I offered 10 pointers to young preachers without being old enough to be a sage. There will certainly be better advice out there, but I am going to take the risk of offering some thoughts to older preachers before I fully arrive in that category:
1. Keep getting to know God. You may know more than others, but you never know God enough. Keep your life ambition to really know and love Him, and the impact of your life and ministry will keep growing!
2. Doggedly maintain a teachable spirit. This will allow you to keep teaching others. If you stop learning and growing we can tell, but we can’t tell you.
3. Never trade a goal of gospel transformation for behavioral conformity. As energy for leadership and ministry wane, so pushing for conformity in others will become more attractive. Hold out the gospel always!
4. Embrace the transition from king to sage. Too many leaders have undone their good work by resisting this transition and clinging to power. As we age, “strategic ministry” shifts from a position and office to an attitude and role. We need sages freed from leadership responsibilities, who have a fresh passion for the gospel and enthusiasm for the next generation of leaders!
5. Become a champion, not a liability. You have seen older folks become crotchety/awkward/negative and others age with dignity/delight/enthusiasm. You already know what I’m asking.
6. Always be a Bible person, not an issue person. It is tempting to let issues define your ministry, and these will shift over the years. Instead of heralding a personal pet peeve, keep growing an infectious passion for the Bible.
7. Please stay humble. Even with all your experience and insight, God still doesn’t need you. But He really loves you. The kingdom of self is ugly at any age. Those of us who are younger need the humble you. Your experience and insight, salted with humility, is priceless to us.
8. Don’t try to be cool, but do stay up-to-date. This applies both to wider culture and to theological content. The greatest examples of older preachers have always been refreshingly aware, rather than defensively resistant, to a changing context.
9. Discriminate feedback. People will praise any public speaker. Just as people automatically encourage a young preacher, so the polite thing to do is thank an older preacher. Don’t maintain a ministry on a diet of ambiguous politeness. Get genuine and honest feedback.
10. Past ministry glories don’t shine from your face, but a close walk with Jesus does. There are lots of older preachers feeling frustrated as their energy and opportunities for ministry fade. The few who love Jesus more than ever are one of God’s greatest gifts to the church.
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