The other day, someone I had just met asked me a question I had a little bit of a challenge answering. It’s not an uncommon question. In fact, many casual conversations between two people who have just met begin with the same question I was asked: ‘Where do you work?’ The answer to that question usually gives some general information, or direction about where the conversation might lead next. That first question, “Where do you work,” is often followed by “And, what do you do there?”
If I tell someone I ‘work’ at a church, the ‘what do you do there’ question can be broader than a simple, “I’m a pastor.” In today’s culture, the title of ‘pastor’ can have a lot of different nuances or meanings. I could be a teaching pastor, or a senior pastor. Or, I might be the pastor to seniors, those in their more mature years. Young adults have pastors who focus on them, specifically, in some churches. There are children’s pastors, and youth pastors. Some churches have more than one youth pastor, for high school students and middle school students. Those two questions, “Where do you work,” and “What do you do there” are understandable and useful questions for beginning a casual conversation.
But they really don’t serve to provide insight into a deeper question. Not “What do you do where you work,” but rather, “What do you produce?” What do you make? What kind of widget do you build? What product comes from where you work and what you do? No matter who you are, no matter what your age, I think the answer to the question of “what do you produce” is a far more informative and significant question about identity and value and purpose in life.
The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of an extensive study in the United States a couple of years ago. The study involved individuals across a broad spectrum of ages and careers. What the study was measuring and examining was the ‘productivity’ of individuals. In other words, they wanted to know what was the most productive age in a human life. The answer and what they discovered was quite a surprise.
The study found that the most productive age in human life, at least here in the United States … is between 60-70 years of age. The 2nd. most productive stage of the human being was from 70 to 80 years of age. And the 3rd. most productive stage is from 50 to 60 years of age. Does that surprise you? I must confess that on some level, I was surprised. But on another level, it didn’t surprise me at all.
Take a guess at the average age of NOBEL PRIZE winners: It’s 62 years old.
Guess what the average age of the presidents of the most prominent companies in the world is: 63 years.
Know what the average age of the pastors of the 100 largest churches in the United States. Is? 71.
And the average age of the Popes? It’s 76.
What that study from the New England Journal of Medicine shows is that the best years of life are between 60 and 80 years. At age 60, you reach the TOP of your potential and this continues into your 80s, If you’re between 60 and 80 you are in the BEST season of your life for productivity. (SOURCE: N.Engl.J .Med. 70,389 (2018)
It’s one thing to answer the“where do you work, or what do you do” questions. Quite another to identify “What are you producing.” If you haven’t reached those years between 60 and 80 yet, take heart. The best is yet to come. And if you find yourself in what we could call the ‘sweet spot’ of your life — those years between 60 and 80 — for heaven’s sake … yes, for the sake of heaven, look around. There’s a lot of producing you can do.
One of the last things the Lord Jesus Christ said to His closest friends, was “Go and make disciples of all nations …” (Matt.28:19, 20) As a follower of Jesus, then, I have as a life-long focus: Produce disciples. Age and life-experience are powerful tools for engaging others in what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
May the Lord bless the work of our hands. And may the Lord increase the fruit He produces in our lives. He is the vine; we are the branches.
And the ‘produce?’
To God be the glory.