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July 22, 2016 / Pastor George Fike

When I’m Sixty-Four…


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?

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One Comment

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  1. Mike Woody / Aug 30 2017 11:18 AM

    George, it has been a long time since those occasions we spent time together in the days at Kirby. Many of us from that time became pastors and now we are being retired. As it worked out I spent my last 40 years being bivocational. This was wonderful – but, it means I got retired twice. My secular job “went a different direction” and replaced me with a much younger person. Churches really need your help, but we need to reach out to the young who are not coming to church so we need a a young, energetic pastor. So much for experience.

    God used me over the last several decades as a pastor to pastors. Pastors can seldom have confidants in their church or denomination without it blowing up in their face. Time and time again I found myself walking with these wounded warriors. More and more often I found myself walking with those pastors who committed a sin that cost them immediate dismissal without ever trying to restore the pastor to a useful position in the ministry. Now the biggest issue I am dealing with is “being” retired. Younger pastors don’t want to spend time with an old fellow like me, so I spend my time with 50+ (mostly 60+) pastors who are not ‘out to pasture’ ready.

    One question I always ask a pastor dealing with dismissal is this, “Did God call you into the ministry.” Every time I have heard the “yes” answer. The follow up question is, “Has God called you out of the ministry?” If “no” then figure out where that open door is.

    If your previous pastorate and all the open lead pastors positions are looking for a younger person, then go where maturity is needed. Large churches have ministers for their seniors. Smaller churches can’t afford a senior pastor, but multiple churches working together can. Make it happen.

    Start a church. Every church is looking for a younger pastor to reach out to younger people. Where do the mature go? Are they stuck with having to attend ‘younger’ churches, or traditional churches, or dying churches. No! Start a church just like the younger churches. Use social media, in church media, have stages instead of pulpits and play modern songs mixed with hymns. Mature adults need Jesus too!

    We started a church five years ago in a theater in Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia. Several months ago we moved to a store front in Ringgold, Georgia (just down the road). Currently we run about 300 with being over 500 last Easter. We started with 25 people, a pastor fired for a sinful action (at the time in his 50’s, now in 60’s and the sin repented and worked through) and me, a bivocational pastor in his 60’s. For some reason we targeted millennials. Last Sunday I did a non-scientific survey (me looking at everyone in the service) and estimated 60% of our attendees were over 50 years old. We do have probably 30% under 40 with kids. We have a man, in his early 30’s, who shares preaching and leads music along with a 60 yr old who also leads music (ex-Nashville musician until he got too old) Music is contemporary and we have a lot of great musicians who rotate as our band.

    All of this to say, neither sin, or age, nor mixture of age, or music style or anything else can stop God’s calling. God has not called any of us “out of the ministry”. He may just change the job description.

    Find the place God is calling you to. He has made you mature for a reason and I do not see it as a time to talk about old times, operation scars and complaining about young people. If nothing is ‘open’ then create something. Everyone needs Jesus, even the old. They will get ignored by family and churches soon enough. Give them (us) attention now.

    There is so much value left in you. Find where it is needed!

    Old friend and current friend,
    Mike Woody
    770-354-2858

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