“Sally told me that when the pastor of her church retired, he and his family were not allowed to attend their old church, they had to find a new one.”
It was interesting but understandable. When a pastor retires, he should do everything possible to smooth the transition for the new pastor and be as helpful as he can be. This may include transferring membership to a new church. This allows the new pastor to create their own leadership style. This does not mean the pastor cannot offer advice to his former church board or to the new pastor, if called upon. However by remaining in the same church, the retired pastor may be a distraction and at worst, a hindrance, especially if his style clashes with the new pastor or the board sides with the retired pastor on critical church issues.
As I reflected upon this, I realized that I have attended several churches that adopted this policy. I also remembered this interesting account from the Bible, chronicling the transition of one great prophet to another.
As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.
2 Kings 2:11-12 (NLT)
Elijah literally passed the spiritual and physical mantle to his successor, Elisha, who was chosen by God. Instead of leaving the ministry and moving to another location, Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire sent by God. No awkward transition here! This is the most definitive way to ensure the pathway is completely clear for the next leader!
There is no passage in the Bible that directly states that the retiring pastor of a church should transfer membership. However, there are sound reasons to follow this principle. I am thankful for the many pastors who have successfully transitioned from being a shepherd of God’s people to becoming another sheep in the Body of Jesus Christ. Any church that receives them is quite fortunate.
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.