[Continuing our "The Church and..." series, we are glad to have brother David Lemmons as our guest writer. David now preaches for the Bellevue Road church of Christ in Dublin, Georgia. He is in his 27th year of ministry, having preached in Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky. David is a graduate of the Brown Trail School of Preaching and Freed-Hardeman University. He also is a graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching's 3rd year degree program. David is married and has three children and one grandchild. We are grateful for David taking time to write today's post. Make sure you check out his blog, LemmonsAid, here.]
In an unscientific examination of those who attend the assemblies where I preach, I have recently discovered that 29% are sixty-five or older. From United States Census Bureau statistics gathered at SeniorJournal.com, I have learned that growth in this age category in the next five years is expected to be 40%. Further, this group will increase from 39 million today to 89 million in 2050. During the same period, the under-15 population is expected to move from 62 million today to 85 million. From another source I have read: “Life expectancy in the developed world has nearly doubled in the past century. By 2010 one-third of all Americans will be between the ages of 50 and 80.” For one who is interested in the well being and growth of the church these statistics and similar ones which you can discover suggest an area for increased focus and planning. That being: “The Church and Her Elderly.”
The church and her elderly ARE TIED TOGETHER. The title of this article is part of a series designed to focus in on the church’s many relationships. Taken as a stand-alone topic, this phrase might seem to be a bifurcation, a setting of the church on one side and elderly on the other. I know this is not Adam’s intention in assigning me this topic. I read with interest his excellent article in the September 2009 issue of Think magazine (p. 7). Here he raised two thought-provoking questions: “Why do congregations have separate activities for our elderly and for our young adults? Does this not completely thwart the idea behind Titus 2:1-5, where the older members of the congregation are to teach the younger?” The elderly are part of the church and when things are done which isolate them from the rest of the congregation on a continual basis, the result will not be what God had in mind and the blessings of Titus 2 will go missing. There surely is a place for “intra-elderly activities,” but working toward more mixing of the age groups seems a wise thing to me. So, though in this article we will be “segmenting” the church and the elderly for the sake of discussion, we do so fully cognizant that it is one body, tied together.
The church and her elderly CANNOT AFFORD TO RETIRE FROM EACH OTHER. The elderly have way too much to learn from those who are younger and they have far too many joys to mine from relationships with their more energetic fellow members. Those of us who are older must keep sharp minds to be able to stay up in conversations with the younger. I was delighted to come across a listing recently of 47 Ways to Fine Tune Your Brain. For an older person to retire from secular employment may be the goal of a lifetime, but there is no acceptable age for retirement from the Lord’s Army (Ephesians 6:11ff).
The church and her elderly COULD BE MUCH MORE INVOLVED IN EVANGELISM. I am convinced that the church everywhere needs greater emphasis upon personal involvement in evangelism. Who better to take the lead in stirring up a local congregation in this area than those who are older? It has been my experience that the older segment of the church generally have lived in their particular location longer than the younger, who tend to move often for employment purposes. With such being true, the prospect lists of older members have to be longer than their younger brethren. A team composed of an older member with many contacts and a younger member with lots of energy would surely be productive of much good.
The church and her elderly HAVE TO COMMIT TO USING SCRIPTURE AS GUIDE (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 3:17; John 12:48). This is so basic that it might tend to go unstated, but we must appreciate and emphasize its importance. I was a little bit surprised to read in a book review of Aging Wellby George E. Vaillant, Trudy Bush report “older people often become less dogmatic as they age and express less interest in the tenets of the faith that the churches preach.” This book was based upon a longitudinal study of three groups of people who were followed continuously for six to eight decades. I believe that members of churches of Christ would fare better if included in such a study, but caution is nonetheless vital here.
The church and her elderly MAY FIND THE RANKS OF ELDERLY INCREASING IN PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL MEMBERSHIP. Statistics given at the beginning of this article seem to indicate such could be coming. Some might tend to take that possibility to be a negative, but souls are precious and in a sense ageless. Our task will always be to make the best possible use of all of the available workers in the vineyard.
The church and her elderly MUST KEEP EYES ON JESUS WHILE RUNNING THE RACE (Hebrews 12:1-2). If our race is to be continued to the finish line of heaven, keeping our eyes on Jesus will set us in the narrow pathway that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14). It will prevent us from going to the right or to the left of the safe way. To have a perfect example to follow blesses all of us tremendously.
The church and her elderly SHOULD ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS IN THE KINGDOM. When we study the examples of older men and women in Scripture we are amazed at what they were able to accomplish to the glory of God. Caleb’s insistent “give me this mountain,” of Joshua 14:12 at the age of 85, is but one example of what an attitude of optimistic determination can produce.
The church and her elderly WILL BE REWARDED! What a beautiful day that will be when all of God’s singers get home! Frank Chesser writing about joyless Christianity calls it a contradiction of terms and states the truth when he writes:
Life grows sweeter and more meaningful with each passing day. The hoary head quickens the anticipation of the joy that shall be on the morrow. A thousand lifetimes of suffering would seem nothing, with Heaven at the end of the way. How indescribably lovely is the joy of the Christian life! [Voice of Truth, Volume 43, p. 99].
Certainly, the church and her elderly WON’T BE WITHOUT JOY.