The new year is always a time of reflection. Many people make resolutions to lose weight, exercise, continue education, and a host of other plans. Whether or not you make resolutions, the new year is a good time to reflect on your life and ministry.
A few years ago, Success magazine asked its readers when they tended to reflect on the direction of their life. Over half (57%) confessed to reflecting on their lives every night before going to bed, while 21% indicated they did so at the beginning of the new year. Vacation time was reported by 10% of the readers, 7% mentioned weddings, 4% noted funerals, and 2% said they reflected on their lives when sick. Only 4% of people said they did not have time to reflect.
The Bible recommends that we reflect (examine) on our lives at different times. Before participating in communion, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let a person examine himself, then, and to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Later Paul wrote to the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). According to the Bible, reflection on one’s life from time to time is a good thing.
I’ve found it helpful to reflect on my life purpose in comparison to the regular phases of life developed by Bobby Clinton, Dr. Clinton calls the first phase of life Sovereign Foundations. This phase covers our life form birth to the early 20s. This is the soil out of which our life purpose develops. Our family of origin and early experiences forms our personality, character, and values. Leaders often have an initial sense of calling or life purpose, however, it is usually very general.
Phase two normally takes place in our 20s and 30s. During these years leaders engage in their first attempts at ministry leadership, experiencing success or failure. It is at this time of life that most leaders determine the major role they will play for the remainder of their lives. God often uses this period of time to develop a leader more than developing a leader’s ministry. An emerging sense of life purpose arises during this time period.
The third phase if found during our 40s and 50s. During these years a leader’s ministry becomes focused, as a unique ministry is identified and embraced. Leaders come to identify a major role that is compatible with their giftedness and passion. The earlier emerging sense of purpose is confirmed, and they focus on what will come to be their ultimate contribution.
The last phase starts about age 60 and continues for the remainder of a leader’s life. It is during this time period that leaders assess their entire ministry and becomes concerned about leaving a legacy. Clinton calls this time convergence, as the entirety of a leader’s life converges in an end of ministry assessment.
From the beginning of each leader’s life, there is a continual narrowing of ministry. Leaders begin doing ministry in a general way, but by phase four they are more focused on limiting ministry engagement to areas that fit their life purpose, gifts and passions. Between each phase is a time of transition. Perhaps the most famous transition is labeled a mid-life crisis, i.e., the transition between phase two and three, which usually occurs around age 40-45. However, there are also transitions in one’s early 20s and in one’s 60s. These transitions are natural points for reflection, but reflection may take place anywhere depending on circumstances.
As you reflect on your life, ministry, and life-purpose this year, consider the following:
- In which phase of life and ministry do your find yourself?
- Are you dealing with any transition points? If, so, which one?
- How clear are you on your life purpose? Are you still seeking a clear understanding or your life purpose or have you decided on what it is?
The new year is a great time to reflect on where you are in your life and ministry.