As I have recently observed my 79th birthday and entered my 80th year, several verses from the Psalms have become especially meaningful to me.
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.” Psalm 71:9
“Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” Psalm 71:18
“They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Psalm 92:14,15
I am absolutely confident that the Lord God has not cast me aside in terms of my salvation and my eternal destiny. Neither have I fully retired, and never expect to, this side of Heaven. I do minister in a more relaxed and restful manner now that I am a senior saint, at least in the eyes of most of the church.
During my 79th year, my wife, Anne, and I ministered for 49 days in Israel and another 40 days in Montana. These were among our most fruitful ministry experiences as we ministered encouragement to God’s ministering servants. We move a little slower, do a little less, but the light of ministry has not gone off in our lives.
We are members of a church where we are honored and appreciated. Occasionally we are given opportunities for public ministry, but these have become fewer and fewer. The church we attend does have a monthly gathering of “senior saints,” but we are not able to participate because of a conflict with the weekly radio program we do on Tuesdays.
With all humility I say that Anne and I are capable and willing to do much more than we are called on by our church, and also other local churches. We have visited with hundreds of ministers, pastors, and priests across the nation as Ambassadors of Encouragement with PastorCare and CSR Ministries (Caring, Serving, Refreshing). Many of these are ministering servants whom many would say are “past their prime” but they are certainly willing and capable of being used by Christ in His Church. Our ministry has also brought us in touch with hundred of “retired ministers,” who in most cases are able to be of continued use to Christ and His Church. Many of them were forced, or at least encouraged, to retire – and many of them would welcome the opportunity for continued involvement in Kingdom business.
Several years ago, CSR hosted a breakfast meeting of retired ministers in the Shoals. In putting together this event we learned that there were more than 100 retired ministers and pastors living in the Shoals. We had around twenty-five who showed up for our breakfast gathering. We started the meeting by having those present introduce themselves and briefly share whatever was on their hearts. All of those present were eager to share, and especially to have someone listen. The ministers and their spouses were very thankful to have an opportunity to share. This gathering underlined the reality that there are thousands of retired or semi-retired servants of God who are now ready to be shelved.
On another occasion, we hosted a pastor’s breakfast in a nearby city, and I invited five retired ministers from the Shoals go to the breakfast with me and share “how they had weathered the storms of ministry.” The pastors present were amazed by what these experienced ministers shared. No one preached, but each of the five shared from their rich experiences. It was a wonderful event. I remember one of the retired pastors said as we were driving home, “I could be a Minister of Encouragement among the pastors in my denomination.” Yea, God!
I know of no church that fully taps the wisdom and experience of retired ministers in their midst. On a personal note, my wife and I have been in full-time ministry for 57 years, ministering in over thirty-five countries of the world, including many states and cities in the United States. It would seem that we would have much to give in any church – wisdom and experiences to share, including mistakes we have made. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.
Pray with us that the church will become more aware and activate the resources, including God’s ministering servants in their midst. We are available in most cases, but just not called upon. The church across the world has many men and women sitting week after week in their services that could be of great use in the furtherance of God’s kingdom.