Have you ever heard the term-respect your elders? “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:32). Did you notice the motivation in respect of godly elders in that verse-the fear of God? God takes very seriously how we treat our elders and will punish those who do not respect them. We are to see them greatly honored and blessed by God because of the length of their life and the experience and wisdom which they have acquired. That is what the Bible teaches. That is God’s design for leadership in the church. Even outside of the church people realize the value of older workers.
Companies see the benefits of hiring older workers. They statistically exert a detail oriented, higher quality work. They are focused, punctual, organized, less rattled with problems and have pride in a job well done. They know how to train other workers and communicate better than those younger than them.
Surprised? I am not.
I wrote this article after hearing a leader in a certain denomination say that they want younger men to pastor because older men are set in their ways. That is so disrespectful and unwise! For example, Moses was eighty years old when he started leading Israel and pastored them for 40 years! Caleb was 85 years old when he began to venture out in battle to take his inheritance. I think if I had the choice I would love to be young again, but not to be inexperienced again. It is my conviction that the middle-aged man is the best candidate for being the Lead or Senior Pastor of a church today. In a day when men are being dishonored or demeaned, needless the offensive manner in which seasoned citizens are being treated by society this is when a minister is at his best. In fact, it should be the biblical model for us to follow. The New Testament uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably. It refers to an older, seasoned Christian who presides over a church as a pastor. No wonder the church has more and more issues because of the sophomoric mistakes of younger preachers who are getting job experience in pulpits that in which seminary could never prepare them. Responsiblity is learned through experience.
In the past few decades, men and women have been entering the ministry at older ages. Most had another career before going to seminary, and by the time they settled into the role of minister they tended to be middle-aged. In a recent study, the median age of senior or solo Protestant pastors was 51. The median age of senior or solo black pastors was 53.
A church would have a great advantage having the Senior pastor training and mentoring younger ministers, who assist him in his ministry and church work. By doing this they gain training. But the bottom line (with some few exceptions) the man leading the church should be no younger than thirty-five years old which would give him at least 20 years experience in ministry training. Some of you whippersnappers are rolling your eyes. But I am telling you that churches that look for younger pastors are setting themselves up for the many mistakes of inexperience and youth. Now people will tell me that Paul told Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth” (1 Tim. 4:12). But he was at least 35 years old, maybe forty when he pastored Ephesus (Pulpit Commentary). We also have to take life expectancy of the times in view-but I think wisdom and experience trump youth and idealism any day of the week.
The Bible teaches older men should lead the church. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders…” (see 1 Peter 5:1-14). I cannot say it any clearer churches today should desire that their leaders be elders-those who have acquired wisdom with age.
In this day when we have so many still droning on about the Paul-Timothy relationship it seems we have the Timothy’s trying to tell the Paul’s that they are old schooled albatrosses because the elder reflects the sound doctrine of the Bible from past years while many younger men pant like teenagers with their hormones out of control for new ways of doing things. I am so taken back by the stupid wet behind the ears attitude of men who say the methods have to change but the message stays the same. The message is the cross, the method is preaching. If these young fools would actually read their Bible they would see that their worldview is ridiculous and silly.
I know many ministers feel useless in the fifty and above crowd. But this is just the devil. God wants to bless others through your life and do not forget it, Your time will come. You stay in the Word and prayer and walk with the Lord and you will grow in wisdom and be a blessing to many of those in need of a fatherly person who can help them grow in Christ.
© 2017 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney