Morbid Reflections on Life Cycles

by pmckaughan on May 23, 2011

I am 72 years old. My back hurts and my energy isn’t what it was when I was a19 year old adolescent or even a mature 55 year old. Glasses, hearing aids and new composite hip joints help stave off the impact of the passing years. Though the deterioration of my mind and body is not something I like to think about a lot, I can’t escape it. Comparing my life with the norm of men in the US tells me that I am much closer to death than I am to my birth. Knowing where I am in my life cycle helps me exercise meaningful stewardship over the physical and material resources the Lord has placed in my care.

At birth all living things have within them the seeds of their demise. Ultimately, the specific time is in the hands of a sovereign God, but the parameters of the life cycle are clear. (Ecc. 3:1-8) As thinking people with self-awareness, we can and must make judgments about our position in the inexorable cycle. We are required to wisely manage many of the events in this march from new life to death.

Cultures, language and even entities like ministries and missions are also living organisms and their life cycles will take them on the same path from birth through the various stages to, ultimately, death. It is a leader’s responsibility to recognize where the entity he or she leads is in this life cycle progression. Leaders must exercise stewardship accordingly.

It is our tendency to revel in birth, enjoy exuberant adolescence, and revel in the productivity of middle age. We avoid thinking about personal or organizational death at all cost. That is like trying to stop the progression of time. It can’t be done. The progression from life to death goes no matter how radical the intervention. Painful, even heroic, measures can stave off death for days, months, perhaps even years, but death down here on earth can’t be revoked.

Temporal death is just as natural as birth. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 12:24: “Except a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This verse illustrates vividly the immutable truth about life cycles. What Jesus says about that kernel of wheat is true for you and me. It is no less true for our life work and the ministries we lead. A meaningful ministry reset embodies both exciting births and purposeful deaths.

Some Questions for you and the ministry you lead:

1. Where are you and where is your ministry in its life cycle?

2. How should you be managing or leading at this stage in the life cycle?

3. What new seeds have you planted?

4. Have there been any programmatic deaths?

5. If a bus hits you or some other disaster overtakes your ministry, are there those kernels you have been planting and nurturing that “will bear much fruit?”

6. What needs to die, or at least get out of the way, for new kernel to flourish?

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