I grew up in West Des Moines. As a boy I knew Open Bible patriarchs Frank Smith and O. Ralph Isbill. Well, my parents did; I just tagged along. Then my family moved to California and we attended the Open Bible church in Pasadena, pastored by John and Louise Richey. My heritage in Open Bible was strong.
I felt the call of God at age eleven and my path seemed clear, ministry. I attended Bible Standard College (which became Eugene Bible College and is now New Hope Christian College) and Western Evangelical Seminary. Eventually I became a youth pastor, a senior pastor, and then an instructor for soon-to-be pastors at EBC. But then retirement came. Where had all those years gone?
I wasn’t sure about this newfound season of life. For years retirement seemed to be for the old or at least those older than me. I was too young to feel I had to change much but old enough to realize I had to change gears. Medicare, social security, and IRA accounts forced me to realize that life was now different, and unknown.
So what kept me from exploding my life with bad decisions at this stage of life? I remember hearing Paul Leavenworth preach at EBC about “finishing well.” Although his focus was the college student, I was listening. I wanted to finish well, but the creepy feeling of sitting in a rocking chair at a retirement estate was still not on my radar. I was too young and yet too old. How could this be happening to me, the young, vibrant man who for years felt he could do it all?
I found the disciplines I had cultivated in my life over the years were the source of my strength now. The spiritual routine, the physical well-being, and the social relationships – those things that held me firm during all those storms of ministry years –were stabilizing me. It seems so simple but it is true. The personal devotion time I had developed over the years was my spiritual resource. My wife, Sharon, my kids and grandkids, and my friends and colleagues all gave me strength with words of encouragement. And my personal commitment to daily physical exercise was giving me a sense of continued vitality. I started to sense I was going to be ok.
Maybe the “new” was just doing the “old” differently. Can you sleep in a little and still do important, sometimes life changing things? Can your speed decrease and you still get there? Can your opinion be important when fewer people are listening? Can ministry happen differently and still be ministry? The answer is “YES.”Yes, I am doing something new. It is different because I haven’t been this way before, but it is also fulfilling because my steps are still ordered of the Lord. I asked Him and He gave me direction, a sense that He is still using me.
About the Author
Lonny R. Burke has been an Open Bible credentialed minister for more than 51 years. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Eugene, Oregon, and have two daughters and three grandchildren. They volunteer with several children’s ministry organizations, helping give needy kids a positive influence.