Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “contribution”

Age and Contribution

“Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ houses and by their clans. From thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, all who can come to do duty, to do service in the tent of meeting. …  All the service of the sons of the Gershonites shall be at the command of Aaron and his sons, in all that they are to carry and in all that they have to do. And you shall assign to their charge all that they are to carry.”   Numbers 4:23-24; 27  ESV

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”   Number 8:23-26  ESV

The Lord set age boundaries when serving.  During the forty years in the desert after the Exodus, those who carried the parts of the Tabernacle we to be from 30 to 50 years of age.  Physical strength was necessary and maturity to handle these pieces carefully were requirements and thus, thirty years old was the minimum age allowed.  The rest of the Levites who were to serve in the Tabernacle, could begin as early as 25 years of age.

Whether serving in the Tabernacle or carrying it through the desert, both tasks were age limited to 50 years old.  Upon reaching that age, Levites were to “withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more.”  The older Levites moved from direct ministry in the Tabernacle to an indirect role of serving others by ‘keeping guard.’

It would seem that a pattern of ministry is that direct ministry is primarily a young person’s responsibility.  But with increasing age and experience, older servants move into more indirect roles, thus making room for younger leaders to emerge.  Note that the older Levites did not ‘retire,’ they just assumed less intense ministry roles.

These guidelines for Levitical service in the Tabernacle should cause us to pause and think carefully about our own ministry contributions and those whom we lead.  Are you thinking about your succession plan?  Are you looking to transition into a more indirect role of service?

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.    Lamentations 3:27  ESV

Contribution and Old Age

The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.                               Numbers 8:23-26

The new U.S. President is 70 years old.  His election opponent was 69.  The average age for the new cabinet candidates is 64.  Why the large number of older leaders?  Is it because their generation, the Baby Boomers, tends to vote more frequently and out-number the Millennials?  Is it that those who are older are clinging to power and reluctant to give it over to the next generation?

From the passage above in Numbers we see that those who served in the Tabernacle, the Levites, were conscripted to serve from age 25 to 50.  At the age of 50 they were released from their regular duty, but were to still be available for helping those in active service.  Many believe that this restriction was due to the heavy physical demands of the role – setting up, tearing down, and transporting the Tabernacle and all its accompanying accessories across the desert.  Regardless, it is interesting to note that the Lord Himself set age limits for this service.

We can also observe that Moses was 80 when God appeared to him and called him into service.  He served as the leader of Israel for 40 more years until his death at 120.  Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul served into his sixties and that the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in his nineties.

Certainly these examples are descriptive rather than prescriptive for us.  But we must be cautious that as we focus on next generation leadership, we don’t automatically dismiss the contribution of those who are older.  While it is wise and strategic to intentionally focus on a transition to younger leaders, we must not develop a corresponding prejudice against those who are older.  Youth has its advantages, but so does age and experience.

Just because someone is younger does not mean that they are wise.  But neither does having gray hair (or no hair) mean that someone is better qualified to lead.  Discernment is needed to determine best fit and contribution, regardless of age.  Better health care and nutrition means that what is “old” is an escalating age range.

Wise leadership will not automatically default to the younger or those who are older by assuming one is better than another.  Good leaders are discerning on who is best qualified to lead and trust that the Lord will anoint them for their responsibility.

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