Introduction: Now that we have come to the last lesson in our study
about witnessing and evangelism, we should be asking ourselves,
“When do we start?” Instead, it looks like we are studying “When do
we stop?” Does “perpetual ministry” mean that we never stop? My
habit, every morning I’m in Virginia Beach, is to walk the beach.
One fellow I often see on my walk is retired. He spends every nice
afternoon with his wife sitting on the beach. Would you like that?
I could not stand it. What does the Bible teach about retirement
from ministry? What should we do about those who have retired from
being a part of the ministry because they are unhappy? Let’s plunge
into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Retirement

    1. Have you ever heard someone say that retirement is un-Biblical? We should not retire because the Bible does not
      speak of it? Read Numbers 8:23-26. What does the Bible
      suggest about retirement? (The Levites retired from
      “regular service” at age fifty!)

      1. Did they go home and watch television? (They were
        allowed to assist, but it does not seem to be

      2. We hear that retirement age should go up because of
        increased longevity. Read Deuteronomy 34:7 and
        Joshua 24:29. What does this suggest about the
        longevity of the people during Moses’ time? (It
        sounds like people lived to be 100 years old.)

      3. Let’s assume people commonly lived to be 100 during
        the time of Moses. What conclusion should we reach
        from the 50 year retirement age for Levites? Today,
        should you be able to retire at 40 years of age?

    2. Read Luke 12:13-15. In the preceding verses in Luke
      chapter 12, Jesus taught about hypocrisy and fearing God.
      This man wanted to change the topic to something he
      thought was more practical for his life. How did Jesus
      react to this question? (He resisted it. Then He
      suggested the man should be more interested in the
      subject Jesus had been speaking about, rather than the
      topic of money.)

    3. Read Luke 12:16-17. Assume you are faced with this
      “problem.” What would you do?

    4. Read Luke 12:18-19. Is this a reasonable solution to the

      1. If you originally answered “I would sell my crops
        and invest the money for the future,” is the
        farmer’s solution any different than yours?

    5. Read Luke 12:20. Why is the man a fool? Because he
      invested for the future? Because he retired? Because he
      did not buy life insurance? Because he missed his annual

      1. Read Luke 12:21. What does Jesus hint is the reason
        for calling the man foolish? (He built a future
        focused solely on his own pleasure.)

    6. Think a bit about the Levite retirement and the dead
      farmer. What is the Bible teaching us about a “perpetual
      ministry?” (On the one hand we are not expected to be
      working full-time in ministry (or anything else) our
      entire life. On the other hand, we must never come to the
      point where we focus only on our own pleasure. We need to
      remain “rich toward God” at every age.)

  2. Early Retirees

    1. We all know people who leave the church because they are
      unhappy with the church, bored with the church, or
      insulted by church members. Should we go after these
      “early retirees?”

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. What job is given to us? (The
      “message of reconciliation.”)

      1. What is that message? (That God does not count our
        sins against us if we are in Jesus.)

    3. Read Matthew 10:5-6. When Jesus refers to the “lost sheep
      of Israel,” is He referring to those who have heard the
      message of reconciliation? (While the temple sacrificial
      system was a message of reconciliation, they had not
      heard of Jesus, and how He fulfilled the temple service.)

    4. Read Matthew 10:11-15. What effort is to be made for
      those who reject the gospel? (If your presentation is
      rejected, you leave.)

      1. What does this teach us about going after “retirees”
        – those who have left the church for various
        reasons? (It teaches us that our efforts should be
        directed to those who have never heard the gospel,
        not those who have already heard it and rejected

    5. That seems to be a harsh conclusion. Are there any
      exceptions to it?

      1. Let’s go back to the “lost sheep of Israel” issue.
        Were they unaware of God? (No. They simply had not
        gotten the gospel message.)

        1. Are there former members of your church who did
          not really receive the gospel message?
          (Historically, there is a problem with a proper
          gospel presentation in some churches. Many of
          the people I knew as a young man are out of the
          church, and it seems they may be out because
          they did not get a clear message of
          reconciliation – God does not hold the sins
          against those who are in Christ.)

          1. What does the “lost sheep” instruction
            suggest to us about those former members?
            (If they were not given a clear
            presentation of the gospel of grace, we
            need to try to educate them about it,
            rather than shaking the dust off our

      2. Read Matthew 5:23-24. What is our obligation to
        former members who “[have] something against [us]?”
        (To be reconciled to them.)

        1. Do we have to be at fault for this text to
          apply? (If we are at fault, we certainly need
          to try to be reconciled. But, this text also
          applies to those who think they are “innocent”
          of wrongdoing. Years ago, this text convicted
          me to try to reconcile with a former member who
          seemed to hate me, even though I thought I was
          innocent. My reconciliation efforts blunted her
          anger, but did not bring her back to the
          church. However, her children saw what I had
          done and it reconciled them to me.)

      3. Read Matthew 5:44. What are we required to do for
        our enemies? (Pray for them.)

        1. Should we do anything less for former members?

    6. Read 2 Timothy 2:1-4. Why does a soldier not get involved
      in civilian affairs? (That is not the purpose of the
      military. The people will fear or reject the military if
      it is involved in civilian matters.)

      1. Timothy is not in the military. Why is Paul writing
        this to him? (In part, Paul wants him to stick to
        his appropriate work and message.)

      2. How many times are people in the church offended
        over things that are not central to the work of the

      3. I have some strong political views. While I like to
        think they are all driven by my religious beliefs, I
        know Christians who do not share my political views.
        What is my obligation with regard to my political
        views and giving offense in church?

    7. We have recently read this, but let’s read it again: 1
      Corinthians 9:20-23. What does Paul teach us about the
      extent to which we should go to avoid giving offense on
      matters not central to the gospel?

    8. Friend, the Bible teaches us that we can slow down with
      age, but we should never turn inward and seek only to
      please our self. We should always be rich towards God by
      sharing His message of reconciliation. While we should
      not be routinely wasting our time chasing after former
      members, we need to be sure that we are not creating
      “former members” by giving offense. If people have left
      over being offended, or being taught improperly, we need
      to try to fix those errors. Will you commit, today, to
      intelligent “perpetual ministry?”

  3. Next week: We begin a new study of the letters to the