Rise Up, O Men of God!

seniorman.gifRise up, O men of God.
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind
And soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

 I recently heard someone say that, in twenty-five years, one in five people will be over the age of 65.  One in ten will be 80 years or older.   As I look around my community and even within my church, I see this reality looming on the horizon.

I was always taught to value the aged.  The hoary heads, as the Old Testament puts it, have wisdom.  They have been where I have not been and seen what I have not seen.  And yet, something bothers me.

In recent years, it seems as though many of the elderly whom I am privileged to know are emptier, angrier, and unhappier than I thought they might be.  I looked forward to my own maturing as a young man because, in part, I knew I had people to look to for help and guidance.

There are not as many of these people, it seems, as I had assumed.

Of course, not all gray heads have empty hearts.  I have known many–many–who are full of life, full of wisdom, full of happiness.  These people, however, are just not the norm.

Even when I look to the Church, the collective local Body of Christ, I find dismal results.  While the number of the aged are growing rapidly within our church family, so many seem to be only nominal followers of Christ.  When I look to our lay leadership, I see largely younger men, 50 and younger who are pointing the way to Christian maturity.

Now, there are many successful older men in our church.  I know exactly to whom I would go to seek business or financial advice.  I just thought there would be more to whom I could go for spiritual advice.  I can’t seek out many for advice on how to rear my family because so many of them have failed marriages and wayward children.  There are a few who really pray.  A handful that would teach me servanthood.

Has the targeting of the young by American Christianity rendered the bulk of a generation as spiritual casualty?  What happened to discipleship, life touching life?  Where are the men of God?

I don’t know that there are any easy answers to my questions or easy solutions to my observations.  I do know, however, that if something is not done, the Church will suffer greatly.  And I love the Church.

Recently, I stood at the casket and looked down at the body of a man I knew for the last 5 years of his life.  He died nearly hitting the century mark.  He was not a perfect man, but he was a godly man.  He would pray–oh to hear him pray once more!  He revered and adored his God.  And he was an encourager!  In a day when the aged and young are seemingly at war over musical preferences, he was one who would sing all of the songs with all of his heart.  To him, it was more about the Object of his worship than the form of his worship.  There aren’t many like him.  I miss him every day.

It’s always fun to assign blame for problems, isn’t it?  I can get caught up in the fray like the best (or worst) of them.  Have we concentrated too much on buildings and programs and not enough on people?  Did we rely too much on the pastors doing the work of the ministry instead of equipping the saints to do said work?  Could we have ostracized the aging Church by forcing them into new molds without teaching and modeling and loving?  Probably.

Did the seniors of today concentrate too much on the American dream and not enough on the heavenly prize?  Did they sacrifice their families for a bigger home, nicer car, padded bank account, and community prestige?  Did the aged just get set in their ways and refuse to listen to new yet valid methodology for church ministry in a new era?  Probably.

But I am not concerned so much with reasons for the seeming decline in senior spirituality as I am with fixing the problem.  So here is a starting point for this discussion, based, I believe, in the teachings of the Scripture:

1. We must recognize that we can do nothing to bring about spiritual maturity without the power of the Holy Spirit.  So, we must pray and fast and trust as never before.  God must do the work.  And He can.  “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)

2. We must dedicate ourselves with renewed fervency to discipleship, regardless of age.  Older men who have never been discipled in the faith must be loved into relationships of spiritual vitality. “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

3. We must confront those in the older generation who refuse to live in obedience to God’s Word.  Shame on us if we write off a generation because “they’re too set in their ways to change.”  Such an attitude is an indictment on our belief in the sufficiency of Christ.  We must be careful, however, to confront as the spiritual teaches: to entreat or appeal to as fathers. “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

4. We must change the structure of our church programming to incorporate and not isolate generations with other generations. “O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)  “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4)

5. We must teach the aged men what God expects in their character.  Titus is instructive here as he notes six qualities of godly living for the aged men:

“that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience.” (Titus 2:2)

a. The term sober refers to a temperance, specifically with regards to drunkenness but also a characteristic of life.  This is a person who has learned moderation, who avoids extravagance and recklessness and indulgence.

b. These men also take a serious view of life, represented by the term reverent.  They are people who know the reality of life: that the world isn’t going to get better.  They have given up on Utopian dreams and hopes of changing the world.  They have buried their parents and often siblings or children as well.  They have witnessed firsthand the effects of sin.  It’s not that these are boring or uninteresting people; they just know what man is really like.  These are not whimsical people; they are dignified.  They have learned true priorities.

c. Temperate describes the sensibilities of the aged men.  They have learned to discern and discriminate properly.  They have their instincts and urges in check.  They are of sound judgment.

d. The older men are to be sound in faith.  Their confidence in God is sure, settled.  They have been through the testings of life and seen the hand of God.  They have learned what is right and cling to it steadfastly.  They don’t doubt God, question God, or accuse God.  They trust Him.

e. They are found to have a strong, healthy love for God and others.  These men are not bitter.  They are sacrificing servants.  I am glad to know several of these men.  They do not look for their own glory; they simply love through their service to the Lord.  O for a church full of men who are sound in love!

f. Finally, patience is a divinely-desired characteristic of godly senior men.  This is the word for endurance.  Aged men have often been through disappointment, disease, death of loved ones, defeat, and discouragement and they still stand tall in the strength of Christ.  These are men of courage and hope.  Even as their bodies grow weaker and weaker, their spirits are growing stronger and stronger.

By the way, I am so blessed to know men who are growing into their older years with exactly this character.  My pastor is one such man.  My father is another.  In my opinion, the Church has the potential to be stronger and healthier than ever before with this coming influx of the aged generations.  There can be more maturity and wisdom and endurance in the Church than ever before.  We who are in positions of leadership in the Church must determine to take an active role in ministering to our aging and aged saints, especially our men.

I love the verses at the end of Psalm 92:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
         He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
 Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
         Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
 They shall still bear fruit in old age;
         They shall be fresh and flourishing
 To declare that the LORD is upright;
         He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Hear-Hear!

    It will be an interesting paradox we face, and it’s approaching, just as you say; A new generation with a “new” way of looking at things, and an older generation that is the obvious majority.

    Fortunately none of this is taking God by surprise, and He’s already finished his how-to manual on how to reach and disciple all these people.

    It’s going to be a challenge, though, no doubt!



  2. Posted by John on August 5, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Great piece! So many ” in youth” have been hurt, or have harmed their testimonies. A divorced person, or a person with children who have gone astray find it difficult to free themselves in order to evangelize or disciple another in old age. They would rather focus upon the “if only” rather then all the good God has done. It appears when a person retires from work, at age 62, he/she think they can retire from serving the Lord too. Many are living for another twenty years and yet often never witness or disciple anyone. Now free to serve and yet they sit and observe. Most pastors haven’t a practical vision for this age group, so the “old” get fat and lazy. Church leadership needs to implant a vision into the hearts of the aged to rise up and build, not just place their tithe in the offering plate on Sunday and return to their places of rest. Good job…


  3. Posted by charlie on August 16, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    My wife’s great-great-grandfather wrote the lyrics to this hymn. He wrote it as a poem while in the service of the Confederacy on the eve of the Battle of Jonesboro during the Atlanta campaign. It was later put to music. He is listed in most hymnals as “W P Merrell”. His real name was “William Washington Merrell”.


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