Letters to My Younger Self – Cherish The Elderly

August 2, 2001

Dear Me,

Howdy. Back to the Future You here. I hope it has been a good week so far. Now that you bought that spiffy Apple iBook you’re really having fun. So glad for you.

One of the things that I’ve wanted to talk with you about is your relationship to a certain group of people in the church. Who are they? Well, let’s examine your situation. You’re twenty-two working on a staff with two interns who are twenty-three and twenty-one. Your boss is early into his thirties and the four of you combine to create an average staff age of not-quite-twenty-six. I bet you think that’s something amazing. But now think about what is missing in that picture.

Between the four of you there is not even 100 years of collective existence in your staff. Now look around at the church. Yes, there are many young folks and young families that meet the demographics of the Fab Four right now. But there is also a solid portion of people in your church that are twice your age. There’s a few that are three times as old as you and yes, some are four times your current age. They love Jesus, they love the church, they’ve invested a ton in seeing the church start and get off the ground and be financially independent. They care about evangelism, the gospel and missions. They probably care more about those things than you do.

Jeremy, let me tell you something important about these people. They will most likely not be the people who are culture changers and world-influencers. They are not the people who the advertising business markets too either. The world uses language for these folks like “past-their prime”, “had their day” and other such derogatory terms to tell you they are not as valuable to the advance of a business or culture as the young “hipsters” are. Yet these people are blood-bought children of God. They never outlive their spiritual gifting and usefulness to the body of Christ. You can never learn enough from these people.

Yes, they can be frail, demanding, opinionated, frustrating and “set in their ways.” So what? What’s the difference between a loud-mouthed, arrogant, passionate know-it-all, young pastor and the older saints? Wisdom. The older folks have it, you don’t. The smart thing for you to do would be to spend time with them. Learn from them. Ask good questions from them. Take your Bible and sit down with them and ask them how the passage your working on applies to their setting and lives. Love them. Shepherd them. Pray for them. Visit them when they are sick. Serve them. Evangelize them. Comfort them. Listen to them. Pastor them.

Unfortunately, the world and the church, has no more prominent places for people over sixty. Fortunately the gospel says their best days are ahead in Jesus. They have more to give and serve and to lead with now than ever before. Do not chase the idol of “relevance” and dismiss these dear saints for whom Christ died. You’ll be wise to involve them in every step you take. And for heaven’s sake don’t ever run-off an elderly crowd from your church so that you can reach a younger “target audience.” Those that do probably have no concept of the gospel and the impact of it for all of life. I shudder to hear the word Jesus has for those wicked “pastors”.

No, Jeremy, love the old people. Spend more time listening and learning from older men than you do listening to and learning from the young rock-star guys. Pray that more come to your church. Be just as strategic in mission to them as you are to young families. Jesus loves these people. Humbly learn from them and love them. You’ll learn more and be better equipped for the road ahead.

Now, I need to go ask my aged-pastor-friend a few questions. Later.

Your Older, Still Young, Self, Jeremy