The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV)
One of the more encouraging passages of Scripture for those of us “of a certain age,” to paraphrase the poet Lord Byron (no relation, by the way … ha!), are the passages quoted above from Psalm 92. Jewish tradition holds that this Psalm is dedicated to the Shabbat, or the day of rest. Yet, like the elderly who honor the Lord, Shabbat is quiet and pensive while still full of vigor and substance.
Recently I visited with our A.C.T. Canada board chair, Rev. Dr. Warwick Cooper, to attend he and his wife’s 50th anniversary celebration. It was tremendous. There I met Warwick’s wife’s brother, Rev. Ray Delahaye, a “retired” SIM Missionary, now living near Biola University in La Mirada California.
I was trying to give him an overview of who we allow to come on staff with A.C.T. Canada and A.C.T. International, including the fact that we evaluate whether applicants are doing at least one of eight generic biblical ministry categories:
- Pastoral Care
- Leadership Training
- Community Engagement
- Church Planting
- Church Growth & Planting
Since I recently, in the context of these categories, have been addressing the issue of allowing older ministerial personnel to continue to raise support and receive legitimate reimbursements and compensation for their active ministry efforts, I thought it would be a good idea for everyone to know my feelings on this subject since it does relate to who we are and who we allow to come on staff.
I hold the conviction that experienced ministry servant-leaders need to be financially and organizationally facilitated to continue in ministry – especially if they truly do have a lifestyle of prayer and continued engagement with others. I actually and honestly don’t see people involved in one of the eight biblical ministry categories ever retiring, in the functional sense.
We may rearrange how our lives and livelihoods a bit, but we do not ever need to stop ministering. What we do need to do is to invest our wisdom, prayer, and guidance into the next generations, both intentionally and regularly. And I believe there should be ministry structures that allow seniors the accountability to let them receive support so they can continue in the work to which the Lord has called them.
As the nineteenth century Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister George Macdonald once said about aging, it’s “the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within.” May we all find our “fresh life,” regardless of our age, as we energetically continue to serve the Lord until He calls us home.