This article was originally published in Edition (8) of Prayer Magazine,  Oct-Dec 2006.

Brian H. is on the far side of 60 – a time when many of his peers are beginning to take life easy. But no rocking chair on the patio for him. A very active member of his local church for over 40+ years he is involved in a unique fellowship and outreach ministry as Captain of his church’s Golf Society. Unusual yes, but so very effective.

Barbara B. is a retired Head Teacher. For years she was away from the Lord but when she returned to Him in 1978 an intense longing just burned within her to serve the Lord. For a long time it was the passionate prayer of her heart. Then at 60 years of age, doors and opportunities for service just began to swing wide open and she went straight through them. At 76 she is still going strong.

Caleb of the Old Testament had spent forty years travelling through the desert because his nation spurned his advice. He could have been expected to take a well-earned rest. But his inheritance was in the shape of a mountain, which also happened to be inhabited by giants. Nothing daunted he went ahead, started climbing, and obtained that which he had been promised. And he was 85! (Josh. 14:10-15).

Though they passed what the world regards as their ‘sell-by date,’ they believed that the Lord could and would and does use them in His work.

For a long time influencers of society have been telling us that this is a ‘young peoples’ world and many have bought into this ‘one-sided’ myth. The reality however is that this is an ‘all peoples’ world and more and more people over fifty are discovering this. Industry, commerce, government and society in general are beginning to recognise the abilities and strengths that men and women in the second-half of life are able to bring to our world today.

It is time for the Church – the pulpit and the pew - to wake up and realise this great fact, that ‘seniors’ have a significant and strategic role to play in reaching our world with the gospel today.

The reality is that much of the resources for the everyday ministries of the local church (finance, prayer, etc.,) is provided by the seniors segment of church society and older Christians need to be acknowledged, appreciated and affirmed by their Leadership. They also need to be ‘activated’ into far more meaningful areas of church life and ministry than is often the case in today’s hyper-charged world.

I firmly believe there are times when we must hand on the baton of certain roles and leadership responsibilities. (See Num. 8: 23-26) There is nonetheless a pressing need for we of the ‘older generation’ to stay on the track and be available and involved enough to motivate, encourage, advise and at the very least cheer on, those who are now carrying the baton.  

David says in Psalm 139I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’(v.14-15) The Lord has ‘planned’ and brought you to this very day of reading these words and this tells me that He still has some noble and significant work and ministry for us ‘Seniors’ in the ‘second-half’ of our lives.

It is a great and important truth that church leaders, congregations, and individuals especially, must recognize and respond to in these challenging days in which we live. The reality is that seniors in the second half-century of our lives have unique gifts to bring to the work of Christ’s Church today.

Writing this article, I came across an amazing thing. Stopping for a coffee break I picked up the then current copy of Time Magazine. It contained a glossy, full-colour, high profile advert, spread across two pages, inviting companies to consider relocating to a place that seemed to be full of potential and opportunity. It looked so impressive and exciting until I realized it was for, of all places, Iraq! For years Time had constantly reported on the conflict, bitterness and death that had been an integral part of life in that tragic country. Yet here was an invitation for people to go there and experience all that was good about the place.

Someone in that troubled country had looked beyond the problems and seen the potential! We seniors can do the same for our troubled world. Because of our long walk through life, we are uniquely fitted to look beyond the problems and see the potential of the Gospel and bring our unique gifts to the church that will enhance its life and outreach today.  Consider them here -

Prayer –

Over the last decade or so I have been involved with a number of very effective and influential prayer movements and initiatives. In my experience, the overwhelming numbers of people involved in these have been people well into the second half of their lives. For them, prayer has become not just an exercise but an integral part of life and this hidden prayer force must be mobilised afresh.

Faith –

All these past years of hearing, reading and heeding the Word of God has built up a deep reservoir of faith in our lives (Rom. 10: 17.) Those same years have allowed us to see the wonderful works of the Lord in our own and others lives. Now, like many others before us, we ‘remember all the way the Lord has led us’ and those memories have helped deepen our faith in the absolute power of the Lord.

Experience –

The only way you can get real experience is by experience! The older generation this has gained this by learning and listening as well as by making and working through our own mistakes and misunderstandings. This has however given us perceptions and knowledge which is an invaluable inheritance to pass on the new generation. Job said that ‘understanding comes with length of days.’ (Job 12: 12.) It was experience which enabled David to testify I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.’ (Ps. 37: 25) Seniors, be available to pass on that great store of experience you have gained over the passing years. Younger Christians, be humble enough to seek out that experience for your coming years.

Patience -

Ours is an instant world - coffee, meals and even new homes but the Bible says – …let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.’ (James 1:4 AB)

When we were expecting our first child, an old Christian said to me - "A fruit taken too early from the tree never ripens."

Younger Leader, when that older church member seems to be hesitating in their response to your new idea, don’t write them off for lack of vision, perhaps they are displaying something you need – patience! A little extra time spent in prayer, nurturing and meditation could mean the difference between success and failure.

Perhaps this is why seniors seem to have an abundance of –

Hope –

The prophet Jeremiah looked upon the desolation of his city and wept. But then he remembered the unfailing faithfulness and promises of God and cried out - "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope." (Lam. 3: 21)

Many seniors in today’s church look back on their life following Christ and have hope that has been developed over their years of walking the Christian way – a deep and settled assurance that the purposes of God will eventually triumph.

One final offering –

Encouragement –

1 Thess. 5: 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Older person, the younger generation now taking our place is stepping up to the front line where we have been for many, many years. It would be all too easy for us to forget the pressures that involves. Pressures we have endured and come through but now it is for someone else to fill that place. So do what Paul encourages us – encourage everyone you can! Nothing but nothing helps like a gentle, sincere word of encouragement - especially from one who has already walked the same path of life!

Chosen to cheer -

In closing, think about little Jamie Scott. He was trying out for a part in a school play. His mother knew that he had set his heart on being in it, although she feared he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, she went to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement "Guess what Mum," he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to his mother for ever: "I've been chosen to clap and cheer."

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