By Rob Hurtgen
In my part of the midwest, there are three seasons: lawn-mowing season, snow-shoveling season, and the season of preparing for both.
While that’s a humorous take on life in Missouri, there are also three seasons of life that everyone in ministry experiences: the season you’ve come out of, the season you’re in, and the season you’re moving toward.
The theme of seasons peppers the pages of Scripture. For example:
- The Lord sets the seasons of life by establishing the times and boundaries of men (Acts 17:26).
- Writing near the end of his life, Paul requests that Timothy come to him before the winter season settles in, bringing with him a cloak, scrolls, and particularly the parchments (2 Timothy 4:19, 21).
- The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us there’s a season for everything (3:1 – 8).
- Also, Moses voices a prayer to know how to live best in the current season, writing, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (Psalms 90:12).
Recognizing the season you’ve come out of, the season you’re in, and the season you’re moving toward enables you to be more intentional in life and your long-term ministry.
1. Reflect on the season you’ve come out of.
The Bible calls us to reflect and remember. Twelve stones were taken out of the Jordan River so the people would reflect and remember (Joshua 4:1-9).
The church in Corinth was pressed to reflect and remember the stories of the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:11). Likewise, the churches in Revelation were called to remember (Revelation 2 – 3).
Reflecting and remembering where you’ve been helps you interpret your present moment and intentionally live for tomorrow.
2. Recognize the season you’re in.
In 2 Timothy, Paul knew the season he was in. He was imprisoned in Rome, and his departure from this world was at hand. He was nearing the end of his race.
His season instilled an urgency in delivering the letter to Timothy and requests for him to come to Rome. Identifying his season focused his ministry.
Moses’ prayer recognizes our days are limited and requests wisdom to know how to live each day intentionally. Recognizing the season you’re in enables you to intentionally use each moment you have with your family and the church you shepherd.
Perhaps you’re in the season of life with young children. Your days are a mix of diapers, bottles, sermon preparation, and deacons meetings. When you’re in the thick of parenting, your children need your focused attention.
Maybe you’re in an empty nest situation and have fewer demands and expectations than the previous season. Or you’re entering into the retirement years of your ministry where the Lord’s grace is allowing you to be more selective in how and where you continue in His calling.
These three examples barely touch the distinctions of the seasons of life and their fulfillment. But knowing the season of life you’re in will help you identify where your focus needs to be and allow you live intentionally.
3. Identify the season you’re moving towards.
A pastor friend extended the following principle he and his wife practiced throughout their marriage. When they were in the season of having young children, they knew they were moving toward the season of launching those children into the world as young adults.
The vision of sending out their children as adults forced two questions: 1) what type of adults do we want to launch?, and 2) what kind of marriage do we want to have when it’s just us?
Answering those questions then framed how they built godly character into their children’s lives and also how they protected and grew their marriage.
When you identify the season of life you’re moving toward, it forces you to ask how, by God’s grace, you want to live today in order to live the way you want to in the next season.
For example, what healthy choices need to be made as a forty-year-old to be an active eighty-year-old? Living well and continuing to minister in the fourth quarter of your life places expectations on your second and third quarters.
Identify your season
There are different seasons of life and ministry. Some seasons are busier than others. Some are richer.
There are seasons in which God’s favor is evident—and other seasons where your prayers feel they go no further than the distance your voice travels. There are seasons where God grows the church. There are seasons where He refines the church.
Identify your current season and ask the Lord for wisdom to plan for the coming one with grace.
ROB HURTGEN (@robhurtgen) is the husband to Shawn, father of five, pastor of First Baptist Church Chillicothe, Missouri, and doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs at robhurtgen.wordpress.com.