In my previous post I emphasized that older generations need to understand how the younger generations think and act. I want to balance that with pondering church from the elder perspective. What do you think of when I say “senior adult ministry?” We almost exclusively consider this to be a ministry to seniors rather than from seniors. The bald fact is that ministry is fast becoming so focused on youth and younger generations that the church is being “juvenilized.” Whereas a healthy focus on youth can bring great spiritual renewal and vitality to the church, focusing too heavily on it brings a watered-down understanding of the gospel and the Christian life that is quite unhealthy.
My wife and youngest daughter recently took a mission trip to Joplin, Missouri. They drove there and spent a week with an “older” couple from our church (in their late 70’s). It was the New Testament letter of Titus in action for my family. In fact, Titus chapter 2 stands everything on end by an emphasis of older persons mentoring younger people; it is ministry from seniors and not to them. This “old” couple had more energy than anyone else on a mission team of over fifty people. They ate everything put in front of them without complaining. They worked everyone else in the ground. They always had something positive to say in the middle of every adverse circumstance. They had a can-do spirit that was matter of fact. They loved without ever expecting anything in return. You see, this couple is not an anomaly; our elders, who have lived the longest with the power of the Holy Spirit, are usually the most able to share the Father’s love in a Christ-like manner.
Values of thrift, simplicity, loyalty, faithfulness, wisdom, and maturity (which can only be gained over time!) are best learned neither from trial and error, nor from the school of hard knocks, but through prolonged exposure to the elders all around us. Fools are fools because they ignore old people. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is a book that calls people to remember. In addressing a group of foolish people who had forgotten God, chapter 32 verse 7 says, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations of long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain it to you.”
What would happen if churches constructed Sunday School programs based on Titus 2? Can we even think the thought that church renewal could come through spunky and active elders? Its high time that we in church leadership positions do two things: first, teach the older persons for the expressed purpose of them turning around and teaching the younger persons; and, second, stick those teens, twenty-somethings, and young parents out to pasture with godly elders so that they can feed off healthy green grass instead of just talking among themselves in a great circle of collective ignorance. People rightly lament when there are no children or young families in a church. We ought also to equally lament when there are no gray heads in the worship center.
Let us honor the old among us by learning from them, and allow them the respect and decency of listening and working together with them to the glory of God.