After nearly twenty-seven years as a senior pastor, at 58, I’m about to take on what I hope will be my fourth and final church. By the grace of God I’ve made it this far and with His help I plan to finish strong.
Based on street smarts, accumulated wisdom, and the Spirit’s guidance, here are nineteen matters I will give special attention to as I head into the home stretch.
- Shed Saul’s Armor (1 Samuel 17:39). Rather than fretting over another church’s success and trying to emulate someone else’s style, I’m going to try harder to be what God called and equipped me to do.
- Build Margin into My Schedule (Psalms 46:10). As a younger minister, I felt validated by staying as busy as possible. In the years that remain, I’m going to maintain as much “white space” as possible, ready and anticipating needed refueling time and spontaneous ministry opportunities.
- Find a New Hobby (Ecclesiastes 9:10). I don’t want to be one of those people who sit spend retirement drinking coffee at McDonalds all morning and watching Fox news the rest of the day. I need to hone a craft, develop and skill, learn to play an instrument, etc. while I’m still working.
- Keep in Shape (1 Corinthians 6:19). I used to run—now I walk. And I plan to continue to do so as much as my body and time will allow. This is not only good for physical conditioning, but mental health as well. I might even kill three birds with one stone by listening to books, sermons, and music on my phone.
- Continue Punching the Keyboard (Habakkuk 2:2). In addition to eleven books, I’ve written a slew of blogs and articles in recent years. I plan to continue, hoping that new doors and opportunities open up.
- Stay Relevant (Proverbs 29:18). I refuse to be the flip phone guy in a smart phone world. Whereas, I may not trade in my pleated pants for skinny jeans, I do plan on staying as current as possible in this ever changing world.
- Change “Have To’s” to “Get To’s” (Colossians 3:23). Rather than say, “I have to go to the hospital, attend a finance committee meeting, or visit my mother in-law over the holidays,” I want to begin saying, “I get to.”
- Speak Positively (Colossians 4:6). I want to spend the rest of my life in full awareness that the Lord hears and records every single word I say. Suppressing the flesh, I want to take the verbal high road, both privately and publicly.
- Let Go and Let God (Zechariah 4:6). I don’t intend to waste valuable energy trying to pound square pegs into round holes. Instead of aggressively trying to “make it happen,” I plan to faithfully “let it happen” through the Holy Spirit.
- Be Sweet (Ephesians 4:32). I refuse to become the stereotypical, grumpy, old man in my remaining days. I love it when I run across older men who exude graciousness and kindness. I want to join their tribe.
- Stop Judging (Luke 6:37). I’m weary of doubting, scrutinizing, and over analyzing people. I understand the need for shrewdness and discernment, yet I’d much rather put an exclamation point than a question mark after someone’s name.
- Focus on the Family (Ephesians 6:4). No grandchildren yet, but my two girls are married. My wife and I plan to make the most of moving closer to them, as well as traveling when we can.
- Experience Joy (Nehemiah 8:10). Since Satan can’t seize our salvation, he’ll do anything he can to steal our joy. More than ever, “may the joy of the Lord be my strength.” Christians should be the happiest people on earth.
- Dig Deeper in the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). I have spent too much time in the present, riding on the back of past study. Oh, how I long for those days when I would spend hours at a time immersed and engrossed in Scripture!
- Empower the Laity (Ephesians 2:10). Too many people in ministry are getting paid for what volunteers can do. We rob lay people of blessings when we do their jobs for them.
- Remember the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8). If God “rested” on the seventh day, then I certainly should. I’ve spent too many seventh days doing what I did the other six. I want to fully understand, fervently teach, and faithfully fulfill what it means to keep the Sabbath.
- Evangelize Intentionally (Proverbs 11:30). I submit that few people get saved without someone initiating a contact and engaging in a conversation. I’m going to pray for the burden and be on the lookout for those God places in my path.
- Please God First (Proverbs 29:25). Whether it’s to maintain peace or preserve our jobs, most preachers tend to place more emphasis on pleasing man than God. I will earnestly seek to reverse this tendency as I write the final chapters of my ministry on earth.
- Love Above All Else (1 Corinthians 13:13). God is love. We must love one another as He loves us. Love covers a multitude of sins. May love define my years that remain.
I truly believe my best years are ahead and not behind me. This time of transition has rattled my cage and caused me to give careful consideration to how I can end up in the winner’s circle, not only in the life to come, but in this one as well!