A couple of gray, dinged wheelchairs and a walker linger a few feet off the entrance of my church. They’ve been there for years, but I notice them more now. Perhaps it’s because I have a few gray hairs of my own! I’m glad they are there. Those medical devices serve the aged who need them. And they remind me the church is for young and old alike.
When I came to pastor here more than a decade ago, I wanted to see younger people join the church. Everyone did. The “young” represented life, vitality, and the future. A quiet children’s ministry had the stench of death about it. We needed to grow as a church and subtly thought the best growth was young growth.
By God’s grace, our membership has increased over the years — slowly and steadily. But now more than ever, I’m thankful for those wheelchairs.
I rejoice at the sight of those wheelchairs because I believe the Bible: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life (Proverbs 16:31). There is something honorable about aging gracefully. Not all the elderly are saints, but the saints who are elderly deserve special honor. I love those wheelchairs because Paul saw fit to commend “grandmother Lois” for investing in young Timothy, and I want a church filled with grandmothers like Lois (Connie, Carolyn, Sylvia, Jane, and Fredda — to name just a few of the grandmothers in my own congregation). Those wheelchairs mean a great deal to me because growing old is hard, and I long for the aged to lean into the church and for the church to lean into the aged. There is no time-stamp on Hebrews 3:13: But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Being a multi-generational church has its challenges. For example, the worst of each generation expects all other generations to kowtow to its musical preferences. Not long ago we sang the older, “My God, How Wonderful You Are” and the newer, “King Forevermore,” in the same service. We don’t offer multiple services, so everybody needs to give a little. It’s worth it; we are one church, one family.
If I could go back ten years I would have spent less time worrying about when more young people would join the church, and more time engaging with the elderly saints who had called this church home for decades.
Thankfully for me, it’s not too late. I’m grateful to God for the wheelchairs.
This column is reprinted from Baptist Press.