I recently sat under the teaching ministry of Gordon MacDonald (GMAC), Chancellor, Denver Seminary, now proudly 73 years old. His question to District Superintendents was this: what’s required to produce leaders (or influencers) who can serve for a period of 50 years and grow deeper, stronger, wiser and more effective with each decade of life?
God has given we Americans the gift of time. Our life spans have been extended from 45 to almost 90. Through nutrition and good health care Americans can expect to live well into their 80s. GMAC said, “The best years in terms of leadership are in one’s 50s, 60s, 70s. So how do we develop a stamina that keeps us going?
For sure, it cannot happen out of “an empty soul.” Searching questions followed:
“What is the container that I must develop in myself for the Spirit of God to direct me to become a faithful influencer?” What are the spiritual resources for leaders? What prevents them from becoming dull, sullen, lukewarm bureaucrats…” You might be surprised by some of the answers GMAC gave:
- “Continuous conversion.” “There’s a sense that I get saved all over again, every day. Each decade of my life requires fresh new infusions of faith.” GMAC said he remarries his wife Gail every day.
- Freshened call/sense of mission. Sharpen your sense mission for this day. Lord do you have a new call to give a 65-year-old that gets him out of bed each day? “Spend the rest of your life talking to younger people like a father.” Young people are desperate to hear from people with grey or white hair out of their experience. Who will I get to be a father to today?
- Developing gifts and competencies. Will it be the same old, same old or sharpening your skills and gifts? How can I improve in the area of my expertise?
- Connecting gospel & culture. What does a Christian say to our world? How do we say gospel into this new generation? GMAC made a list of all the old men he knew. Most were in their late 60s or 70s. He decided he didn’t want to be like them. Then he saw some saints. They were thankful. They loved their wives. They were great men of prayer. They rejoiced in the success of younger people. He wanted to be like them.
- Possessing a serene realism. People who are a part of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) pray the “Serenity Prayer” every time they meet. Possessing serene realism is as simple as having the wisdom to accept the things I can change and the things I cannot change.
Dr. David F. Nixon
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