In some church bodies their policy is that when a pastor retires he is suppose to no longer attend the church he had served before retiring. I’m very thankful that is not the policy in our church body: the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. Because if it was I wouldn’t be in the same congregation as the man who has been my pastor for 40 years and who turned 90 years old today: Pastor Alvin Grothe.
I can understand a little bit the reasoning behind saying retired pastors need to go to a different church than the one where they used to serve as pastor. Some guys have a hard time making the transition from being the leader upfront to being a church member in the pew. Some retired pastors have been a real pain in the neck to the pastors who have followed them.
Instead of being a pain it is possible for a retired pastor to be a great source of encouragement and support. Pastor Grothe has demonstrated that. It requires, though, humility and the grace of God.
Soon after stepping down after serving the congregation for 15 years as pastor, Pastor Grothe and his wife, Loretta, started serving as the janitors of the congregation. I’m afraid some retired pastors wouldn’t consider doing that. He may not have been teaching from the pulpit regularly, but as he vacuumed floors and cleaned toilets, he taught a lot about being a humble servant: not needing to be recognized, not needing to be in control, not needing to have things go your way, just willing to serve God’s church in whatever way you can.
I was uniquely blessed to have him as my pastor from the time I was 13 years old until after I became a pastor. I am uniquely blessed today to have such an encouraging and supportive retired pastor in the congregation I serve. He is doing pretty well for being 90, but he can’t do all the things he used to do. But he can still do what is most important. He still prays for me daily and is a constant source of encouragement. I am thankful for the 90 years God has given him and the special gift God has given me and so many others in him. Happy Birthday!