Yes, I know that sounds harsh. But can anyone doubt that the modern evangelical church has marginalized seniors and the elderly into ecclesiological inconsequence?
A few weeks ago a friend of mine had on his Facebook status some "rah rah" status about how all the "old people" are gonna hate heaven if they think the worship music in churches is too loud. You know, because heaven's worship is going to be exactly like the laser light rock and roll concerts we got goin' on in evangelicalism right now. Buncha poo, that is.
Stupid old people and their lame musical tastes. They don't get "real" worship, do they?
Oddly enough, I thought about the youth-idolatry and pushing of our elders to the margins -- and my friend's Facebook status -- two weeks ago while watching the end of The Lord of the Rings. At the end, after the king has been crowned, the entire procession -- men, elves, and dwarves -- bow a knee to the fat, furry-footed, diminutive hobbits. Why did it make me think of the ageism in the church? Because I think when we do get to heaven, we are going to find that we are honoring the people we wouldn't think to honor in real life (with any meaningful consideration).
Look around the average attractional mega-whatever: are there many old people there? Do you care? Do you think you're better off because you think old people are unbending, unhip, unsophisticated, unable to get "the vision"? Then you're an idiot. When we get to heaven we will fully realize all the wisdom and experience and authority we not only squandered, but ridiculed.
Yes, some old people don't "get it." But a lot of young people don't either. We just put up with them more and are willing to work with them more because they make our church look cooler.
My friend Darryl Dash has an amazing post today titled Don't Write Off the Seniors. Darryl can write this kind of stuff, because Darryl is a true pastor. A taste:
Don’t get me wrong here. I’ve been part of sleepy churches full of seniors who are resistant to change, and that holds no attraction to me.
But I’ve also seen churches full of loud music and jeans and untucked shirts that have the best lighting and video production, with no gray hair in sight. Is that any better than a seniors only church? I wonder. That holds no attraction to me either.
I have been in conferences in which the speaker has said that we need to change, and if the seniors don’t like it, then that’s too bad. Again, I believe seniors need to flex, but the glib writing off of an entire generation speaks to a serious blind spot in our approach to ministry today.
Darryl closes his post with a reflection on James 1:27, writing:
If our religion is pure, we will look after those who are oppressed and forgotten, and that surely includes a lot of seniors today. I’m increasingly convinced that we need to move beyond generationally divided ministry and take this seriously. And we’ve got to take some of the challenges they’re facing and figure out how we can visit them in their afflictions and actually help.
If we write off the seniors, James says, we’ve failed. That’s a pretty big deal.
In our efforts to multiculturalize the church -- which is a great effort and a godly one -- let's not forget the need to multigenerationalize the church. Is your church monogenerational? If not, are your seniors second class citizens in your church? If so, what can you do to fix this?
The kingdom of God turns the tables on business as usual, and this includes church business as usual. The countercultural call of the kingdom requires a revolutionary ageism, where we actually honor our elders above ourselves and our youngers, actually honor those we are most tempted to deem having outlived their usefulness.
Observation on the Nines