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August 29, 2017 / Pastor George Fike

Today’s socially acceptable discrimination….


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A pause from my new series – Adam to Abraham. I initially drafted this post four years ago but never posted it. I felt bitter at the time I wrote it. Now, not so much. I know my life is now, as always, in God’s hands, and He will always do what is just and fair, but also what is gracious and merciful. I need His grace and mercy far more than His justice. I updated it to be more relevant, but kept most of the language of my grief. Please accept it as an inside look at my soul. I left the ending open, so you could taste my emotion at that time. Understand I am much more hopeful today, although I do not yet see all that God might still do with me. Thanks for reading. With that, here goes…

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We recently put our cars in to our favorite mechanic for long overdue oil changes.  Putting them in one by one, we had to swap cars each day.  While my truck was in, I had to drive my son’s car.  I looked in the front seat console and found my old prayer counselor badge.  As you can see from the image, it was very faded from sun exposure and dented from when I took a bullet for a co-worker.

OK.  There was no bullet.  I don’t remember why the dent was there.  But it brought back bittersweet memories.

It has been 5 years since I was on staff as pastor in a church.  Yet, during these past years I was still engaged in many pastoral functions.  I married couples.  I buried some dear friends.  I made visits to the hospital.  I led worship at a weekly recovery group for my friend,  and I preached occasionally at a little church in southeast Bexar County.  I have had the opportunity to lead worship for the growing campus of a large church.  But primarily I have earned my living in a secular field.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my current job.  It has been challenging and purposeful, if not quite financially rewarding.  I’m still in the business of helping people, which brings me joy.

But I’d be lying if I told you I was happy as a clam.  I am still grieving the close of my professional ministry.  I don’t know if stating that means I’ve arrived at the final stage – acceptance – because I still feel anger and depression.  I enjoyed one career, well actually, my calling for 35 years, and I suppose for most people, that’s not a bad time to retire.  Yet in my industry with its typical pay scale, it’s way too early to affordably choose retirement.  Unfortunately, others chose it for me.

Leaving a position without another one ahead, I applied wherever and whenever I heard of a position that might be a good fit.  I was not what they were looking for.  Once you are out of a position, it is very difficult to find another comparable one.  Typically, a pastor is coveted and courted away from his current ministry.  Like the spies into Canaan, a search committee goes secretly to hear him preach and then decide whether to further pursue him based on what they’ve heard and seen.  These things don’t happen in a megachurch where only an elite few get to go onto the stage.  Other pastors are relegated to a place on a shelf where they are utilized like tools from a toolkit.  The presentational abilities churches typically look for in pastors or worship leaders slowly atrophy from lack of use.  One day you wake up, and your ‘use by’ date has passed.  You are discarded as irrelevant, a relic from another time, and a new fresh face is placed upon the shelf where you used to sit waiting for the call that never came.  You were a plate of stroganoff;  they picked away and ate the mushrooms, but allowed the beef and noodles to be tossed in the rubbish.  You surrendered perhaps your last best decade of service to sit the bench when you could have played on another team.  And now, a decade early, your number will never again be called.  You’ve been placed on waivers in a league that values only youth.

       Now I know what age discrimination feels like.

I’m used to seeing it at a sideways glance:  the opinions of the older segment of our church’s population being ignored in favor of the younger, cooler set.  The tithes from their retirement are greatly appreciated in order to acquire the latest technology to attract the younger “in” crowd, but please just deposit your offering and pick up your earplugs.  After all, “you’ve been here so long, you’re certainly not going anywhere else.”  A far cry from the Lord’s command:

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)

Now I see it full on, personally.  Like my fading, dented prayer counselor’s badge, I have been set aside.  No one considers me without looking at a calendar and calculating how many years I could possibly have left.  Rather than enjoying the height of my career, I’m looking down a steep hill.  Perhaps I should just “celebrate” my early retirement.  Dr. Wayne Dyer said “Don’t die with your music still inside you.”  But when you’ve been kicked off the stage, you run that risk.  Here’s hoping I can find another stage to welcome my song. A word of caution to the younger generation: If you’ve been told to plan an exit strategy if you’re in your fifties, you better look around and go somewhere else by your forties, or you might not make it to retirement!

Here is where I should throw in some hopeful statements, about how “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “With men, it’s impossible, but all things are possible with God.”  I’m sure I’ll gravitate back to those hopeful statements, but for today, I thought I would go with my gut.  Something I honestly feel:

No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

Ecclesiastes 1:11

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5 Comments

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  1. Rey Lo / Aug 29 2017 11:09 PM

    Funny thing…a year after the fact one of the leaders tried to tell me that is was a job performance thing. Odd since not once did I ever receive a performance review. Thanks for posting this George. You are not alone.

  2. Stephanie Gorena / Aug 30 2017 8:39 AM

    Gut-wrenchingly honest. And so very sad. I’ve always tried to believe the best, but no matter how far time has removed me from my own family experience of this very thing, the wound is still very raw.

  3. J Jackson / Aug 30 2017 9:33 AM

    Great read George, hope and pray that trend will change. I read or heard a long time ago, God does not necessarily call the qualified, but he qualifies the called. When churches quit looking at who does God want to pastor us and say who is the latest and greatest commodity that will help us grow, they missed the mark. Thank you for always being a positive role model to look too.

  4. Ann / Aug 30 2017 12:36 PM

    I walked away from trendy churches years ago because of this very thing. I’m not saying these churches are doing everything wrong or anything like that. God has moved in my life and spoken to my heart in those places. But on day I walked on the campus and noticed it was full of “cool” people, I kept asking myself if this is where Jesus would be. Would he be the cool guy rocking on stage? According to Isaiah “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” He was not cool according to the worlds standards.
    Just as an encouragement, the Church system may have retired you but we Christians never retire, God requires us to follow him until the race is won.

  5. Sterling Crim / Aug 30 2017 7:27 PM

    Well written and provocative.

    From my perspective I don’t think that what you are feeling and experiencing is relegated just to Pastors, but is felt by business leaders, carpenters, accountants, AC repairmen and bankers.

    The transition into our fourth quarter of life requires a lot of humility I have found.

    Praying for you .

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