The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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      “Working for the Lord doesn’t pay very much but the retirement plan is out of this world.” My wife presented a cross-stitched version of this declaration to my dad on the occasion of his birthday one year. My dad hung this birthday gift on his office wall in the Church Music Department at the Baptist Building.     
      I would imagine that many vocational ministers might agree with the first part of the statement regarding the financial aspect of working for the Lord. A significant number of pastors and ministry staff serving in Mississippi and elsewhere work another job or jobs in order to help supplement the income received through the church. Southern Baptists established Mission: Dignity program (formerly “Adopt an Annuitant) in order to provide financial assistance to ministers (or their widows) who have retired from vocational ministry. Mississippi Baptists have a similar program termed “Retiree Benevolence” that focuses specifically on retired Mississippi-based ministers who are experiencing financial burdens.
      A culture and society that is laser-focused on achieving the proverbial American Dream in terms of prestige, position, and a mega-sized pocketbook might question how anyone would enter ministry when recognitions tend to be few-and-far between and the rewards (especially rewards of the financial variety) are often minimal. The answer to society’s question and bewilderment stems from the Call of the Lord in a person’s life.     
      While everyone who confesses Christ as Savior is admonished to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4) and to utilize the unique giftedness that has been received within the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), God gifts certain individuals to minister in specific ways for the edification of the entire body (Eph. 4:11-16). Those who receive the call to vocational ministry respond to the Lord in faith believing that “my God will supply all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
      As a college student preparing for a vocation in church music, my dad became so frustrated at one particular point that he decided to leave school and return to farming at the old homeplace in south Mississippi. While reaching for his suitcase on the shelf of his dorm room closet in order to pack his few belongings prior to the drive home, my dad stopped because (as he would later share with me) “the call of the Lord (for ministry) was so strong in my life that I would have done it for free.” Working for the Lord may not pay much but the call of the Lord in a person’s life confronts shepherd servants with the opportunity, responsibility and privilege to press on.     
      In addition to the call of the Lord to ministry, the Cause of the Lord for ministry underscores the minister’s call and further explains the “why?” of men and women entering vocational ministry. The Cause of the Lord may be summarized through the Great Commission imperatives regarding making disciples, the assimilation of these new Christians into a local expression of the New Testament church, and the ongoing training that is provided in order for disciple-making to continue (Matt. 28:19-20). While those who respond to God’s call into vocational ministry may not know what the future holds, they know who holds their future and they have confidence in Him (Prov. 3:5-6) and conviction in the cause to which they have been called. Working for the Lord may not pay very much but the call of the Lord and the cause of the Lord compels shepherd servants to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of (them)” (Philippians 3:12).
      While the significance of and the explanation for the “working for the Lord doesn’t pay very much” portion of the assertion noted above is captured through both the Call of the Lord and the Cause of the Lord, the latter phrase “but the retirement plan is out of this world” highlights one’s Comfort from the Lord. Working for the Lord may not pay very much but the God of all comfort provides comfort to shepherd servants…the kind of comfort that instills confidence to press on…the kind of comfort that produces patient endurance and hope in the midst of hardships…the kind of comfort that accompanies complete reliance upon God for deliverance throughout a lifetime of ministry (2 Corinthians 1). In this way, God comforts shepherd servants as they look forward to the place that has been promised and prepared in Glory  who are “straining toward what is ahead (as they) press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has call (them) heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).     
      In addition to the fact that the anniversary of my dad’s transition into “higher service” with the Lord occurs in October, I also reflect on God’s eternal “retirement” plan this time of year as scores of Mississippi shepherd servants are remembered during the annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Only eternity will reveal the impact and influence that these preachers, student ministers, ministers of music, missionaries, associational missions directors, and other church staff had on individuals and families during their earthly ministry. When I see the pictures of these shepherd servants scrolling across the screen, I recall the psalmist’s words “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15) and the words of Jesus presented in the Parable of the Talents “Well done, good and faithful servant…come and share your master’s happiness!”


Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for shepherd servants who have responded to your call to ministry. Thank you for calling them as special missionaries to lead in the fulfillment of the cause of Christ in our world through equipping others. Thank you for the retirement plan that is available to everyone who by faith receives the gift of eternal life through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen!                                                           Daniel