The New Longevity in the Ministry of Evangelical Leaders

Billy Graham preached his last sermon at the age of 95, and died at age 99. John Stott ended his public ministry at 86 and died at age 90. Carl F.H. Henry died at age 90 and stopped teaching at age 85. J.I. Packer died at age 93 and stopped writing at age 89. Vernon Grounds died at age 96 and stopped serving his seminary till right before he died. We often forget that between 1900 and 2010, life expectancy at birth in the United States rose by more than 30 years (from 47—79) with similar trends in other parts of the Europe. God has providentially added three decades to many of our lives. Because we are living longer this has impacted our work. The 40 year career is giving way to the 60 year career. We are retiring later. This change is sometimes referred to as “the Big Shift.” Many have not accounted for the new longevity in ministry. The common vision across professions is still—retire in your 60s. The US Census Bureau in its annual report still refers to those 65 and older in the workforce as “the elderly.” Social Security has not caught up with the trend either. It still refers to “normal” full retirement as age 65, though you can start at 62. Churches and Christian ministries often reflect this society-wide trend as well. Given this seismic shift, what are the implications for individuals in ministry, for churches, and for schools. In this paper I will look at some of the data, some of the implications for ministries, and some of the aforementioned individuals who have modeled long-distance ministry. This paper will end with practical suggestions for what could be “the 60 year career.” It will encourage listeners to plan better, serve longer and retire later, while at the same time, trusting God daily and living gratefully, knowing that each year is a year of grace.

3 thoughts on “The New Longevity in the Ministry of Evangelical Leaders”

Leave a Comment