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The Balance of Experience and Relevance: A Call to Pastors

The journey of pastoral ministry is multifaceted. We are called to provide and produce spirituality in our congregations. As we gain experience in our calling, we lean more on our experience, which is undeniably valuable. However, over-relying on our experience can diminish the potential that God wants to do in us and cloud our vision. We often ignore staying relevant because we trust in our experience.  

Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may be every possible means, save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). This text reminds us of the need to adapt without compromising our message. Paul had an effective ministry because he was relevant to different groups. 

Research tells us that our productivity decreases with age, but not necessarily due to diminished creativity or cognitive decline[1].

Instead, it is because we are less likely to explore new ideas and take risks. Often, composers write their best scores before 50, scientists write their breakthrough papers in their 30s, and designers and painters produce their most treasured works in their 20s. In our technological world, many innovative companies are founded by entrepreneurs under 30[2].  

The life of King Solomon offers us a parallel. In his youth, Solomon pursued wisdom and built the temple. But in his later years, distracted by wealth, foreign alliances and personal commitments, his heart was led astray, forgetting the zeal and focus of his youth (1 Kings 11:4). 

As pastors, likewise, we mustn’t become complacent in the accumulated wisdom gained from our past victories and experiences. It’s tempting to think becoming a seasoned pastor gives us sufficient answers. Yet, inadvertently, we may neglect fresh opportunities God gives us for innovative approaches to the ministry He has called us to. 

As we age, we acquire more responsibilities through marriage, children and providing stability for the family; we become more averse to risk-taking. Yet, God can help us match the productivity of our earlier years in our later ones. We can continue to be influential leaders of our churches and communities through discipline, collaboration and remaining open to new opportunities, challenges and technological advancements. 

Caleb wanted to take the promised land when he was 45; it was a big risk. Yet Israel’s lack of belief did not allow him the opportunity.

Forty years later, at 85, Caleb doesn’t let time deter him; his years of experience have enriched his boldness. He didn’t rest on his past victories; he continued to eye new horizons in faithfulness to God. 

Pastor, remind yourself of the importance of continually growing and adapting. Our experiences are invaluable but cannot overshadow the importance of staying current. The willingness to act will be the different-maker; the choice is yours. 


[1] Bonsang, E. D. M., & Dohmen, T. J. (2012). Cognitive ageing and risk attitude. Netspar.
Netspar Discussion Paper No. DP 01/2012-004 

[2] The challenge for aging leaders and thinkers. Admired Leadership. (2023, September 21).