Does Your Church Have Too Many Old People?

Preaching through Titus was eye-opening and encouraging for me in a number of ways. One of those ways was in reflecting on the brute force of the text in 2:1-8 (opened up hereherehere and here). In that passage, Paul casts a net that takes in the whole age-range of the congregation.

Pride of place goes to seniors, to older men and older women, who then have a ministry embracing younger women and men.

If we let it, this has real impact on how we will view our local assembly. Think it through with me.

Many folks in their 20s and 30s would walk into a church featuring a lot of people in their 40s and upward, and would be concerned.

I understand that, and I don’t entirely blame anyone for the reaction. That is, if they see a church predominantly tilted to the senior years, they will wonder if it has lost vision. They’ll wonder if it’s dying.

They will be concerned that this may be a church “married” to a single point on the calendar, rather than to the word of God—as if the 1950s (or, for that matter, the 1850s, 1750s or 1650s) constituted an especially sacrosanct dot on a timeline, and everything coming after that dot is suspect, or probably even evil. Not sharing that timebound devotion, they’ll wonder whether they’d find a home in this family, or whether instead they’d find themselves also suspect and marginalized.

Those are legitimate concerns, in themselves. I’m not writing to challenge anyone for merely having those thoughts. In fact, I would agree that there’s no excuse for a congregation to wed itself indissolubly to some imagined Post-Biblical Golden Age in any given culture. Paul reflected no such concern or fancy, nor did he encourage it; nor should we.

What’s worse, I know what it is when a congregation has the smell of death about it.

It’s just very, very sad. It is as if you’ve stepped into a time machine, in a way. In another, it’s as if you’ve stepped into a funeral parlor. There’s a feel of sad resignation and frustration; all is ingrown and cliquish; arms are already closed, not open. What you’re seeing is a slow death. They’re huddled together waiting for the end … and it’s on its way.

So I’m not writing to say that anyone should feel wicked and guilty if he feels a concern at the initial sight of a senior-weighted congregation. But I am writing to urge you not to stop with those first impressions.

I am writing to suggest other thoughts you should also have, other questions you should also ask yourself, in forming a decision.

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Dan Phillips
Dan Phillips pastors Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, Texas. He has authored The World-Tilting Gospel (Kregel: 2011) and God’s Wisdom in Proverbs (Kress: 2011). Dan also blogs at Pyromaniacs. Dan’s spoken and print ministries are both noted for his ability to take complex doctrinal concepts and truths of the Bible’s original Greek and Hebrew texts, and express them simply, passionately, and practically.

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