Posts Tagged ‘retiring from the pastorate’

When I started out in church ministry at the age of 19, I didn’t have many Christian books.

I had Unger’s Bible Dictionary … several volumes on Romans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones … and books I inherited from my father and grandfather – both pastors.

The following year, a book came out called The Minister’s Library.  The book was filled with the best recommendations on commentaries and theological works.

I made a list and began acquiring those books any way I could.

My girlfriend …  now my wife … gave me books and wrote little notes in the front.

My family give me books for my birthday, Christmas, and graduation.

The first youth group I served even gave me several sets of books.

I reveled in those books, and acquired a pretty good library over the years … but recently, I’ve been paring down that library.

My wife and I hope to retire in six years or so, and we’re not going to have room for all those books.  (I’ve talked her into keeping 5 of the 9 bookcases we own, though.)

Some books I keep … some I set aside to sell on Amazon (I’ve listed 5 in the past, and sold them all) …  some I plan to send to pastors in Kenya (22 boxes and counting) … and some I hope to sell at a garage sale.

How do I decide which books to keep?

I keep all books:

*relating to conflict.

*signed by the author.

*by certain authors: Alister McGrath … J. I. Packer … R. C. Sproul … John Stott … and Philip Yancey, to name a few.

*that I’ve read, marked up, and envision using again.

*that I still want to read.

I set aside books:

*I never used and never will (Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Word Biblical Commentaries).

*I once used but which now seem dated (Keil and Delitzsch’s OT Commentaries, Hendriksen’s NT Commentaries).

*on church growth (I’m amazed I bought and read so many).

*that I’ve already bought as e-books.

*that I think someone else needs more than me.

When I started this project several months ago, I’d go to our small storage area before sunrise, go through 3 or 4 boxes of books, place them in categories, and be done for the day.

Why go so slowly?

Because I’ve found it difficult to part with most of those books.

When my wife does a project like this, she’ll start in the afternoon and finish late at night.  Bang!  She’s done in one day.

But I find discarding so many books to be a gut-wrenching exercise.

How can I give away books that others gave me as gifts?

How can I set aside books that cost $25 or more?

How can I say goodbye to books that were my father’s or grandfather’s?

How can I discard books I might read if I live to be 95?

Thankfully, I finished going through all my books several days ago.

Then I had to go through several boxes of cassette tapes … including many of my old sermons.  (Those weren’t as hard to toss.)

Yesterday, I threw out a whole box of baseball magazines, including several I’ve kept for 50 years.

Today I started going through several boxes filled with issues of Leadership and The Wittenberg Door … both filled with many great articles.

If I died today, my poor wife or children would have to go through those boxes, but because I want to spare them the agony, I choose to do it myself.

And when I’m done with my books, someday I’ll have to tackle my baseball cards … all 18 huge boxes full.

Thankfully, my wife is cheering me on, but I keep reminding her: “I’ve found a few boxes that you need to go through as well.”

I once heard a wise man say that we should get rid of 10 percent of what we own every year.

Dishes?  Sounds good.

Furniture?  Makes more space.

Clothes?  Call Salvation Army.

Old photos?  Get ’em down to one box.

But books?

They should be among the last items to go.

Because it doesn’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to books.

It feels like I’m throwing away a ministry I built over 36 years.

Most pastors eventually face this day.  It’s probably better that I’m doing it now rather than later.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to bid adieu to Swindoll … Strobel … Spurgeon … and Colson.

Because every time I bought a new book, it felt like I discovered a new friend.








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