the experience that has become mine. I have tried to be open and honest about my own unfaithfulness. But also, in spite of all of this, I would like to give God praise for not leaving me and for restoring me to a ministry once again that I can fully enjoy. Preaching has always been my first love, but writing has become my passion. Perhaps someday I will do both. That is my dream.