Too Old For Church??

This last week I wrote about the role of youth in the church. I answered the question is anyone Too Young For Church? And writing about that got me thinking. Youth are not the only segment of church population that unfairly are marginalized or flippantly brushed to the side.

Just as young people are vitally important to the body of Christ, so are those with many more years under their belts.

I once heard a wise pastor say, “if you have breath, God has a purpose for you. And if you are sitting in this service and are not yet dead, we, the Body of Christ, need you.

I firmly believe that the elderly are truly invaluable to the church. Young people are foolish if they despise the wisdom, experience, fellowship, friendship, love, and guidance of their older brothers and sisters.

Proverbs 16:31 proudly proclaims, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor, it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

Leviticus 19:32 commands, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.”

1 Timothy 5:1 instructs, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.”

Moses was 80 when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. He faithfully led them for an additional 40 years before he died.

Joshua was in his late 70s when he took over for Moses. He led the Children of God as they conquered the Promised Land until he was 110 years young.

Eunice and Lois, Timothy’s mother and grandmother are praised in 2 Timothy 1:5 for bringing up the young future pastor in a godly way.

Anna, who Luke in Luke chapter 2 describes as a woman “advanced in years” was so faithfully looking forward to The Messiah that she worshiped in the Temple day and night.

Elizabeth was well past her “child-bearing age” but because of she was righteous before God she was finally able to conceive and be the mother of John the Baptist who spectacularly prepared the way for Jesus Himself.

I could go on and on talking about all the incredible things that God has chosen to do through faithful elderly saints.

The point from last week remains. No matter what age you are, God can use you for His glory and for the good of the Body of Christ.

Just as the Body is deprived if young people are not championed, so too is the church deprived if the elderly are forgotten.

Once again, I bring us back to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. We need to always remember that there is one Body, but many parts. Even if those parts have been around for quite a while, they are still just as much of an indispensable part of the Body as you are.

Young people, do not despise or ignore those older than you.

Old people, do not despise or ignore those younger than you.

Will generations frustrate one another, and will there be friction as we strive to understand one another? Yes, almost assuredly. But is that any excuse for us to huddle in our own age-cliques? No, not at all.

Together, can we work to be sure that Christ is glorified both in the church and on the earth? Absolutely.

I need believers younger than me. I need believers older than me. And we all need Jesus.

Too Young For Chruch?

Recently, someone (who doesn’t go to my church and I don’t know well) asked me what my thoughts were concerning the roles of “youth and children” in churches. They even went as far as to imply that young people should “just sit on the sidelines until their time came.” As someone who has worked with youth for a just shy of a decade now…wait, what? Did I just type that? Wow. Time flies. Anyway, back on track.

I believe that it is so important that we understand and recognize that the young people in our churches are an important and vital part of the Body of Christ. (Just as any true believer is a vital and important part of the whole.)

We can be certain that children and teens can truly be a part of the family of God (have a personal faith in Jesus as savior) because of passages like Acts 11:14, 16:31-32, and 1 Corinthians 7:14. Additionally, Jesus values, loves, and accepts children in Matthew 19:14 when He says, “let the children come to me.”

It can also be surmised that a majority, or at least some, of the disciples, were in their teen years. We find evidence of this in Matthew 17:24-27 where both Jesus and Peter pay a temple tax, but the others are exempt from this tax because of their age. Many Jewish teenagers and young men would follow a Rabbi, learning from him and studying at his feet. This tradition is consistent with what we know about the disciples.

Another example of a young person having an active role in the church would be Timothy. Paul writes to Timothy, who was a young pastor, in the books of 1&2 Timothy. We know that Timothy was fairly young because in 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul writes, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” This tells us that although Timothy was still fairly young, many presume in his late teens, he still had an important role in the leadership of the church.

With all of these examples in mind, we need to remember that the church is made up of people of all ages, including children and teens. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 tells us that there is, “one body, but many parts.”

The focus of this passage is that each and every member of the Body of Christ is important and has a role to fulfill.

This, of course, includes children and teens. Since young people are a part of the Body of Christ part of their role, just like the rest of the Body, would be to encourage, pray for, and love one another.

Ephesians 4:1-3 urges us all to, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Additionally, Ephesians gives special instruction to people in particular ages and roles. Chapter 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

And, Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1 is a good and helpful reminder for anyone as well, particularly teens and young adults. “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”

From all of these passages, I think we can safely produce a few principles regarding the roles of young people in the church.

  1. To be a fully-functioning disciple of Christ.
  2. To learn from those older than them.
  3. To respect those older than them.
  4. To encourage others regardless of age.
  5. To pray for others regardless of age.
  6. To share the Good News of the Gospel with others regardless of age.

Notice anything about those roles?

They seem to be applicable to any believer of any age.

Encourage one another, love one another, serve one another.

 

Not My Name

This week at my church is the incredible, exciting, draining, and yet fulfilling event known as Vacation Bible School. VBS has always been an extra special time around here, and last night was just the beginning of what I am sure will be a fantastic week.

Last night in the Bible lesson we talked briefly about the Tower of Babel. Do you remember that one? It’s in the 11th chapter of Genesis if you would like to read it for yourself. (You probably should.) One of the neat things that I have experienced at just about every VBS that I have ever been a part of is that the truth shared is just as relevant for adults as it is for the kids.

Anyway, back to the Tower of Babel. Actually, the story is more about the people than the actual tower. You see, God has told mankind twice now in the book of Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28, 9:1) It’s important for us to understand that God’s command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth is about much more than just simply having babies. It is about obedience to God and making His name great.

The problem with the people of Babel? They chose not to obey God. The settled down instead of spreading across and filling the whole earth, and they tried to make themselves famous instead of God.

The ancient people ignored God’s instructions, clustered together, and tried to make themselves great.

Sadly, not much has changed.

People now, just like people then, have a tendency to ignore God’s clear instructions, cluster together in alike tribes, and make themselves great-often at the expense of others.

So, what do we, who have put our trust in Jesus, do about this? Or how should we respond?

We first start by looking in the mirror.

God’s Old Testament command is echoed in the New Testament when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) God told Adam and Eve to reproduce in order to produce children who would know, obey, and love God. God now tells us to produce disciples who know, obey, and love Jesus.

But the temptation to cluster together and build a name for ourselves is ever-present. Sadly, at times, churches can be so focused on programs and events that they lose sight of what is truly important.

We cannot worry about increasing our church empires, we need to be focused on increasing His Kingdom.

Francis Chan has a pretty matter-of-fact quote “Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.” Ouch.

The Bible is pretty clear that those who follow Jesus are to be lights in this dark and dying world. We need to shine in the dark and we cannot allow the comfort of our familiar tribe to prevent us from doing so.

Tribalism is a dangerous and unproductive thing and it has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.

Now, let me be clear, I am not advocating that we stop spending time with the people whom we love and are comfortable with. What I am saying though is, let’s be sure to be active in our love and Good News witness to people who don’t fit inside of our cookie cutter vision.

There are a whole lot of people in this world. Many of them do not look, think, act, smell, sound, or see things the way you do. That is O.K. Our objective is not to make people become just like us. Our goal is to show people how to become like Jesus.

I don’t want to make my name great.

I want to make His name great.

Beyond The Walls

Things were a bit different in 1958.

Gas cost 25 cents! The average cost of a new house was $12,750! A gallon of milk only cost $1, and the average monthly rent was only $92! Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Dastun cars went on sale in the U.S. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Jerry Lee Lewis were the most popular artists. Candid Camera and The Ed Sullivan Show were on black and white televisions.

It was in this world that a small group of people meeting in a small school in a small suburb of Chicago decided to form a church.

This coming week my church is anticipating celebrating its 60th anniversary of faithful service to our wonderful Savior.

It is such an honor to be a small part of the legacy of this church that has, for so long, been so committed to missions, youth, care for others, service to the community, and love for God.

This January, in anticipation of our 60th anniversary, we, as a church, committed to a theme for the year, “Beyond The Walls.”

beyond walls poster.jpg

The theme itself is a bit layered. First, we want to be sure that we are going beyond the physical walls of our building in order to share the good news of Jesus’ love with anyone and everyone that we meet. For 60 years we have been in the same geographical location (the church bought land across the street from the school it initially met in and built on that land.) And so, since we have been present in this community for so long we want to be sure that we are, and continue to be, committed to getting beyond the physical space that we call our church building. We want to be known as a church that gives to and loves its community.

Secondly, we understand that we, as a group of believers, need to continually pray that God would give us the boldness to get beyond our own emotional and spiritual walls that we ourselves have set up. Often times past experiences, frustrations, and fears cause us to put up barriers in our own lives in order to hide behind. When we put these barriers in place we actually end up becoming less effective in our love and service. So, we are praying that God gives us the courage to break down these walls in our own lives in order to better love and better share the good news.

As I think about all the people who have come and gone from this church I cannot help but think of just how good God is and how wonderful His family, the Church (worldwide) is as well. Over the years I, and others, have seen God use this church in order to transform lives, marriages, families, and communities. This church has sent out many missionaries, especially for its size, to go and serve all across the world. We may not be a huge church, but by God’s grace, He has allowed us to have a global impact. That is certainly something to celebrate.

The neat thing about this church, and any church for that matter, is the intergenerational connectedness that takes place. Older generations set examples and provide wisdom that younger generations can need to learn from. At the same time, younger generations provide encouragement, enthusiasm, as well as new and fresh perspective. Both, older and younger generations, would do well to learn from one another. The church is a unique place for this to take place, and it is exciting to watch happen!

The Apostle Paul repeatedly talks about the church as a metaphorical body. (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1) We all need each other in order to function properly. The hand needs the arm, and the arm needs the legs, and the legs need the pinky toe. I need you and you need me. And we all need Jesus.

So, this week, praise God and thank Him for your church and how He has created it to be uniquely special in His kingdom. Praise God for His faithfulness to your local body of believers.

May we all, regardless of where we are, pray that God might give us the boldness to go “Beyond The Walls” in our lives in order to better love Him and love others! I pray that God would use my church, and yours as well, in order to impact this world for His good!