Shrinking World, Expanding Life
Judy and I rolled out of bed about 5 am. Threw opened the drapes and gaped, one last time, at the beautiful sight of the Bay of Corinth. We could not escape visualizing all that had taken place there and in the vicinity. Paul’s experiences and his messages to the Corinthians changed not only our world but the entire world. Amazing!
A one hour ride to the MarcoPoulos Athens airport—what an appropriate name—and a flight on Aegean Air to Heathrow. A bit of a hectic transition time, but we got two seats in row 50 on a British Air 747 that put us on the next leg directly to Denver.
A 20-minute wandering through the Disneyworld like lines to passport control, a quick verification accompanied by a terrible picture, and then our 35-minute line through the TSA entry process. All said and done complete with the agent’s “welcome home” smile and we were in the country and close to home.
Just one more wait for our two bags, another line, and the bus to the parking spot where we left our car. An hour drive home with Judy gently breathing in the reclined passenger seat and the welcoming shelter of Cathedral Pines.
All very interesting, but here’s the point—we went from Athens, Greece to Colorado Springs, CO in less than a day. I know, I know, the world is shrinking and I’m not the first to tell you. During our time at the missions conference we were attending, we connected with key leaders from 25 countries. Their stories touch the heart of ministry and our ability to help them expand their thinking to include not only the geography of ministry but its duration was truly the most rewarding part of the trip.
The World is shrinking, has shrunk, and will continue to shrink.
The world is shrinking both because of enhanced transportation options and because of the technology that connects us.
Everything seems closer, sooner, faster, and more impactful. I calculated the number of countries I’ve been privileged to visit over the last 30 or more years. If I’ve counted right it was my 62nd or 63rd country. We met a couple on the cruise who during their 25-year role as leaders of a major denominational publishing ministry had visited 150. That even got my attention!
On the ship going from New York to Southampton, we communed daily with the newly retired Anglican Bishop of Malawi. An American from Nashville, he has ministered in that country for 55 years. When I asked him how often here returns to the States, he said, “Twice a year to visit family and friends.” He then added, “I’m 80 and there are fewer and fewer people left to see, you know.” He continued, “But there seem to be more and more places where I can still be of help.” And to myself added, “Yes, I know!”
So, while the world gets smaller and shrinks, our life expectancy grows.
Have you wondered about either of these dynamics so specific to our times? If you have, it is likely you have pondered these two new realities separately and not in any joined or coordinated way. I hadn’t either.
How long is retirement?
One of the questions I asked the assembled ministry messengers at the conference was, “How long is retirement?” They looked at me with a bit of a blank stare until the intent of the question seemed to dawn on them. While the simplistic answer is, “Until the end of your life," it took some additional prompting for the full comprehension of what that really means to sink in.
While we can, and will in future communication, delve into more of the issues of aging and life expectancy, the bottom line is that we are living longer. Simply put, our life expectancy is 30 years beyond whatever age you choose as the point of “retirement."
Retirement being the key transition point from where and how you are paid for your labor to the subsequent 30 years that will come next.
I always chuckle when I think of our Social Security system here in the United States. When it was established, our life expectancy was roughly 63. Pretty cost effective to set up a retirement funding plan in which the majority of people will be dead before the benefits start. Or to be generous, one that will only have to be funded for a few years. In the near future, 25 percent of Americans will be over 60 and the average age of those individuals will continue to grow almost in a straight line over the next 20 years. A recent analysis reported that today’s 7-year-old has a possible life expectancy of 104. You can see the opportunity, can’t you?
There are few faith-based ministries that would turn down additional, experienced, committed, available, non-paid staff. Amazingly, God does provide. Think about every church and Christian ministry in the US—nearly 500,000 of them total with 20-100 new and active supporters. I’m not talking about money which is another topic but rather about how God has prepared and called available workers to represent Jesus to the nations. How exciting is that?
We will need to make significant changes in the way we think about our Seniors.
While seldom say it, our current expectation and hope for our seniors is that they will not be grumpy and continue to give. With that thinking, we miss a huge opportunity to build the kingdom while simultaneously diminishing our Seniors to a role that is “less than.”
An Explosive Vision
An explosive vision for future ministry expansion is possible because the world is shrinking due to transportation and technology.
Added to that fact is the new reality that there are potentially millions of Christian workers becoming available worldwide. There is much more to be said on these topics involving issues to be identified and addressed, infrastructures of the mind to be developed, and support systems to be built. But God has already and is currently preparing the faith-based community of believers for such time as this.
My prayer for a Longevity Dividend is twofold:
1. As a Christian community, we will recognize the extended opportunity afforded us and;
2. And as individuals, we will listen to God’s call on the rest of our lives and respond to the meaning and purpose available to us.
The Retirement Reformation
The Retirement Reformation is a growing movement of Christians who glimpse the vision and are willing to respond to it.
Those who are energized by God’s plan for their lives and are willing to step into a new arena of their lives with focus, determination, and commitment to building His Kingdom while experiencing a little fun along the way.
Stay with us as we continue our Life Journey together.