By Chris Hefner
I recently had a chance to eat a meal with several older pastors. One of them has served in our area for more than half a century. He’s currently an interim pastor at a local church.
Another just finished up a pastorate and is willing to preach in supply as often as possible. Another is retired.
Listening to them reminisce was encouraging.
We knew some of the same pastors who have already gone on to heaven. They shared stories and memories of meetings and churches.
It was obvious we were all in ministry. Our meal preceded a revival meeting we were attending, so we were in dress clothes and neckties.
These pastors haven’t led mega-churches. They’re not authors. They’ve not been invited to preach major conferences. They’re not trendy. Their era of ministry consisted of single-staff churches.
But what stood out to me wasn’t the contemporary elements of ministry they lacked. Nor did it stand out they weren’t famous or vastly influential.
What stood out is they were faithful.
They’re flawed, imperfect men with imperfect ministries. But they’ve been faithful. They’re still serving the Lord using what time they have left to bless people and preach the gospel.
In an era where social media obsesses over ministers who fall or leave the faith, I want to become an older pastor. I desire to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
So, how do we remain faithful? How do we become older pastors who are still serving the Lord? What follows are five practices and prayers that can help us remain faithful.
1. Submit to the Word you preach.
Because we communicate God’s Word regularly, it’s easy to preach beyond our practice. Whether it’s devotional or in sermon and teaching preparation, we need to regularly submit to the convicting influence of God’s Word.
We’re in danger when our interaction with the Word is merely for communication.
Prayer: Father, teach me, convict me, and mold me from your Word today.
2. Pursue knowing God as much as knowing about God.
In the book, Theology, Church, and Ministry, Sarah Sumner writes, “Right knowledge is both relational and intellectual.” While we must study, read, learn, and develop our knowledge of God’s Word, theology, and its contact with culture, we must never neglect our responsibility to know God.
The Hebrew worldview rightly positions knowledge as primarily relational—not merely knowing about God, but knowing God.
Have your ministry responsibilities led you to know God more deeply?
Prayer: Father, knowing You is the most meaningful knowledge I can have. Reveal Yourself to me so that I may know you today.
3. Be attentive to your most significant platforms, not merely your most extensive ones.
It’s easy to get caught up in the immediate gratification of retweets, likes, and shares. It’s easy to bask in the compliments of your congregation and followers from afar.
It can be a good thing when God extends your influence. But never forget the greatest levels of influence you have are for those who know you best.
If you fail with your family and those you know well, it doesn’t matter how much others think of you.
Prayer: Father, help me keep my priorities straight. Empower me to disciple my family and be faithful in my home.
4. Remain teachable.
While you may or may not have completed your formal education, continue to learn. While it may be trite, the proverbial statement is true: “Leaders must be readers.”
Remaining teachable will help you stay humble. Remaining teachable will keep your preaching fresh and useful. Read often and broadly.
If you can’t make the time to read, listen to audiobooks during commutes or workouts.
Prayer: Father, make me ever teachable.
5. Have accountability.
We should also have accountability. Having an accountability partner is not a guarantee we won’t fail, but a good accountability partner can provide spiritual protection.
In the last several years, my wife, discipleship group, and my accountability partner have helped address sins in my life and helped me grow in my faith.
God used them to protect my family and ministry.
Prayer: Father, would You provide friends and accountability partners who will be honest with me?
None of these practices are guarantees any of us will remain in ministry. But becoming spiritually apathetic or prideful (the opposite of these practices) is a near guarantee our ministries won’t finish faithfully.
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.