If my mom were still alive today, she would be 74. My dad is 76 and a senior adult. I can remember when I was in college thinking that someone who was 40 was really old. Now, 40-something does not seem old at all. The closer I get to the 55+ season of life, the more I realize that an older body does not necessarily mean an old mind or heart. I will never forget hearing about how my wife’s grandmother, then in her mid-70s, told my wife that she felt like she was still 16 in her mind … until she looked at her face in the mirror.
When I began my first pastorate, I was 30, and the senior adults were like my grandparents. They treated me like their grandson and gave me so much grace in light of my inexperience and youthful zeal. Now, the senior adults are the age of my parents. Let’s just say that it felt a little better when the seniors thought of me as their grandson who didn’t know any better. Now that I am the age of many senior adults’ children, I should know better. Hopefully I have figured out a few things along the way.
When it comes to senior adults in the church, I am more convinced than ever that their segment of the church is absolutely vital to the mission of every local church. If the Great Commission is the primary mission of the church, and if making disciples is part of that mission, then we need wise, seasoned, experienced servants leading the way. The prayer of the psalmist reflects the passionate leadership that our senior adults uniquely can provide—“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18).
I am so grateful for the senior adults in the local church because they already have the right heart and perspective on helping younger generations to follow Christ. In fact, no other segment of the church cares more about the younger generations than the senior adults.
Consider that senior adults in the church today care deeply about their own children following Jesus Christ and even more about their own grandchildren. So much of their lives, energy, prayers, and efforts are spent toward being a blessing to their children and grandchildren.
For the last few years, I have been asking for prayer requests from individuals at the church I am now pastoring. Almost every single prayer request from a senior adult has included a request for their children and/or grandchildren related to their spiritual lives. No one cares any more for the next generations than senior adults.
In light of the passion of senior adults for the next generation, I hope this encouragement can be helpful to encourage senior adults to lead the way in making disciples:
I don’t pretend that I am not already feeling the pains of change with age. I find myself relating more to the 55+ crowd than the 20-somethings. I am certain that there will come a day when I will weep like those in Ezra 3 who wept when they saw the new temple because they had seen the way things used to be done in the former temple. What I will need to remember is what matters most—reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ.
We must make sure that any of our weeping because things are not the same is drowned out by the shouts of joy of the next generation that is seeing the movement of the Lord. I know this will be a challenge, and I will need help. My hope is that this current generation of senior adults will lead the way so that all of us might see the strength and power of God, for His glory in the church and in Jesus Christ.
At the outset of this commentary, it should be stated that the opinions stated herein are the byproduct of closely watching the actions of people over the years. It would be human nature for one to read this article and try to attach names to it. If one does so then they are doing something this author is not intending.
So much is happening so quickly in the universe of our Southern Baptist Zion that people cannot absorb all that is being said and done. Many things are sliding right past the conscious minds of people which are extremely important. Fewer people are analyzing what is being said and more of them are evaluating things based on personal feelings and what “just seems right to me.” A good example of what this writer sees is this thing we call transparency. Everyone wants to be known as a person who is honest, clean, wholesome and transparent. Transparency is nothing more than a public and personal display of a life which is based on truth and goodness. It is a characteristic of a life lived in such a way that the one living it doesn’t mind if anyone and everyone sees him as he actually is. He is open. He welcomes investigation knowing that one will find nothing that he would not want discussed or openly known.
Transparency is not a trait a person acquires only after they are caught in some sin or failure. For one to suddenly desire transparency when he is caught is like the thief who is sorry for his actions only after he is arrested. Suddenly the person seeks to appear noble by being transparent. Why wasn’t he so interested in that transparency before? If he had been, then he probably wouldn’t have found himself in a pickle because he was involved in some action that he could not be transparent about. But, all of a sudden, with his hand in the cookie jar, this person tries to engender some sense of nobility and honesty by showing people how sorry he is and how transparently he can deal with it.
There is a huge problem here that most are letting go right past them. Most people will extol the virtues of the transparency of the person involved. They will speak of him in glowing terms and point to his bravery and honesty. Remember, by this time the person is appealing to honesty and transparency only because it pays him to do so. The failing fades into the background as the quality of transparency is elevated to a status that it does not command. The problem is that many people will reveal their lack of spiritual maturity by equating transparency with repentance. Repentance deals with sin in the right way. Transparency does not deal with the sin. It only begs for tolerance in how the person is evaluated or treated. The Holy Spirit of God will lead us into a life that can be lived in a transparent way. The world and its sinful ways will cause a willing person to fall into that which must be hidden. So, just because a person is suddenly transparent, we must not ascribe to him some kind of noble status which is far short of repentance. This writer has noted that those who suddenly become transparent under pressure will reveal only what is necessary. One will often find that there is more to the story which the sudden transparency didn’t get around to dealing with.
My concern is that we can observe that many people confuse transparency with repentance and are perfectly happy with their conclusion. The individual who is suddenly so transparent is held up as a spiritual person of high moral character due to his willingness to “come clean” and be transparent. One living in obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit will not find himself in such a position as having to appeal to transparency for survival and sympathy. Remember, a person begging transparency is usually doing so because he is caught and facing severe consequences.
So, the point is made. Transparency is not and cannot be equated with repentance. One would have to be evaluating a spiritual situation from an emotional position to think that it can be. In fact, for a person to have to appeal to transparency in the midst of a discovered sin is for them to use it for a selfish purpose when that very quality, transparency, should be a normal byproduct of a Godly life. To have to appeal to it says that it was not a part of that person’s life beforehand.
May we all live our lives in such obedience to the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit that we would live transparency and not have to appeal to it.
In 2016, Mercy Me released the single “Dear Younger Me.” The popular song is birthed from lead singer Bart Millard’s reflections on a troublesome childhood. The message considers the advice he might offer were he afforded the opportunity to speak to the 8-year-old version of himself. That idea is most intriguing. Consider the possibility of giving counsel to your younger self, especially in light of pastoral ministry. What advice might a seasoned pastor offer the younger version of himself as he begins pastoral ministry? Continue reading