by Wes Moore

Recently a youth pastor’s wife told me of the time—the only time—she tried to get the youth involved with the senior citizens of her church. After countless hours of begging and pleading, the teenagers finally agreed to take part in the church choir. She and her husband were thrilled!

But that excitement would soon end.

Within the first few minutes of practice, the seniors were bickering and fighting over everything, throwing temper tantrums and demanding to have their way on this trivial thing and that. Her kids sat in stunned disbelief as those who were supposed to be the wise and mature of the congregation acted more like children in need of a good spanking than wise saints of God.

That was the only time they ever made it to choir practice. The kids simply refused to go back, and for good reason. Ironically, she told me, when she next saw those same seniors, they concluded, “Well, I guess the kids just don’t want to be a part of the choir after all.”

An Epidemic of Childishness

While many of our older generation are strong, mature, faithful disciples of Jesus, so many of them carry on like three-year-olds. They throw a fit when they don’t get their way, complain about everything, major on the minors, don’t know Scripture, constantly battle for power, and are an ongoing source of discouragement to their pastors and fellow church members.

When I was pastoring, it seemed like I had two children’s ministries—one for those under five, and one for many of those over fifty-five. This kind of spiritual childishness is causing irreparable damage to the church.

Here are only a few of the sad results:

  • Fighting and conflict: If you’ve got conflict in your church, I’ll bet the seniors are right there in the middle of it. Gossiping, bickering, picking nits, hatching schemes—they seem adept at all forms of spiritual rebellion. More times than not, this ends in members leaving, pastors resigning, and churches splitting. Great job, guys.
  • Lost youth: Almost ninety percent of children raised in the church leave after their eighteenth birthday. As the opening story illustrates, much of this exodus can be blamed on the nasty behavior of our seniors.
  • Lost souls: If you’ve paid any attention, you know the church in America is dying. According to some scholars, as much as eighty-five percent of churches in North America are headed for the grave. How much of that is due to the conflict caused by immature seniors?

God’s Opinion of All of This

The American culture may give seniors a pass for being childish and immature, but the Creator certainly doesn’t. The Lord gave the aged friends of Job thirty-one chapters to properly explain Job’s suffering, but they couldn’t. In the end, it was the young Elihu who got it right.

Before he answered Job, Elihu addressed Job’s senior citizen friends (Job 32:6-9, 20-22):

I am young in years, and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
I thought, “Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.”
It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.

I must speak and find relief;
I must open my lips and reply.
I will show partiality to no one,
nor will I flatter any man;
for it I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away.

Elihu was right: People who are old should be wise. They shouldn’t have to be instructed by the young. But, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Unrighteousness born of spiritual childishness is condemned throughout the Bible. James said, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16).

Isn’t this what we see in so many of our churches? And isn’t it true that the older generation is involved in most of it? [1]

Fighting Childish Seniors

What should you do if you’re a pastor struggling with these kinds of people in your church? Unfortunately, most pastors put up with it for far too long. They let the Pharisees (and this is what so many of them are) run all over everybody in the name of “love.” But this is not love at all! What about love for Christ and the success of His work? How can you love Him and let these folks go unchallenged?

In the name of overcoming this weakness, I recommend the following:

1.    Disciple them to maturity (Hebrews 5:11-14). In my experience, the childishness of our seniors flows directly from their lack of knowledge of Christ’s requirements for holiness. Chose a Sunday school curriculum that is demanding and require classes to focus on in-depth Bible study. Furthermore, preach for life change by plainly teaching the Bible’s truths about the way we are to live.

2.    Hold them accountable to the standards of God (Romans 16:17). Back up your teaching with some one-on-one accountability (Matthew 18:15-17). Don’t let them get by with immature, sinful behavior. If you have to, ask them to leave (read what Nehemiah did, Nehemiah 13); tell them you’re not going to stand for this type of behavior. What if they get mad? So what. What if they withhold their tithe? So be it. What if they leave? Hallelujah!

Let’s Grow Up Seniors!

In light of the terrible consequences of this behavior, I call upon our older generation to strive for Christ-like maturity. Here are some recommendations:

1.    Mourn before the Lord and repent. “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9). There is no excuse for this behavior. Don’t you realize that, according to the clock, you will meet the Lord before I will? You may not have long, and, the worst part is, so much of the decay in the churches has come on your watch.

2.    Rediscover the Bible. Read the Word yourself, pay attention to its commands, learn first-hand God’s requirements for your life. And then put them into practice. Read. Read. Read.

3.    Make peace with those you have harmed and become their ally (James 3:17-18). Seek out those you have hurt, discouraged, or resisted, especially your pastor. Confess your sins completely and ask for forgiveness. Find out what you can do to help your church move forward.

A Backbone of Seniors

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can be the backbone of the churches, supporting the pastor, encouraging and instructing the youth, and bringing honor to God until your last breath.

But you’d better hurry. Your time is short. Make it count.


Wes Moore is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and the founder of Evidence America, an apologetics and evangelism training ministry. Wes is the author of Forcefully Advancing: The Last Hope for America and American Christianity, a book designed to equip the average Christian to engage the lost; The Maker, a futuristic apologetics novel; and The Spiritual Top 50, a non-fiction apologetics book designed to help Christians answer the questions their lost friends are asking.  You can learn more about him at www.wesmoorenow.com.

 


[1] This is not to say that the younger generation has no sins for which to repent or that they are not childish or a contributor to church conflict.