The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Many of the notable leaders we read about in Scripture share a common characteristic. Think about Moses, Joshua, the judges, the prophets, the kings, and the apostles. The work of some may have been cut short by conquest or martyrdom, but the fact remains they led as long as they were able. Many led until they died.
They may have slackened their pace with advancing age, but as near as I can discern, none of them ever retired. They stayed at their posts and carried on their work until circumstances prevented it or the Lord called them home.
Some might think we’re comparing apples to oranges, but it seems to me today’s Christian leaders should take a page from the playbook of these biblical stalwarts. There certainly comes a time when younger, more energetic leaders must move to the front and take the reigns. But even when they step down from their positions to make room for younger leaders, there is still plenty for older leaders to do.
Sadly, some older leaders simply drop out of the picture, spending their remaining years reveling in the solitude and rest that come once the day-to-day responsibilities of leadership have been passed on to others. But is that really what God wants?
It’s not a sin to slow down, to find a pace that works best in the golden years. Aging often brings with it certain physical limitations that cannot be ignored. And it’s not wrong to play more golf, or read more, or travel more than you have the last several decades.
But it’s unwise to stop leading entirely.
If you’re still in the workforce, it’s likely you’re saving money for your retirement years. You may participate in a 401K plan at work. You might be putting money into an Individual Retirement Account as you prepare for the future. If someone were to ask you, “Why are you taking your hard-earned money, money you can use today, and tucking it away like that?” you would probably answer, “So I’ll have it to spend during my retirement.” That would be wise.
But what if you stored up your money for decades only to reach your retirement years and refuse to spend any of it? That would be unwise—and purposeless.
A similar principle might be applied to older leaders. You’ve spent years growing in wisdom, building a set of leadership skills, and gaining life experience. Once these investments are at their peak, what will you do with them? Confine them to a golf course? Tow them behind a travel trailer? Or will you take the fruit of your life’s work and place it where others can reach it?
You don’t have to lead at the same pace you did years ago. You don’t have to assume all the responsibilities you shouldered then. But you can find young, promising leaders and invest yourself in their lives. You can take time between rounds of golf and trips to national parks to pass what you’ve learned to others who will use that knowledge and wisdom to build up the body of Christ.
That’s leadership for the long haul.