Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.1 Timothy 5:1-3
In a couple months, I will move my family to the Kansas City area to join the staff of Vineyard Community Church. Last Sunday, my family and I had the chance to worship with them, and I was honored to preach my first sermon there. As a congregation, they are a little older than my current church which has mostly young families and young people in it.
As I was worshiping, without warning, it felt like God started to download His love for this church to me. As this download started happening, love started to swell in my heart and tears welled up in my eyes. He was helping me to love people I don’t yet know and to see them the way He sees them. Then I felt the Spirit whisper something to me that challenged my view of the church. During one of the worship songs, I sensed Him saying, “Being older just means that they’ve been through a lot and are still choosing to worship Me. Can you hear them? They’ve seen so much tragedy and heartbreak, loss and pain, and yet here they are, still worshipping Me.”
I instantly felt God’s heart for the older Christians in the room. While “reaching the young people” is talked about all the time (they are the future of the Church after-all), in that moment I felt God’s love for the “older people” in the church. The Lord gave me the impression that they are like grizzled warriors – soldiers who have the physical and emotional battle scars of war yet who decide to keep signing up for another deployment. These are the true heroes of the faith.
If we have a consumer “business model” for how we do church, the younger generation will always trump the older generations. It will always be about getting that new customer from the next generation. Yet, if we understand that we are at war (Ephesians 6:12-13) and we have a “warfare model” of understanding the Church’s activity in the world, we’ll value the old, grizzled sergeant as much as we’ll value the young, tech-savvy lieutenant. Yes, we need someone who knows how to fly the drones, but we also need someone who has lived through frontline warfare and can share their experience. We need those who are unflinching in the face of incoming fire, resolute in the face of loss, and who have been steeled by seeing God’s victory in the face of opposition.
Next time you see an older saint slowly making their way to their seat on Sunday, make sure you understand what you are seeing. You are watching an ultra-marathon runner nearing the finish line when many of their peers chose not to finish. You are watching an Ironman triathlete who refused to give up or give in regardless of the pain. You are watching a soldier who’s lost friends and family in this terrible war and yet who is signing up yet again for another deployment. You are witnessing someone who may not be known here on earth but whose name is well known in the heavenly places.