Pastoring a congregation where most of the members are retired from their careers I am constantly needing to reflect on what are appropriate expectations for them at their stage in life. We are not preoccupied with children’s or youth ministry, nor with young families, or competing with the stresses of education and employment. What vision for their lives should I be setting before them? What is realistic for them and what is the Lord’s purpose for them to fulfill?
I am reading, A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry for and by Seniors by James M. Houston and Michael Parker. It is full of good theology and practical suggestions. They focus on the concept of maturity, which implies ongoing growth. The Christian life never stops becoming ever more fruitful. Retirement from growing in your understanding of and relationship with the Lord is not in the language of the Christian. We have never arrived in our spiritual growth. They suggest that when we reach sixty-five we should plan for the next forty years of our lives as if we were starting life again!
Seniors, then, should take the challenge of growing mature in Christ with utmost seriousness. Christians are called not only to receive the gospel, but to become mature persons in the gospel. In the final season of life, we are in a position to have the greatest influence, if we don’t grow weary. At the core of our late life ministry, whatever our physical state, should be private prayer, waiting in silence for God alone. It is the spiritual responsibility of Christian seniors to settle, alone with God, the immensely important matter of their late life calling. With daily, persistent focus on the One who has overcome all evil, today’s seniors can lead lives of assured, eternal victory and in so doing, light the path for those behind them.
Visiting with people at the end of their lives I am often aware that they haven’t taken advantage of the opportunities offered them by their church to develop their Christian maturity. They don’t know the Scriptures. They don’t have favorite Bible passages that they want me to read for them. They are not assured of their salvation and the gift of eternal life. They wrestle with guilt, anxiety and fear of the future.
This is why we offer so many classes for Bible and book studies and encourage daily Bible reading through the provision of devotional resources. It is my prayer that more of our members will participate in our classes and study groups. We have two on Sunday and one almost every day of the week. My vision for the Chapel is that all our members will become mature in Christ and share their faith with others.