Hi, Everybody! I want to talk to you today about the aging of a pastor. I thought I’d set up this post with a little ditty from my youth. Take a listen to kind of a fun men’s chorus cover of the Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four.”
Now aren’t you glad you tuned in?
I began my ministry career in September 1976 as the weekend worship leader at Beacon Hill Baptist Church in San Antonio while attempting to finish my music ed degree at Texas State University. The next summer, June 1977, I became student minister and later additionally worship leader at Dellview Baptist Church in the same city. Over the course of the next 35 years, I served as a vocational minister at several churches in Texas, with a pause to finish my divinity degree at seminary in 1989, then becoming a senior pastor in two churches in Illinois, before moving back to San Antonio in 2004 where I served as associate pastor in a local church until being retired in 2012.
Just so you know, retirement was not my idea. I have thought about my exit from ministry for a while now. I spoke with one of my former leaders once to try to get closure; the reasons I was given were inconsistent with my history. The only answer that really makes sense is that I let my hair turn grey in a church culture that celebrates youth.
I have applied for quite a few open positions. Most of the time my applications have gone in the pile of “we’re moving in a different direction.” Some confirmation came recently when a young man asked his church if they might consider me for their vacant position. The first question to him:
“So how old is he?”
“He just turned 61.”
“Well, that’s not what we’re looking for.”
Mind you, I appreciate that for the first time I heard an honest answer.
So then… what does one do out in the pasture?
What I have always done – pastor. My congregation is now behind a paint desk at a home improvement store. My pay is well below what I made as vocational minister, but I’m having the time of my life as I lead and care for my team, help my store and company succeed. (Incidentally, we are one of the most profitable paint departments in the city, thank you very much.) I also have the joy of leading worship at one of the campuses of Oak Hills Church every few weeks. I have enjoyed nurturing relationships with my neighbors. And many of the people I have ministered to in the past still seek out my ministry in various forms. And despite my lack of retirement income, I’m having the time of my life. I feel useful to God. There is an energy that comes from that. I still have 24 years to catch up to my new favorite hero from the Bible – the man named Caleb. Here is his story:
Numbers 14: 6Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. 9 And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”
13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. 14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.
I look forward to what God can accomplish through me in the next 24-plus years!
- “I can do ALL things (at any age) through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phil 4:13)
- “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6)
- “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…” (Ps 92:14)
- “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Is 46:4)
And you know, speaking of the guys who first sang “When I’m Sixty-Four,” what are they doing, now that they’re WELL PAST 64?
This is an amazing perspective! It unnerves me. It disturbs me. It dares me to think.
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love each other. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother… We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
– 1 John 3:11-12, 14-15.
Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked…
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The last picture I reviewed was “Noah” – definitely not a family movie. I want to recommend two new films to you that are outstanding for your family. They support true Christian values: discipline, perseverance, faith that God wants the best for you. In fact, the Bible verse that I think spiritually undergirds both of these films is:
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
The first film is already playing in theaters as of this writing. “When the Game Stands Tall” tells the story of De La Salle High School in California and its coach Bob Ladouceur at the end of its record-breaking 151 game win streak spanning 1992 and 2003. Why should you see it? A great story about character. SPWA president Steve Bersch noted that the themes in the film transcend sports and cinema: “At its core, this is a timeless and universal story about character, hard work and love”. (from Wikipedia) Also, the football action is great, at the level of Friday Night Lights.
Check out the trailer below:
The second movie will open soon. It is called “The Identical.” And let’s get this out of the way: the story owes a lot to the “King of Rock and Roll.” The lead actor, Blake Rayne, definitely has the same style and look as Elvis Presley. The story is total fiction, but the point of the story is being true to the gifts and calling of God. Why see it? Besides the uplifting message, Ray Liotta is a must-see. This is probably the finest acting he has done. And thankfully, his portrayal of a hellfire and brimstone preacher goes beyond the typical Hollywood distortion and exudes honesty and passion for Christ.
Check out the trailer:
We need to reward brave Christian producers by supporting these films. Only if they are profitable will Hollywood continue to produce such. Will they win Academy Awards? Probably not. But they present excellent examples of Christian values. How many other films do that?