2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NRSV)
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
By Chuck Griffin
America and many parts of the rest of the world have embedded in their culture a love of youthfulness. In the media and elsewhere, we often glorify the young people of our world, even as we get older on average.
As Christians, we of course value young people deeply. Every new generation is in danger of missing out on the precious message of Jesus Christ as Savior, so we want to do all we can to reach the children and young adults around us. Sadly, American Christians as a group have not done a very good job of transmitting the message to younger people the past few decades.
As we realize our failure, some among us panic, and that can cause church leaders to fall into a kind of ageism. While wishing for more young people among us, they also begin to disdain all that white and silver hair that still arrives every Sunday.
It’s as if some church leaders are thinking, “These old people are the problem, and without them, everything would be okay.” This, of course, is silly—a lot of churches would end up with a mostly empty building.
As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Matthew 9:37.) And certainly, we shouldn’t chase away the workers we already have.
We do slow down some as “our outer nature is wasting away.” Older people, however, have an advantage, particularly if they have been in the faith a long time. Many have a deep sense of inner renewal—what we might call spiritual depth—and the life experiences they bring to a church’s outreach can be invaluable.
These people not only know how to plan and execute, they also often have more free time than your typical young adult! We also have to acknowledge that with medical advances and a better understanding of lifestyle choices, there are people in their seventies who can run circles around some people in their thirties when it comes to work.
Church leaders, don’t push these active older people away, even if they seem a little disengaged at times. Have you drawn them into the heart of your plans? Do you treat their worldview as something that remains relevant?
Once these experienced Christians are equipped with a proper understanding of the Great Commission (something lost on so many churchgoers for too long now), they can be a tremendous force for the kingdom.
Several years ago, I was doing ministry work in the Czech Republic. Senior Christians there were unusual because Soviet-enforced atheism had dominated their society and their minds for so long. The young Czechs proved to be more open to the gospel shortly after the Iron Curtain fell.
One Sunday, I worshiped with a small church made up mostly of families with young children. There was a white-haired exception among them, however. After the service, she asked me through an interpreter, “In your country, are there many older Christians, people like me?”
I suppressed a smile as I replied, “Oh, yes—most of the people in our churches are about your age.”
“Ah,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful!”
It is wonderful. Let’s never stop valuing what we have, and let’s get all the folks we have with us recommitted to the mission.
Lord, you work in our lives from the womb to beyond the grave, and every person is precious in your sight while here in this world, young or old. Give us the vision and the energy we need to grow your kingdom now. Amen.