This week I have had three separate discussions about the importance of the oldest generation of church in raising the next generation to stand strong with the Lord. There is a trend in the world for generations to be separated. Family members can be in the same room, but on devices not speaking to each other. Yet the Gospel is transgenerational.
The final verse of the Old Testament declares this reuniting of the generation in this way:
"And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6.
The Lord describes himself as the God of generations each time he is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It's not just nice to include the seniors, it is a necessary part of discipling the younger generations.
What role can the oldest generation of the church play in the lives of the younger members? This age can be seen as a time of decline and failing health, but really it should be seen as the generation of spiritual strength from their years of service.
Here are a few things they have to offer that the youngest generation of church needs. These thoughts are somewhat random in order and certainly do not intend to highlight every benefit of connecting generations or every challenge there is from the older generations perspective, but I hope that it is a start to get us all thinking about how we can work together more effectively to raise the next generation of faith-filled saints.
Stories of faith are inspiring. This is part of our legacy. As we hear stories of what God has done through you and what you have seen in your time it stirs our faith and inspires us to run further and press in for more of the Lord. A lifetime of stories packed into one conversation can be enough to inspire new ministries to rise up.
As the world changes rapidly, the wisdom of years provides a perspective that is desperately needed in these times. To know what is important and what is irrelevant, to know when we should stand and fight and when we should sit and wait. Whether it is a grandchild being bullied at school or a teenager struggling with their mental health, the perspective of those who have been there, done that and lived life is invaluable.
While it is true that many are so busy in retirement that they wonder how they ever found time to go to work, time is still a resource that you have greater control over as you advance in years. To give this time to listen and value the younger members of the church can have a great impact on their faith development. Let it be said: ‘I remember, they were always there and always wiling to listen.’
Quality of faith
For a long time I have noted a quality of faith that only seems to come with advancing years. People can be totally sold out for the Lord and see incredible miracles when they are young, but there is a certain maturity of faith that I only see in the oldest members of church communities. Whether it is because they have lived through many different trials and seen God’s faithfulness, or whether it is because they know they are closer to going home to being with the Lord with more of their life on earth behind them than in front of them, I do not know. But it is a faith that is refined, nurturing and strong. Simple assurances that God is true to his word seem to carry more weight out of the mouths of those who have found that to be true over decades of service to the Lord.
It may be that the older generation are not easily able to jump around and do action songs in front of a bunch of primary school children (though I know some who still do!) Energy levels may be less for some, but the refined faith mentioned above, results in a power in intercession that the youngest generation (indeed the whole church) need. While it may not be the most visible ministry, or the most appreciated by some, it is certainly one of the most impactful minsitries to change a generation.
Less action more being. Simply by being, the older generation point to the faithfulness of our God and should be celebrated. Their godliness should be celebrated and the life of sacrificial obedience that leads to that should be honoured.
Andy Kennedy, a dear friend of mine, speaks about the different generations working together as an arrow. The children an young people are like the arrow head – spearheading new ministry and cutting through with youthful energy. The older generations are like the spine of the arrow – they serve to straighten the shot as the arrow leaves the bow to attack the enemy. But the oldest generation is like the feathers – providing stability in flight.
You see this strength in Simeon, who sat in the temple waiting for the Messiah, that he would see the fulfilment of the prophecy the Lord had given him. Interestingly seeing baby Jesus was enough to assure him that God’s time had come and he could now depart in peace!
King David write this in Psalm 37:25: I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.
This perspective and confidence in faith needs to be passed from the older to the younger generations. Let’s make opportunities for them to share and allow their wisdom, love and experience to be passed on to those of us who come after them.