Seven is a special number. Now that it’s been seven years since I officially transitioned as the founding pastor of our church, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fulfillment that is often found in “sevens.” When I mentioned this in a recent conversation with my successor, Shan Moyers instantly both lit up and spoke up with affirmation! Shan is realizing that the same thing is becoming increasingly clear to him. After seven years in the lead role he is just now feeling like he is beginning to hit stride.
After seven years in my expanding role of mentoring ministers, the same is true for me. I never cease to marvel at how soul satisfying my behind the scenes service has become. In light of my very public life through 43 years of upfront ministry, I really didn’t know if this would be possible. I’ve discovered that in this season of life, it’s not just possible for me but preferable! While I’m still occasionally invited to speak for “public” events, sometimes even before large numbers of people, that is not the setting where my greatest fulfillment is found. Rather, it’s in the small circles of seven or less where I have found my sweet spot of soul care!
I now use the title of “CSO” – that stands for “Chief SoulCare Officer” for my new entity of “Covenant Connections for Pastors.” The model that I have developed and followed with dozens of leaders is now flourishing beyond me. Now that Rocky Mountain Christian Church is strong and thriving, my next dream is to see the same thing happen through an ever expanding network of soul care covenant groups. These groups are designed to help leaders serve well and finish well by connecting them in soul enriching relationships with others.
It’s been said that your vision is whatever you would postpone going to heaven in order to accomplish! The dream of healthy leaders, connecting head and heart with other leaders, is what makes my heart beat fast. Leadership is lonely, but it doesn’t have to be isolating. We can help each other not only survive but thrive! Rarely a day goes by that I don’t see and experience the reality of that. Now that I’ve been concentrating on this challenging field through sowing seeds of soul care I’m beginning to see a harvest.
I’m glad I didn’t quit after the first few difficult years of this or anything else. As the apostle Paul said, “A man reaps what he sows…. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
If you’re struggling through a slow season you may want to check a calendar. Have you given it seven years? If you’re only at the mid point of that, perhaps you’ve just reached the half way point of a strong start. We often laugh about “the seven year itch” in marriage, but the same thing can be true in ministry. Sometimes we fail to find fulfillment simply because we fail to see that life is lived in cycles, often cycles of seven. In the Bible seven is used repeatedly as a marker of completion, fulfillment and even perfection.
Cycles of seven are seen throughout biblical history. I’m indebted to the study of Henry Halley for first making that point so clear to me. He points out that:
- The Levitical system of the Old Testament was built on a cycle of sevens – every seventh day a Sabbath and every seventh year a Sabbatical year.
- Jericho fell after seven priests, with seven trumpets, for seven days marched around its walls and blew their trumpets seven times on the seventh day.
- Naaman dipped in the Jordan seven times for cleansing.
- The Bible begins with seven days of creation and ends with a book of sevens about the ultimate destiny of creation.
- The number seven is a favorite of God’s, documented by the sequence of seven days in a week, seven notes in music and seven colors in the rainbow.
It’s clear that in God’s economy, seven is a very significant number. So since it’s that important to Him, perhaps we ought to consider the importance of sevens in our own stories. In some ways after seven years I am just beginning to hit stride in my new calling. I’m still living on purpose but I’m not naive; I know that my health and strength won’t last forever. Sooner or later we all fade into obscurity and before long we will be forgotten. The only thing that matters is that while here on earth we finish our assignment of doing God’s good and perfect will in our generation. At the age of 72, I know that while I am fulfilled, I am not yet finished. By God’s grace I hope to have the strength to serve for at least another cycle of seven. How about you?