4 Reasons Your Church Needs Senior Christians
AUGUST 19, 2018 | TIM COUNTS
Tim Counts is the pastor of Northshire Baptist Church in Manchester Center, Vermont and a graduate of The Master’s Seminary (M. Div). Tim serves on the Board of Directors for the Baptist Convention of New England. He is married to his best friend Melanie, and they are the proud parents of three young children. His writing has been featured on For The Church, The Family Research Council Blog (and the Aquila Report), Top Christian Books, and on his personal blog, He Must Become Greater. Tim loves to see the power of the gospel at work as people come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord, and as believers grow in their understanding of how the gospel affects their daily lives. You can follow him on Twitter @timothycounts.
A couple of days ago, I received an email from a church member in his eighties, letting me know that he’s moving. We have known for some time that it’s best for him to move closer to his family due to his health and housing situation. But the news that the move was finally happening hit me unexpectedly, as if I’d lost a dear friend. I felt it in the pit of my stomach and the tears in my eyes.
Then I realized that is exactly why I felt that way: I was losing a dear friend, and a grandfather in the faith. And our church is losing him, too.
Sometimes senior saints question their usefulness in the church as they age. That’s unfortunate because they’re an essential part of the body of Christ. Although we trust in our sovereign and wise God to add and take away from his local body as he sees fit, church life is different without them. As pastors, therefore, we need to remind our elderly members that they’re not only loved by their Good Shepherd and Savior—they’re also loved and needed by his people.
Here are four reasons every local church needs senior saints.
1. We need your prayers.
My 80-something friend often leads our congregation in prayer on Sunday mornings. Visitors and members regularly comment on how his prayers are a blessing to them. We need older members to pray out loud during worship services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings. We also need their private prayers.
Sometimes, I’ll see God work in a way that can only be explained by a work of his Spirit in somebody’s life or in salvation. When this happens, I think, “God has answered the prayers of one of my sisters in Christ,” because I know there are several elderly ladies who pray for our church, our community, and my pastoral ministry regularly. Even if you’re reading this on your tablet from a nursing home—I visited an elderly lady doing just that the other day—we as the church need your prayers.
2. We need your practical, biblical wisdom.
My grandpa taught an adult Sunday School class until Parkinson’s robbed him of his voice. I’ll never forget a seminary professor who taught class using a special microphone because health complications made it difficult for him to speak. I’m so thankful that these men continued to pass on their biblical knowledge and life experience until they literally could not anymore. Whether through teaching a class or sharing a comment during a Bible study or encouraging a young mom during fellowship, every church members needs the wisdom that comes from decades of studying the Word mixed with decades of life experience.
Senior saints, please continue to speak into the lives of younger believers with love and truth and grace. The church needs your wisdom not simply because you’re older, but because you bring the practical, biblical wisdom that only comes from marinating in the Word and walking with Christ in both life’s joys and sorrows.
3. We need your encouragement.
My friend recently raised his hand at a business meeting as I was almost done explaining a new initiative, and simply said that he saw God’s hand in this and that the congregation should be supportive of where God was leading me with this initiative. We could have just stopped the explanation right then and gone straight to the vote. As a senior saint, your words of encouragement matter.
I’ve seen young, sleep-deprived parents light up when an older person in the church tells them, “Your kids are a joy.” I’ve seen discouraged empty-nesters, struggling with change, rediscover hope as they remember God’s faithfulness in your marriages of over 50 years.
As the Psalmist exclaims, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). Don’t hesitate to share your stories of provision and grace and forgiveness, and to remind us of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Senior saint, we need your encouragement.
4. We need your presence.
We know it takes a lot of work for older folks to get to church. We know that there will come a day that we need to come to you, rather than you coming to us. But until that day, we need your presence.
There’s something particularly special about the redeemed people of God coming together for worship and seeing a spectrum of ages. There’s something about coming together to worship with people who are different than us—even generationally—that points to the beauty of the gospel and the glory of God. There’s something about knowing fellow saints who can speak of God never abandoning them through decades that powerfully reminds us of the faithfulness of God.
We don’t call you “senior saint” because you’re perfect or because you don’t have struggles like the rest of us. We call you “senior saint” because your faith in Christ in your senior years points to the fact that the same God who saves is the same God who sustains. Lift your heads, dear senior saints.
You’re needed. Please don’t stop serving.
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3: 1-6)
He Shall Direct Thy Paths
English poet, John Wilmot wrote, “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.” The scripture passage above is some sound advice for our children. It is advice worth taking, if only we could get our children to take it.
King Solomon is traditionally given credit for writing the Book of Proverbs. When this verse is compared to his behavior in 1 Kings 11 we might suggest he should have added, “but do as I say not as I do.”
That is the whole problem though, isn’t it? We are creatures with the marvelous ability to firmly believe and confess one thing while easily behaving differently or completely the opposite. A large part of Jesus’ message is directed at our tendency towards this arrogant hypocrisy. It may be our greatest obstacle to spiritual fulfillment.
It is a paradox, that we can become so aware of a shortcoming so as to advise against it, with advice that (if self applied) would relieve us from exercising the shortcoming! This verse (if applied) overcomes many shortcomings. It advises that at the core of a person, “on the table of thine heart,” in “thine own understanding” — allow God to provide direction, not self.
When one does that, the individual can provide no advice that is not exampled by one’s behavior. Of course, no individual credit can be taken for the sincerity either. It is God operating through the instrument of The Believer.
Perhaps that is why we feel our children avoid taking this advice to heart. They, like us, have the same tendency. We prefer to be our own instrument — to follow our own paths. Jesus’ advice to both parent and child is well given and (if taken) well received. “…first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7).