Jump Start # 3460
Philemon 9 “yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you– since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”
In the political arena, as things start gearing up for the presidential election next year, there is a lot of talk and discussion about whether or not President Joe Biden should run for reelection. It’s not his age, but his cognitive reasoning and strength that has many wondering if he is up to the task.
Now Jump Starts do not delve into politics. That’s not our purpose nor our place. But what many are asking brings up a great question about those who function as leaders in the church. Aged shepherds and preachers are something that is not given much thought. The role of shepherds is often viewed like a Supreme Court Judge, one serves until he dies.
Let’s take a short walk down this road and give this some thought:
First, with age comes the blessing of mountains of knowledge, experience and wisdom. To have served the people of God for multiple decades also means that person has see about everything imaginable. There have been building expansions, the hiring of preachers, the appointment of other shepherds, the death of members, the growth of little ones until they are now big and are adding to the kingdom. Such experience doesn’t come from books, but from life. A long, long journey with the Lord, through valleys and mountain tops, tears and joy, hardships and happiness, brings a wealth of knowing how to help people. That is a blessing of age. Such experience is a rich blessing to any congregation.
Second, among preachers, many have not done well financially and late in life they must continue to preach because they need the money. This presents a real difficulty for all around. If the preacher is starting to slip mentally, and is making mistakes continually he ought to step down. His family ought to be the first to pull the plug and have that discussion with him. But if finances are the issue, a real problem is at hand. The church may not be in the position to pay his retirement along side of hiring a new preacher. And, if the aged preacher doesn’t want to step down, things become dicey and even ugly. The ole’ saying in sports is to go on when you are on the top. Many athletes hang on too long and their final few years of playing are not good. They hurt the team and they hurt their image. That is a call that the shepherds have to discuss. Is the aged preacher hurting the church? Are people leaving because of him? One would hate to fire someone who has given his life to preaching, but the good of all must be considered.
Third, proper steps can be taken to prevent such a sad situation as we have painted. Shepherds need to have discussions with their preachers about finances, investments, retirement. A man in his 30’s or 40’s needs to be putting in place the right steps that will keep him from being a burden, either in the pulpit or to the church financially. By the time a preacher is in his 50’s, he ought to be well on his way in saving and investing. Caring for the preacher involves much more than paying him each week. It’s looking after him and helping him make the right choices. Some do not understand finances and investing. So have no interest in those things, yet, to ignore these early steps can result in someone like Joe Biden trying to preach every Sunday. Weak in voice and thought, tiring easily, not able to keep up with things, quickly becomes a burden rather than a blessing to a church.
There has been a shift in how long preachers stay with a congregation. There was a time when about every four years preachers moved. But now, preachers are staying decades. That’s a win-win for both the preacher and the church. Trust, credibility and commitment are established and good things can happen. But with this shift in length of staying, there hasn’t been much of a shift in how preachers are paid.
A man ought to preach or lead the people of God because he wants to, is capable and is effective. Having to do it because he’s broke or having to do it because he can’t take his fingers off of things are not healthy attitudes to have.
In our verse today, Paul recognized himself as being aged. Apostles didn’t retire. Most died in their prime because they were killed. Preachers and shepherds are not apostles. There comes a time for a person to step down simply because he cannot do the job any more. Yet, there are many other things that he can do and many ways a congregation can use his wisdom and experience to help them.
Having good conversations about topics such as this is healthy and it can lead to good developments along the way.