I had three dreams for my ministry. The first was to restore the New Testament church. The second was the peaceful coexistence of the Korean-speaking and English-speaking congregations. The third was to have an honorable retirement.
I feel that the first dream has been fulfilled as our church successfully converted to the House Church. The second dream has also been fulfilled with the English-speaking congregation becoming a healthy, vibrant part of Seoul Baptist Church. But my third dream has yet to be fulfilled.
I have this dream because I saw many churches fail to peacefully succeed their head pastors right around the time I was ordained. Many churches suffered from internal divisions due to conflicts between their retired pastors and their successors, resulting in church splits, even lawsuits.
Why is peaceful succession so difficult? I think that the major causes are money and ministry.
Many retiring Korean pastors have neither a house nor retirement funds because they gave all they had to church building funds. When they retire, their church feels obligated to buy them a house and provide 70% of their pre-retirement salary to help them live. As a result, retiring pastors tend to seek successors who will take care of them like their own sons. Some of them even make their sons their successors. But unless their successors are their own flesh and blood, they usually fail to meet retired pastors’ expectations, which makes them feel betrayed. This leads to lawsuits and church splits.
I decided from early on in my ministry not to be involved in money matters with my former church after I retire. I helped design our church’s retirement plan that gives pastoral staff members a retirement pension, calculated by counting each year served as a month. (This benefit is only given to those who serve more than 12 years at Seoul Baptist.) This will be the only retirement benefit I get from Seoul Baptist. And hopefully, because of this, I won’t be tempted to find a successor who looks after me.
The second source of problems in pastoral succession is ministry. Many retiring pastors want to continue their ministries even after they retire. As a result, retired pastors and their successors have to compete for financial or human resources.
So I decided to quit all my ministries after I retire, including House Church ministries. I recently enacted bylaws for House Church Ministries International (HCMI), for which I currently serve as President. All officers will be elected to serve for limited terms by HCMI members, opening the door for someone besides me to become President.
However, a church member learned about my retirement plans and donated a large sum of money in advance so that I will be able to continue to work. So I will be able to serve a couple more terms as President without Seoul Baptist’s financial support, if the HCMI members vote for me.
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