“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Today Mark Alexander is retiring after many years as a Special Agent for the FBI. He and Kimberly are not pursuing the typical American retirement gig. He’s not doubling down on the skills he has built up over a successful career to make more money as a government contractor. He and Kimberly are not planning to check out on a permanent vacation for the next 20 years. They are not following a path they planned to be on even five years ago. When Mark retires this week, he and Kimberly will be using their retirement to minister to our youth. They are the only people I know over the age of fifty that are devoting their lives to seeing the next generation come to salvation in Jesus Christ.
Mark and Kimberly raised their hands to lead youth ministry at Redeemer when Redeemer was only a hope in our hearts. They turned down the chance to be moved by the bureau to their favorite place, Charleston, SC, where they had always planned to retire. They choose to remain here with the hope of seeing Jesus bring young people to Himself one at a time. It was after that intentional act of obedient sacrifice that the youth ministry at Redeemer began to dramatically expand. There is always a price to pay for following Jesus. There are always very real ways that we must die to ourselves and give up our plans for the plans Jesus has for us. If we let the Lord direct our steps, He will take us to places not valued by the world, but places of joy, hope, and of eternal value.
We have many adults in our church that have decided to take seminary classes on nights and weekends out of a passion to know more about the Bible and the work of Jesus in the world. I have never been in a church with more people actively enrolled in seminary at the same time. As far as I know, Justin Woodruff was the first. That journey of seeking Christ has led him and Molly to plant a church. He didn’t start out planning to be a pastor, just a passion to know Jesus. I believe the first at Redeemer to make the decisive step to not pursue more money or entertainment in retirement, but to instead pursue ministry was Rodney and Andrea Swann. I’ll never forget the day Rodney came over to my house and said he planned to quit his retirement job so he could commit much more time to leading men’s ministry and organizing mission trips from the church. He did it. He quit his job, and on his Army retirement he and Andrea have whole heartedly poured themselves into ministry. Today a mission team will go out as the first of three missionary efforts this summer because of Rodney’s efforts.
Mark and Kimberly didn’t start out with a plan to lead youth ministry in retirement, they just wanted to be faithful before God with what they felt led to do. Rodney and Andrea didn’t see themselves in the place of ministry they are now five years ago. Again, they just wanted to be faithful and fruitful before God, and they followed the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I pray these couples are the first of a many. I’m praying for a new culture of thought toward retirement at Redeemer. We live in an area where more people than most places will have the opportunity to retire at an age where they have many more years of productive living. I’m praying for Christians at Redeemer to see the work of ministry as the life-giving opportunity it is, not a drag that takes away from what they really want to do. I’m praying for our retired people to not talk about ministry, or just encourage others to do ministry, but to sacrificially be directly involved where they know God is calling them. I’m praying that we’ll see people go the mission field with the IMB. That we’ll see people get counseling degrees and join Diane in forming up a biblical counseling center here at Redeemer. That we’ll see people go into Christian education to teach the next generation from a distinctly Christian worldview. I’m praying for people to come into other needed staff positions at Redeemer. For people to plant churches, serve as elders, lead women’s ministry, serve as deacons, and teach with devotion year after year in the children’ ministry.
I pray that the Lord will give us a radically different view of retirement than non-Christian America. That instead of cooling in our devotion to Christ and becoming more self-centered, we would accelerate in our passion for the Lord and become more Christ-centered. Give your future to the Lord. Pray about where the Lord would have you go and pray that you will have the faith to take the steps to follow Jesus where He leads.
Lord Jesus help us to be faithful and fruitful,