Get Adobe Flash player
When Does a Missionary Retire? By David H. Snyder After almost 52 years of ministry, Baptist International Missions is experiencing a significant time of transition. Several of those who have held leadership positions at the World Missions Center have asked to officially step back from their present duties due to the effects of many years in ministry (see articles on pages 9–11 and 16–20). David H. Snyder There are also a President/General Director good number of missionaries who now find themselves needing to return to the States after serving for decades on the foreign field. All of these BIMI personnel have raised support from local churches and have received that support for many years. When that support was raised, not much thought was given to when it would end. In fact, in many cases it was understood that support would continue until the missionary entered heaven. With this in mind, many churches and many missionaries are now asking the question “When does a missionary retire?” In the process of answering this question, a follow-up question is often asked: “How long should a missionary continue receiving support?” One dictionary defines the word retire as “to leave your job or stop working because of having reached a particular age or because of ill health, or to cause someone or something to stop being employed or used.” 1 Although this would be what we typically think of when we hear the word retirement, this definition does not necessarily apply to missionaries. To “leave your job” or to “stop working” or to “stop being employed or used” is not something 2 BIMI WORLD Number 1, 2012 that is easily accepted by those in full-time missionary service. Furthermore, it would be impossible to identify a “particular age” when a missionary is supposed to retire. For the most part, missionaries plan to serve God until the day they meet the Lord in heaven. Some have said things such as “You can't find retirement in the Bible” or “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). However, those who live a long life will most likely reach a point when their physical bodies will succumb to the realities of living in a sin-cursed world. At this point it might be tempting to modify our original question to “Does a missionary retire?” This is also a good question to consider. However, since there is a great deal of difference with each missionary's situation and because this topic is so broad, I will only be able to mention a few relevant thoughts in this editorial. Their wealth of missionary experience is of great value. First, there are many missionaries who “retire” from the field but continue in ministry elsewhere. Generally, this is the time when a missionary returns to the United States after having served on foreign soil for many years. In a good number of these cases, the missionaries are no longer able to continue serving in a particular geographic location due to circumstances that have been complicated by their ages. Although they are not ministering on their original fields of service, God has given them a new place to continue serving Him. Their wealth of missionary experience is of great value. Some will get involved by assisting in a stateside church plant, some will become Relief Missionaries, 2 and others will get involved in some other type of ministry God makes available to