I saw an old pastor friend recently. I don’t know exactly when you should start calling a pastor “old” but he was well past his 80th birthday, so I guess he qualifies. He retired from the full-time pastorate some years ago due to health but remains busy as an interim pastor and preaches frequently in those in between times. And he is doing great work for the kingdom.
I want to suggest that our old pastors have great value for our generation. And, I suggest that our younger pastors would do well to get to know, love and appreciate some older pastors–before they get there themselves!
Here are some reasons young ministers- and the church as a whole- should value our older ministers and use them as their energy and health allow.
They know some things. Experience is a good teacher and older ministers have experience. They probably have read the bible many times. They have heard lots of sermons. They’ve undoubtedly thought about theology and methodology and many other “ologies”. They have experienced highs and lows and know something about ministry landmines.
Many older pastors are still studying and reading and learning as much as ever. In fact, if you are a younger pastor, I want to suggest that they may know some things that you don’t yet. (I was too much of a know-it-all as a younger pastor and I’m afraid I’m not alone.) And, perhaps, you might learn some things from them that will benefit you for the rest of your ministry. Wouldn’t you like that?
They have been faithful. You don’t get to be an old pastor unless there was at least some level of faithfulness in your young pastor days. There is something to be said for the guy who stayed at the plow when the days got hot and the mules got ornery! That kind of guy can encourage us and help us. That kind of guy can help the young pastor overcome the discouragement that comes to all at some point in ministry. That kind of guy can help struggling church get on target again and refocus on the main thing.
Faithfulness is not the only part of ministry. God wants us to be fruitful, to be willing to sacrifice, to communicate a vision and more. But faithfulness is indispensable. In a time when so many ministers have fallen in one ditch or another, we ought to appreciate those who have stayed faithful and true and have persevered for the cause of Christ.
They set an example. A Little Leaguer can learn from teammates, but it isn’t all bad to see how the older boys do it sometimes. Young ministers can certainly learn from their contemporaries but shouldn’t leave out the example set by the most senior man in the association. Even if there are differences in methodology, the older man may well set an example of moral behavior and ministry service that will greatly benefit the younger man.
If your role models are only others like you, you will tend to stay the same. But, if you want a long and productive ministry, perhaps someone who has done that can serve as an example. Their knowledge can become your knowledge. Their faithfulness can become your faithfulness. And they can serve as an example of what you want to become. And many newer Christians have never really known what a long time, growing and maturing Christian looks like. They should.
Proverbs 19:20 says it well. “Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life.”
Younger pastor, if you want to “be wise later in life” you could benefit from the counsel and instruction of an older pastor. Go find some old pastor (and don’t tell him I told you to call him old!), offer to buy him some coffee, pick his brain and listen more than you talk. You might just make a new friend and learn some new lessons. I’ll bet when you are an old pastor you will be glad you did!