“Ageism In The Church”

March 9, 2016

Hairy woodpecker (Photo by Doris High)
Hairy woodpecker
Photo by Doris High
One of my favorite spring sounds is a pecking woodpecker
“Ageism In The Church”

Message Summary: Respect for the elderly seems to be one of the many elements we’re losing as we slide farther and farther away from a Biblical pattern. The last phrase of the sentence, and how it relates to the first two phrases, especially intrigues me.  It seems to me that they are inter-related. By rising in the presence of the aged and showing respect for the elderly we are also showing reverence toward God. Conversely a failure to do so is expressing a lack of reverence to God.

Note: Due to early morning chaplain visitation and a long day podcast not prepared for this message.

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32).

Soon I’ll come to the end of life’s journey
And I’ll meet the One who gave His life for me

We had an absolutely beautiful day yesterday with temps in the mid-seventies. In the afternoon I saw a young man riding on a skateboard down the middle of the road. His actions seemed rather careless as he crossed in front of me. Then I noticed he had an interesting message on the back of his shirt that in time he will find is definitely not true. The message was “Deathproof”!

This last Sunday during a testimony service in our church a woman in her nineties stood to speak and referred to her salvation experience as a sophomore in high school. Now that would have been longer than most of the congregation was even alive! With tears she implored all, young and old, to get their hearts right with God.

Another time an older man slowly stood up, leaned against his cane for support, and prefaced his testimony with these words, “I’m on the home stretch” prior to dispensing some wisdom fitting for all ages.*¹

David Penley is a Texan friend who has taught counseling at a seminary (SWBTC) for many years. Of course we normally think only of “trained” counselors but David asserts that, “Counseling takes place in the church all the time. In Sunday School classes, in worship services, in hallways. The church is where it should take place.”

We also believe that and feel much informal counseling tends to be discounted in value. Sadly so many who have wisdom to dispense feel their voice is of little value and this especially applies to the elderly.

Paul Wilkinson, a reader from Canada and also a prolific blogger, shared this note with me: “The problem of ageism in the church is growing as the senior demographic grows. I’m caught in that myself as my wife and I are no longer asked to lead worship, and we were using 90% modern worship material! I heard a quote, but I can no longer source it, of someone who was told, ‘Don’t picture anyone over 40 on your church website.’  I guess, ‘…or on your platform’ applies equally.”

“Ageism”. All we need is another class of victims so that’s not my point in this message. But we do want to consider the importance of esteeming the elderly.

Thankfully our church still gives the elderly a voice. (And we know many others do as well). But Brooksyne would be excluded from leading worship in many churches based on her age (candidly she’s really not very cool either). She takes a turn in leading our worship service every other week and has a variety of ages assisting her from pre-teen (drums), those in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and a lady in her 80’s (vocals).

We also still periodically have a testimony service where members of all ages can briefly and on point (the pastor hopes*²) speak out. Several months ago we heard from D.J. Paglia, a long-retired pastor in his late 80’s, who preached a spot on message.

In regard to our personal observation concerning a diminishing honor for the aged, I need to ask a few questions:

  1. Is this just because we are getting older? Frankly, it could be a little of that.
  2. When we were young did we respect the aged? We have examined our memory and feel we did esteem older folks when we were young and valued their input in our life.

However, apart from personal reflection, we also read that others feel this generational gap is increasingly an issue, especially among millennials. We saw it in our role as chaplains at a nursing home. We hear it in the course of speaking to others such as a story Brooksyne heard regarding disrespectful, dismissive treatment of the elderly by young staff members in one of our prestigious retirement homes here in Lancaster County. *³

Today’s text is from the ancient Hebrews Scriptures. Of course it’s in our Bible as well in the Old Testament. A simple command that has been practiced through the ages and still is in many cultures: “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32).

Respect for the elderly seems to be one of the many elements we’re losing as we slide farther and farther away from a Biblical pattern. The last phrase of the sentence, and how it relates to the first two phrases, especially intrigues me.  It seems to me that they are inter-related. By rising in the presence of the aged and showing respect for the elderly we are also showing reverence toward God. Conversely a failure to do so is expressing a lack of reverence to God.

To the younger: Are you you showing respect to the elderly and valuing the input from their lives? From what I read and have observed this is especially an issue with the generational group known as millennials. I don’t like to use snarky phrases from the world but will do so here. News flash: You will get older! And you will be surprised at how fast life goes by (I’m sure you’ve heard that a time or two from your older parents or grandparents).

To the older: Your voice has value and there are young people who will value your wisdom.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we thrill at the sight of a newborn. We find pleasure in watching an active, playful child. We’re amazed and prayerful as the child grows into their questioning teen years.  And we rejoice as the youth takes on the responsibilities of adulthood and family.  We respond differently to every generation and conclude with respect and honor to those who go before us; the seniors and elderly. They deal with confinement, pain, physical and mental changes, in addition to the repeated losses of friends and family members. Prompt our memories to include them in our activities when possible, to give them personal attention, to pray for them regularly, and to seek them out when they’re among us. Amen.

R.C. Sproul says, “When I last crossed a decade barrier in my own aging process, God was good enough to grant me this small bit of wisdom—the Bible honors age, not youth. I came to understand that the disappearance of my youth was something God thought a good thing, and if I were wise, I would agree.”

Notes:

*¹ Regarding the elderly man’s testimony he solemnly acknowledged, as the Apostle Paul did, that the time of his departure was near although of course we don’t know when. Paul’s goal was to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus had given to him—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

Life in the perspective of eternity is but a vapor, although since it’s all we know it can seem like a long race. Jesse who is in his 90’s is indeed on the home stretch and awaiting those words from our Lord, “Well done good and faithful servant”

All of us will one day come to the end of our race. Our goal should be to run in such a way as to get the prize of Christ’s acclamation.

*² “Briefly and on point.” He never specifically told me that but after 25 years of pastoring that is one of the concerns pastors have concerning “testimony” time. My most memorable off topic testimony took place over 30 years ago when a man who was slightly touched arose and commenced to share a spiritual truth with the congregation he had learned from the previous episode of the Dukes of Hazard.

*² Nursing home disrespect: We referred to this in our message. Brooksyne talked with a woman who was being trained by staff members to be a nurse’s aide. She was appalled at the way the young workers made fun of the residents, often speaking to them disrespectfully and mockingly. When the trainee had more than she could take she finally spoke up on behalf of a resident who could not speak for herself. Though the resident couldn’t speak, under the table where they were seated, she gratefully squeezed her new friend’s hand thanking her for caring and speaking on her behalf.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

David Penley and his wife Sabra share insights at “Simply One In Marriage” which has excellent marriage-building teaching. David also shares this point a fellow professor made concerning the video we shared Monday, which is applicable to today’s message. “Among all the fallacies in his talk, the greatest is his supposition that the most important source of spiritual impact on a middle schooler is other middle schoolers. That is ludicrous. Many of our greatest pastors and missionaries and world-changers in the marketplace grew up in small churches where they were immersed in intergenerational relationships—and prospered!”

Paul Wilkinson’s blog “Thinking Out Loud” I especially enjoy his weekly links list and the stuff he uncovers. I just read on his blog that Jerry Bridges passed on. He was a formative writer for me. I visited with him at a conference at Gordon Conwell about 20 years ago.

Here’s a thoughtful blog post related to today’s message sent by Jim, a friend from Texas, who passed away this last fall, a blog post titled Ageism in an Age of Hipster Christianity? The article is excellent, the comments are insightful.

“Gray Hair is a Crown of Glory: Ageism In The Church”  An insight from Tim Challies

“Countering Ageism”

“Worship Leading, Ageism, and the Fear of Getting Old”

“Ageism In Church Worship – Part 1 Interview with Ian Morgan Cron”  Video  (Excellent perspective!)

“Heroes of the Faith”  Video  Legacy Five

“In a Moment”  Video   Charles Billingsley

“For Future Generations”  Video  4Him

“When It’s All Been Said And Done”  Video  Robin Mark

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth
Did I live my life for You?

“Ten Thousand Years”  Video  Ernie Haase

Thank you to Jeff, a reader from Georgia who sent the tiles referenced in Monday’s message. He had indeed read the earlier message about the lo-tech whistle finder we returned! Apparently he felt sorry for us!

Woodpecker photo today by our friend Doris High. Other bird photos here.


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