Engage the Aged

To a city boy like me, being forced into retirement meant being “put out to pasture.” The life of a retiree appeared relegated to daytime TV game shows with little to look forward to except an “old folks' home” and shuffleboard in Florida or the Sun Belt.
Needless to say, that wasn’t for me. And if you can identify with these opening words, neither is it for you. And to readers who are pastors or church leaders, I implore you to empower and engage the more seasoned members of your church.
Today, 60 is “the new 40.” Our work lives continue well beyond the artificial limits previously set by employers. With far fewer limits, there are far fewer limitations.
Physically, many of us remain active through regular exercise and more healthy food choices. Emotionally, we are in what is likely to be our most stable period of life. Spiritually, we are “experienced.” With that triad at work and our personal desire to live more fully for eternity's sake, the prayer is: “What would You have me to do, Lord?”
After all, Paul exhorted us to run the race! And, with our experiences in life and with Christ, we have much to offer:

  • We have the clarity of mind to set out achievable goals.
  • We have a great capacity to purposefully plan and lead.
  • We have more time to devote and more of our energy to focus on serving Him.
  • We understand what it means to be “all in” and commit ourselves to His purposes.
Quite a résumé! But with all retirees have to offer, why are they so often passed by? Why are their suggestions for service and ministry so easily dismissed and viewed as “old” thinking?
After pondering these questions, I believe that the predominant thinking in some churches and ministries is that the older you are, the more your spiritual gifts and ministry skills wither with age.
In Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging, J. I. Packer calls for the church to correct that thinking and to view those with “experience” in our midst as a fulfillment of the kind of life Paul writes of in Colossians 2 and 3.
These are people who, for perhaps decades, have lived in a manner that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).
These are people who reflect the following: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:6-7).
Their hearts seek to continue to devote their time and their energy to the advance of Jesus and His Kingdom. Packer goes so far as to call this devotion “zeal,” referring to it as priority, passion, and effort in pursuing God’s cause.
What church or what ministry could go wrong in harnessing this passion and effort from people whose first priority is seeking and serving Him?
Referencing the later part of Isaiah 9:7, Packer reflects, “Zeal for His Kingdom is a character quality of God Himself, as he has revealed Himself.” Further, he states: “It follows, then, that as zeal for God and godliness and God’s honor was integral to God’s image in Christ, so it should be in us, and we should cultivate zeal, along with the rest of Christian virtues, up to the ending of our lives on earth—or at least, for as long as we can consciously focus and direct our thoughts.”
Obedience to Christ, if anything, grows stronger—and is far less distracted—as the years progress.
What church or what ministry seeks to overlook the passion and the effort of people who have made obedience their first priority? Certainly, not one that desires to grow its flock or expand its influence in its community!
For more information about how you can stay the course, refer to The Wheel illustration. The Rim: Obedience to Christ. See: Romans 12:1; John 14:21. Some acts of obedience to God are internal, such as attitudes, habits, motives, values and day-to-day thoughts. Yet even these eventually surface outwardly in our relationships with other people. Keeping His commandments in obedience is our outward indication of inward health and love for Christ—our worship.