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Not a Problem

March 9, 2017

One out of every seven Senior Pastors in America is under 40 years old. The average age of the lead pastor is 54 years old ten years older than the average in the early nineties. These and similar statistics were presented by the Barna Group in a recent State of the Church conference. Barna Group president David Kinnaman declared the age of pastors is “one of the most glaring challenges facing the church today.” He also said, “There are now more pastors in the United States who are over the age of 65 than under the age of 40. This is a huge issue.”

What? Since when is age a liability in ministry? To be fair, Barna expresses concern that fewer men are entering the ministry and that older pastors may not be training younger men for leadership. The failure to replace men who are stepping out of ministry is a legitimate area of concern. The successful accumulation of a few score of years should not be.

The Barna Group seems to be operating under the assumption that younger men are better pastors. Older men should retire, enjoy a more relaxed ministry pace and make room for the younger guys to lead the church into the future. The prevailing attitude in the church marketing movement sees the pastor as a visionary leader able to innovate, to take risks and to remain relevant in the community. A man not able to keep up with the ever changing times is going to be limited in his ability to attract the unsaved into the church. A man unwilling to evolve will hold a church back from reaching its full potential. The older pastor should get out of the way to make room for the younger.

In the New Testament three passages define the qualities a pastor must possess. Three books of the New Testament were written to ministers instructing them how to lead the church. The book of Acts and many of the epistles offer multiple glimpses into what the pastor’s life and ministry should look like. Never is youth defined as a necessity for pastoral ministry. Never is youth described as a preference for pastoral ministry. Youth does not disqualify from the pastorate, but age and experience receive the praise of Scripture.

The Scriptural duties of a pastor do not include vision casting, jamming out with the church rock band, sliding across the sanctuary on a zip line or looking awesome in a pair of skinny jeans. What Biblical responsibility can not be accomplished by a pastor in his sixties? The New Testament does not expect a pastor to innovate and take risks in ministry. The only risks pastors are called take are the risks to livelihood, comfort, health and life that may be suffered for Christ’s sake.

The Bible calls the pastor an elder. Though the term is used in a titular, instead of chronological, sense, the obvious implication is a pastor is a man of experience. Abundance of age is not a drawback for the pastor. So what if he is not as active as he was twenty years ago. If he is wiser, more knowledgable in the Word, more devoted to prayer and walking closer with God then the wealth of spiritual insight held by an older pastor is priceless. Any physical limitations an older man may suffer will be more than offset by the wisdom and grace that only comes through decades of faithful ministry.

The church of God must not fall prey to the modern infatuation with youth. Youth is not better because it is newer. Thank God for older, Godly pastors. The benefit of hard earned wisdom and a long time walking with God is far more beneficial to the church than the ability to play football with the teenagers.

If you are a pastor in the Baby Boomer generation and physically able to do the work of the ministry please don’t go anywhere. The church today does not need innovation and risk. The church needs Godly examples of love, faithfulness, wisdom and holiness. Please train faithful men. Train a successor. Please do not let the young guys who think newer is better convince you that for the good of the ministry you should retire. If you are preaching the Word, shepherding your church, praying and growing then do not feel obligated to replace an elder elder with a younger elder.


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