Growing older has many problems. Many of these are physical and there often isn't too much that you can do about them. However, another major problem of growing older is the use of your spiritual gifts and ministry opportunities. In my final decade of being a teacher and an administrator, I often sat in meetings where a couple of administrators would complain about older faculty members who they wished would retire and be replaced with young, new teachers. I often wondered if they were including me, but they would be quick to cover themselves and say that some of us experienced (sounds better than old) guys were still valuable. Now they were right about a few people who probably stayed too long, but not the majority of those older folks that I worked with. I always felt there was something very valuable about staff members who were seasoned and had a wisdom that only experience could bring. I did ask my boss once how one knew when it was time to retire. He said that I'd know when that time had come, and, a few years later, I did. Unfortunately, even in ministry there is a feeling that young and new is better. Seldom do we value experience, wisdom, and faithfulness. My father-in-law often said that when you get old, nobody wants you or needs you, anymore. I used to think that this was just an excuse, but now I am beginning to realize that there is more truth in that statement than I would like to believe. Certainly there is the danger of someone holding on to a position for too long, well past the point of effectiveness. I've seen that and I've seen unfortunate battles to replace such a person. But I've also seen effective leaders quit or be replaced when it appeared that they still had so much to give. Even effective leaders as they are growing old, still need support and encouragement to use their gifts and wisdom in the work of the Lord. This can be a dilemma which so often is just handled poorly by church leaders. I have experienced this problem personally in a variety of ways as I've been replaced or moved out of ministry positions. Once I even removed myself after remarks by some elected spiritual leaders whose wisdom I still question. I was wounded and it hurt. In another ministry situation, after I asked for some additional help in a leadership role, I was shocked to learn that I was to be replaced, without even any consultation or discussion. This appeared to be the easiest solution to those decision makers. In this particular case the Lord led me to resist this change which appeared to be based on the feelings of just a very few people. My decision was confirmed in my heart when I received three very unexpected communications, from three national Christian leaders, that I didn't even know. All three knew of my ministry situation and on their own decided to contact me, thank me, encourage me and urge me to continue. This unexpected confirmation was certainly a God-thing! Growing old in ministry should also mean growing mature. I do believe that Satan wants to rob the Christian Body of the strengths and wisdom of those who have served faithfully over the years. Faithfulness in ministry is a declining characteristic in today's Christian circles. We desperately need more models of faithfulness in serving the Lord. So let's be careful how we handle more mature brothers and sisters in the Lord. Let's value them, encourage them, and build upon their strengths. This is a resource that the church can't afford to waste. And to you fellow maturing, serving saints, don't give up, don't quit, keep serving with a renewed enthusiasm until the Lord takes you home. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.
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