Last week, I asked 1500 pastors and leaders who attended our Ascent and Enter conferences to make a list of leaders from local churches or ministries who were at least 60 years old, still had passion for Jesus, loved their spouses and had raised children who also followed Jesus. Most of us had a short list. Instead, many of us knew many leaders who had fallen away because of moral failures or complete burnout.
My heart breaks for my fellow leaders who have fallen and I am not pointing out their failures so they have to revisit their shame. I believe in the power of the Gospel to restore and redeem all of broken humanity, including fallen leaders of churches. The church is still learning how to restore those who have fallen, and the fallen leaders are still learning how to submit to imperfect churches. For sure, both the fallen and the leaders who have not still have a lot to learn.
Why can’t we make the list before turning 60? I like this age because most people over 60 have become empty nesters and their entire body of work can begin to be evaluated. Do their kids still love the local church or have they become irreparable cynics because of what they have seen at home with their own parents or what they have witnessed behind the scenes of the local church?
At 60, any fissures in the leader’s marriage have already been exposed. Did the leaders have an affair with their work as ministers or did they choose to love their spouse the way Christ loves His bride? Does the spouse still love the ministry or do they have deep resentment for what ministry stole from their marriage?
At 60, if a leader has neglected their private relationship with Christ, it is or soon will be evident to the public. Has the leader simply read the Bible to prepare for the next talk or is the leader still fascinated by the mysteries of Scripture and finds life from the Holy Spirit when it is read?
At 60, a leader either loves people more than ever or has found ways to completely blockade himself from any real relationships with those whom he is assigned to shepherd. The idea of meeting with people, performing a wedding for a young couple or speaking at the funeral of a dear, departed saint is either an ever growing passion or a necessary evil.
So, in 18 years, when I turn 60, I will write another blog to answer these questions for myself. I hope to make your list if someone asks you the question I asked last week. I am grateful I don’t have to do this with my own strength because I am certain I would miss the mark. I am thankful for Scripture, for the Holy Spirit, for my best friend, Pam, and for a circle of trusted friends who are cheering me toward the finish line.