Challenges: Things That Seniors Should and Should Not Do
A.W. Tozer wrote,
O God, let me die rather than to go on day by day living wrong. I do not want to become a careless, fleshly old man. I want to be right so that I can die right! Lord, I do not want my life to be extended if it would mean that I should cease to live right and fail in my mission to glorify you all of my days!4
I find this would be the desire of most of the senior saints in our churches, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. As they often say, “growing old isn’t for sissies.”
First of all, don’t give up! The apostle Paul told us to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Our senior years are that last quarter of the race where the finish line is in sight, and though the strength is waning fast, we must keep looking unto Jesus Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). Scripture exalts the worthiness of the senior years, and our generation needs us even if they don’t realize it.
Seniors should act their age! Paul wrote to Philemon as “Paul the aged” (Philemon 9). Use that title with the dignity it deserves. We aren’t teenagers anymore, and it’s unbecoming of us to try to be what we can’t be whether in appearance, language, or culture. Peter encouraged us to adorn “the hidden man of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4). That is where the real beauty lies. Neither should we become sloppy or lazy. Age has its own curse without us adding to it.
I don’t think it is funny when seniors mock their own cause. I don’t mean that we can’t laugh at ourselves. Seniors are better at that than any age group. But I mean acting out skits and plays or telling stories of mentally handicapped old people, like television commercials do all the time. God has given us power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7), and we should honor that as long as we’re able. Above all things we should not be crude or worldly. We have to be very careful here because we may think we’re above these things. We may think that crudeness is OK just because we’ve become calloused to it for so long. We may think the lust of the flesh doesn’t apply to us, but the truth is that these things are uglier than ever in older saints.
We all know that it is important for seniors to keep their physical and mental senses as sharp as possible because they will naturally diminish quickly on their own. We should stay active with hobbies, activities, even part-time work. We should read, write, memorize, stay computer literate, and keep our minds as active as possible. Keeping active in the local church is both a help to us physically and mentally and also a blessing to the church body.
Opportunities: Good Things That Seniors Can Provide
D.L. Moody once wrote that though godly saints may not be appreciated in this life, “there will be a greater work done after they are gone by the influence of their lives, than when they were living.”5 Sometimes there is so much regret for what we did not accomplish in our lives that it keeps us from doing the service we can be doing now. In the last days of his life, living in prison with no hope of release, the apostle Paul asked Timothy to bring him his books and his Bible (2 Tim. 4:13).
Seniors are prayer warriors and Bible students. If every other door is closed to you as a senior, these are not. Seniors have time to pray and have wonderful devotions with God. We have the advantage of years of good learning, experience, and cultivated interest in the things of God. It is not secret why seniors are the most frequent attenders at prayer meetings and even Sunday evening services. Heaven will only tell what great things were accomplished for God through the prayers of senior saints.
Seniors also have time to evangelize. Many of the great churches of history, including Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, flourished because teams of seniors were constantly evangelizing their city. Seniors can evangelize seniors and baby boomers better than anyone else. You can speak directly and confidently to those of your own age in a way younger ones simply cannot.
There are services to be done within the church body. There are always shut-ins and those in rest homes who are lonely or need encouragement. Many seniors have skills that can be used around the church or to help those in need. Many church building projects would not be done without the help of seniors who have skills and the time to use them.
Many seniors, certainly not all, have been blessed with the ability to give monetarily at this time in their lives. Paul encouraged them to “be ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (1 Tim. 6:18). What a blessing those seniors are to the church! Yet even those who are not so fortunate in the senior years still have a testimony and an exemplary life to live before the church. Our children and grandchildren need to see us serving God and living by our faith to the very end. We can do this in many ways.
Responsibility: What the Church Should Do
The most needful response of churches in our generation and culture is to treat our seniors in the way the Bible commands. Our culture is not one that honors its seniors as previous generations have done, but this should not be true of our churches. In every age God has commanded us to honor our fathers and mothers (Exod. 20:12; Eph. 6:2). Seniors are to be teachers and leaders, and youth are to be learners and followers (Titus 2:1–6). This is a challenge as we try to minister to a world that doesn’t do that very well, but it is still our responsibility nevertheless.
We are commanded to help and support the older saints who are weak or destitute (1 Thess. 5:14; 1 Tim. 5:3–16; James 1:27). We shouldn’t see their need simply as a show of good works. Seniors don’t want to be patronized. But seniors have very real needs brought on by a phenomenon that they can’t prevent and that we all will experience—older age. Our care for them is both a responsibility and an opportunity to do some of the most important work of the church.
The church should also seek to understand the senior saints among them and also to admire their faithfulness. They carry themselves well or at least as well as they can, and often just living through daily routines is a monumental task. They are tough, but they are also human and need the love and support of their brothers and sisters in Christ. They have a godly faithfulness that is sometimes lost in our current generation of churches.
Perhaps Solomon said it best, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck” (Prov. 1:7–9).
Rick Shrader is the senior pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Smithville, Missouri, the editor of the Aletheia newsletter, and the president and founder of Aletheia Baptist Ministries. Aletheia Baptist Ministries provides resources and helps for fundamental Baptists, including offering Baptist and church history tours to England and Scotland. Rick is a visiting professor of Practical Theology at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, and he currently serves on the board of Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Ann, live in Gladstone, Missouri.