Gerontophobia in the Church

Gerontophobia is a hatred or fear of the elderly. It seems a television reporter in Huntsville, Alabama suffers this condition (or joked as if she does) on her blog, “Confessions of a Red-Headed Reporter.” Shea Allen, a special investigations reporter at WAAY-TV Channel 31 was terminated when she posted a list of ten confessions. Item 6 was “I’m frightened of old people and refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside.” 1

Are we seeing elements of gerontophobia in the church?

Ronnie Floyd was speaking in May to pastors in Alabama and remarked that many young pastors today have as their heroes and models for ministry people who are close to their own age, instead of a “Moses” figure with the benefit of experience. This remark reminded me of something written by Ed Spry:

You didn’t invent Christianity. You and I are at the end of a very long line of predecessors. Praise God for those who have preceded you. Even if they have long since lost their effectiveness… One day you be old and tired and ever mindful that those who came after you probably have no regard for what you did for the last fifty years. 2

Church history didn’t begin the day we were called to the ministry.

I heard a pastor explain his theory of church planting and approach to ministry is to build a church that he himself would want to attend. I see the “golden rule” in his motivation. I also see a danger. Maybe not for that pastor, but for others. We are building churches to reach only those people we want to have something to do with. As for others, it’s like the eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you!” (I Corinthians 12:21)

It’s kind of ironic that the very generation of church leaders who have most disputed “the homogenous principle of church growth” is the same generation with a blind spot for seniors.

Many senior adults literally (not figuratively) saw us move from horse and wagon (mixed in with cars and trucks, of course) to the space program, from radio to high definition television. The technological differences are staggering. They have lived and suffered under Jim Crow and now see a large number of interracial marriages. Moral standards have not merely evolved over time, they have been flipped on their head. While many of these changes were for the good, the constant adapting has been work. If many had overdosed on change, one can see how. And one might understand why they would want church to be the one place that didn’t change. Sure they were mistaken; it is God Himself who is our in unchanging constant and only true source of security. One can see why an entrepreneurial pastor, trying to reach his city or community, would feel like he was up against a group of knot-heads.

So we see a generation of pastors starting new churches to reach millennials. The blog, Downshore Drift explains how the perceived challenge is thought to be that this generation wants the church to be “more progressive, more inclusive, and more embracing of doubt and difference,” but replies:

I think that the reason that Millennials are leaving the church in droves is that, as a generation, they were taught by our sick culture and their parents that they are at the center of the universe and that everything should revolve around them, their feelings, and their desires and when they are with a group of people who see things differently from them on issues, then they find it impossible to remain in those relationships. 3

Is it possible that the secular culture of this generation has slipped into the church? We are not going to listen to a music style we do not like, not even in worship, not even if it blesses someone else. We are not going to sit with someone from a different generation. We are going to reinvent the entire Christian church. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Admittedly, every generation has had some of this attitude – we felt something like that, too – but not to this extent. In fact, this has come to be different in kind, not just in degree.

Motives vary with the person. Sometimes there are mixed motives, the bad mixed in with the good. I am not qualified to judge the motives of others, nor do I desire to do so, but I think it’s time we discussed the danger of gerontophobia in the church.


2. Spry, Phil (2012-02-24). Guerrilla Evangelism: 23 FREE Things You Can Do Right Now to Get People into YOUR CHURCH! (Guerrilla Church Operational Strategies) (Kindle Locations 566-570). Church Plant Press. Kindle Edition.


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So What’s Wrong with the Harvest?

So what’s wrong with the harvest? We discuss this a lot. We are all concerned. As we compare our baptisms to previous years we grieve the decline.

So what’s the problem? There is nothing wrong with the seed! The gospel is still the power of God to salvation. We all agree on that.

The standard answer is is that it’s the church – the sower. If we would get our priorities in order, we would do a better job of reaching our nation. No one could argue with that. …and I am not trying to say otherwise here. We have several challenges before us. A couple of examples:

We are out of ideas on methods. We don’t want a canned presentation. So we have replaced booklets and memorized presentations with… nothing. Three years after adopting the Great Commission Resurgence, no one is creating easy ways for novice witnesses to share their faith. We are told only to be passionate about the gospel and start churches.

In the New Testament the churches struggled with bringing their members out from the world from which they came. We struggle today with irresponsible members who were spoiled by their parents and many whom, into their thirties, still think they are in the youth group. They are looking for someone to take care of and entertain them.

But there is one other consideration: the soil. Jesus told us this would be a variable. For example, we know that when our missionaries go to some countries they see terrific results. People come to Christ in great numbers (those same “powerless” people who cannot reach people in America). Other people groups not so much. So, consider how the soil in our nation has changed:

People used to be joiners, now they seek privacy. (Francis Schaeffer foretold this in the 70’s as he described how people would seek a redefined sense of peace as being left alone.) The only person people will tolerate on their front porch these days is the pizza delivery boy.

People have fewer children. It is a lot easier to lead your association in baptisms when families have three and four children than when they have one or two. After all, in the “good old days”, where do we think all those baptisms were coming from? If it wasn’t for immigration, our population would not be growing; most segments of the American population are not reproducing at replacement levels. So now, you have to reach more households to have the same number of people in attendance as you did a few decades ago.

The increase in the number of women in the workplace has brought changes to church life. This has greatly reduced the number number of available hours for the work of the church. People compare our baptism numbers to the fifties and sixties; in those days we had two week Vacation Bible Schools. Sometimes, it just takes time for the message to sink in. We face the dilemma of having a crock pot message in a microwave culture. They won’t give us enough time!

There is more to do than there was but a few years ago. Travel teams for baseball, fall ball, Sunday soccer, more places to go, more things to do. With our higher standard of living and more credit cards, the church competes for peoples’ time.

We live in a time of information overload. Regardless which medium we use, how do we get people to listen when they are constantly bombarded with multiple messages every minute? Consider your own e-mail inbox. We have been learning to work harder at developing personal relationships, but that takes longer before you see results and it may not work after all that (people created in the image of God are worth our time whether it “works” or not, but I am addressing the problem of reaching people in strategically significant numbers.)

Pluralism has continued to increase. Political correctness and “tolerance” has become part of the national religion being promoted by the education system, government, and the media. It’s more difficult to espouse a faith that makes claims of truth – absolute truth – against that headwind.

The fact remains: the soil does matter. Jesus said so. In terms of individuals, and not society at large as we’ve just discussed, He said there were four kinds of soil. There is the person with the hardened heart, the shallow self, the one whose spiritual life is choked out by tangled priorities, and, yes, the good soil, which bears fruit and reproduces. Clearly, over time, the percentage each kind of soil is represented in the general population will change. The mix in one place will be different in another. Soil erosion may take place in a culture and good soil turn to bad. Our task is to test the soil samples and do our best with the mix of soils before us. No excuses; just do your best with what you’ve got.

Jeremiah was told the people wouldn’t listen to him. But the problem wasn’t Jeremiah. And while the church may not be in Jeremiah-shape, it wouldn’t hurt to be honest about the soil being a part of the equation. It may be, that like Jeremiah, a small remnant may have to walk a nation – one that is finished – to the finish line… loving and warning them all the way.

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Six Things to Help You Start Sharing Your Faith

Are you thinking about ways you could influence people are Christ? Below are six sets of things one needs to get started in sharing his or her faith:

  • Two one-sentence testimonies
  • Two questions that help a person think
  • Two things to give away
  • Two people who don’t know Christ, but know something you need to learn
  • Two places to put yourself in contact with lost people
  • Two ways to help people

Two One-Sentence Testimonies

We often cannot share our entire life-story. Either people aren’t interested or there isn’t enough time. But as a conversation flows and a subject matter that relates to your life experience comes up, there may be the opportunity for one well-crafted sentence.

Think of the things the Lord has done for you and the changes in your life that have been most meaningful to you. Then, find a way to condense it down into one well-crafted sentence. Avoid any religious lingo or Christian shorthand expressions. Use words to which secular people, who have no church background, can relate. Here are some examples:

  • Before I became a Christian I was so afraid of death I couldn’t visit the funeral home.
  • I was always disappointed my husband wasn’t the knight in shining armor I always dreamed of, but then I realized I was looking for him to fill voids in me only God can fill.
  • Since I became a Christian, I’ve had to face my inclination to be selfish — and the Bible has really helped me to rethink my motivations.

Below is a link to worksheet to help you develop your own sentences:

1-Sentence Testimony Worksheet (pdf)

Two Questions that Help a Person Think

Questions are helpful ways to help people think. I am not speaking of a smart-alack question or a question with an accusation implied or one that mocks the person. We shouldn’t go around trying to make people look foolish. However, it is OK to challenge a friend’s thinking and help them to think. Here are some examples:

  • Has anything ever happened to you that was dramatic, personal or spectacular enough to cause you to be certain there is a God? —One who is both infinite and personally caring?
  • If you could know God personally, would you want to?
  • If what you believe were wrong, would you want to know?
  • If your questions could be answered to your satisfaction, at that point would you believe in Christ?

A great source for such questions is on the Evangelism Coach web site. Here is an article and links to more questions: The Power of Questions in Conversational Evangelism. You can also follow him on Twitter at @EvangelismCoach

Two Things to Give away – CD with a Testimony, a Book, a Booklet

Fishermen maintain tackle boxes with an assortment of lures to catch various kinds of fishes at various times of day in various depths and kinds of waters. Similarly, golfers carry an assortment of clubs in their golf bags to use at varying distances and for grass when the golf ball will roll at different speeds. Fisherman will ask each other what’s in their tackle box and golfers will ask each other what’s in their bag. Every Christian needs a couple (or more) things he likes to give away to his friends who are not Christians yet. Perhaps this includes Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, or a CD with a recorded testimony. You will need something for those who are more skeptical and for those who are open to the gospel. These resources should always be something you have listened to yourself and for which you feel a genuine measure of enthusiasm. You should be able to sincerely say, “I found this to be very helpful” or “This is just a terrific summary of what we were talking about” or “I believe you will enjoy listening to this.” Be careful to give away reading materials in a suitable large print size. Then, follow up by asking the person what he or she thought of the book or audio.

Two People Who Don’t Yet Know Christ, But from Whom You Can Learn Something

This is about connecting your life with people other just Christians. It is about affirming the value of people, created in the image of God, and showing them some respect as human beings. Ask someone to teach you how to tie your own flies for fly-fishing or to show you the basics of ham radio or how to make that cobbler or one of a thousand other things. Christians should not act like we know it all and there is nothing we can learn from those who are not Christians. Unbelievers will not contaminate us. We should not live in isolation. We cannot influence the world for Christ if we have such attitudes.

Two Places to Put Yourself in Contact with Unbelievers

Instead of cloistering ourselves with Christians only, believers should be scattered like salt in food or light in the earth. Some of these places in life are givens: Work or school, for example. But they include optional things like a team you play on, attending games at the park, Lion’s Club, etc. We cannot have influence in a world with which we have not a thing to do!

Two Ways to Help People

The world thinks we Christians are generally useless, at least as far as we live in the “religious” world. They perceive church as some kind of philosophy discussion club. They are willing to grant us more creditability, however, when they see us making the world a better place in which to live. If you are involved in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, you are there. However, you may need something that is more local in addition such as tutoring, reading at schools, Upward Basketball, etc. Further, doing things to help people puts us in contact with others and gives us an opportunity to explain how Jesus is the one who made us interested in being helpful to others.

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The Point of This Blog

Via @philipnation:

“Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.” — David Brainerd<

This man’s aspiration is an excellent dream for a pastor and a great prayer for church in a small town!

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The Care and Feeding of Partner Churches

So you are leading a new church plant and will be needing some partner churches to support you. From the supporting partner perspective, here are some things that help us be better partners:

When a partner church first comes on-board, send a welcome kit with a cover letter. The cover letter can be a form letter, but include a handwritten note of thanks on bottom. A Tweet is not enough. Sure, this is all about the Kingdom, but as you read Paul’s letters, he expresses appreciation. Here are some other things to include in the kit:

  • Tell us a little about yourselves, your call there, and the work. As pastor, I will already know most of this information, but I will want help in telling our congregation about you. Give us something we can copy and paste into our church communications.
  • Give a brief synopsis of the context in which you are serving and your planting strategy.
  • If you are away from your home state or region include a short list of things you miss from home (we may be glad to send you you a sack of grits or cheese bisquits from Jim n’ Nick’s).
  • Include a few photos.
  • In general, help our church get a mental picture of what they are supporting.

Send us an annual or semi-annual mission team needs catalog. We would like to be involved, as partners – not to meddle or be under foot, but to participate. This mailing (or more exactly, this e-mailing) could include:

  • Tell us what you need the teams to do. You may want to have a plan for youth teams, adult construction teams, and other types of adult teams.
  • Tell us what size teams you need. We don’t want to swamp your carrying capacity.
  • Show us how the assignments match up with your planting strategy. We are not looking to be tourists or for make-work. If we can’t help you in your start-up, we can go somewhere else and help a church where we will be a better fit.
  • Provide simple materials for us to train our teams before we leave. If you are already using video in your worship services, perhaps include some video.
  • Have a system to introduce us to your local culture and its do’s and don’t’s.
  • Tell us what you can and cannot provide in terms of accommodations or meals. We can take it from there. It may be all you can do is recommend some places to stay.

Bobby Gilstrap has a great system for this.

Send us a short monthly email with pictures, stories, and prayer requests. Some planters may assume their partners will be interested enough to follow their web sites and blogs and to read the e-mails they send everyone in the general population. Instead, send your partners some premium communications. These are the guys who are helping you pay the bills. They are called partners for a reason; they aren’t the general population. So, treat them like part of the team. It’s kind of hard to get excited about renewing support for a plant for an additional year if the only communication we have had from them is when they endorsed the back of our checks.

  • At our church, we will actually pray about your prayer requests. Most churches will.
  • When you have a need, make us aware. You might be surprised what a church could help you with — we might be surprised at the number of ways we could help!

Partners are an investment of your time; they are not a drain on your time. Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen, the feeding-trough is empty, but an abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox.” No, if you don’t own an ox, you don’t have to feed it or clean its stall, but then on the other hand, you don’t get the benefit of its work, either. Oxen, like partners, can help bring in an “abundant harvest.”

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Help, I Pastor a Confederacy

Do you sometimes feel like you pastor a confederacy? I not referring to the War Between the States or anything to do with slavery. I use the word confederacy as a technical term, as in Articles of Confederation, the first form of national government in the United States (1777-1789). You will remember that our Constitution was drafted because the Articles of Confederation left the federal government too weak. All of the separate states were so strong that they couldn’t do anything together. And similarly, in a church, differing visions may hinder a congregation in the decision-making process and paralyze their advance. Sometimes, this is due to the selfish desires of strong willed and articulate individuals developing personal followings. This represents a true case of “Church Multiple Personality Disorder.” Sometimes, it merely has to do with the differing perspectives resulting from members coming to the church from various denominational and para-church backgrounds. They are simply different schools of thought. In our post-denominational age, this is a common situation.

Consider some of the multiple constituencies a pastor may serve in one congregation:

  • The Commonwealth of Charismatics
  • The Free State of Independent Baptists
  • Calvinists (or anti-Calvinists)
  • People with a house church experience in their background
  • People who had spent all their lives until now in a small church… or in a mega-church
  • Traditional Southern Baptists (that vanishing breed who do everything right out of the LifeWay kit)
  • The folks who grew up in the church and it’s all they know

So much emotional and spiritual energy may be required to hold all this together! The successor of pastor friend shortly led a group out of the church. At the time, my friend felt angry that he himself had spent all those years trying to hold everything together and the new guy took only a few months to blow the place up!

We may wonder,what attracts such diverse groupings to the same church?

  • Perhaps you are in a small town without a large church of each preferred variety
  • Family ties are very powerful
  • There is so much life and liveliness in your church they find it attractive, even if they do disagree on certain minor points here and there.
  • Some low information church members don’t care about doctrine like they ought. These clueless souls were looking for good music and a quality ministry for their children when they joined.
  • You are preaching the Word – and even though there is much they would change in your church, for them, that comes first.

I heard of a church that had a unusually broad coalition of groups like this. The pastor was a humble man of great character and a faithful, expositor of the Bible. It was said that when he rose to the pulpit you could feel the congregation coalescing in anticipation of receiving the Word.

Somehow, we all got here together. We agree on the big things, but sometimes we have differing ideas on where the church should go. How do we manage all this in a constructive manner and help keep things moving in the right direction?

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Lead. In a “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” world, it is important that you, as pastor, receive a vision from God, articulate that vision to His people, and create practical ways for its implementation. If you don’t, someone else will try to do it for you.
  2. It is important for ministerial staff members and deacons to echo the church vision. You can’t have a church where every staff member operates his area of responsibility like its own para-church ministry. The tail has no business wagging the dog!
  3. Each ministerial staff member could become the darling of his own constituency, finding support from one of the schools of thought. Or you could start a group and have your own fan base. These are often temptations, but they produce disunity. [Update: Alabama football coach Nick Saban was quoted the other day as saying in a speech to a gathering of coaches, “If you’re a coach … we didn’t hire you to be an independent contractor.”  At First Baptist, we call our staff members; we don’t hire them. But neither are they independent contractors.]
  4. Your church needs some clear-cut statements of what your congregation believes and which explain what kind of church you are trying to be — statements which are frequently cited and reviewed. These statements should be adopted as a clear consensus of the congregation as a whole. The congregation should own them. At our church, we have a church principle of the week.
  5. Explain time and again that, here at Bent Bullet Baptist Church, we don’t fight over secondary issues. It is OK to discuss anything the Bible discusses, but only with mutual respect. As the early church put it, “In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things, charity.” Here is a story I think models this attitude very well: Calvinism Controversy Blew Up at My Church Last Night. Say it often and say it well, “At this church we have liberty and at this church we give liberty.”
  6. Accept the fact that not everyone will stay. On a summer night, when the porch light is on, all kinds of flying insects are attracted to it. In fact, we humans, standing out in the darkness, find an attractional quality in the light. When a church is alive, many will find it attractive and come check it out. But understand some folks will discover that the light isn’t what they had expected. They will fly around your porch for a while and, then, fly off. Instead of feeling wounded by their departure, think of it as evidence of life and proof that your church is attractive.

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How to Spend a Day in Fasting and Prayer

Fasting is doing without food for one or more meals in order to give additional time to prayer and to concentrate on seeking God.

Fasting was a discipline in both the Old and New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16) – He assumed we would fast.  He did not speak of it as if it were some part of the Old Testament law, now be fulfilled, and no longer relevant.  Instead, He gave us guidance for how to do it.

“Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21).  King David said, ‘I humble myself through fasting.’”1   It is a way of  “…letting Him know that we are willing to exchange physical comforts to seek Him for a spiritual feast!  As a spiritual discipline, fasting is the act of abstaining from feeding the body in order to focus more fully on seeking God’s face and feeding the spirit.”2

Since fasting is not merely denying oneself food, give the extra time left from food preparation and eating to spending longer times in prayer and reading God’s Word. If you normally take your lunch break away from the workplace, you may want to take your car to a safe place and your lunch period in prayer. “While fasting, if you dissipate your energy on numerous errands or busy-work to the neglect of spending special time with God, you will starve both physically and spiritually.”3

Make certain that you are in good health. If there is any question as to whether fasting is right for you, consult your physician. Some may substitute a television fast or get away to spend a day alone with the Lord.

Your fast should have a focus.  You wouldn’t want to go to this much trouble and then not know why you’re doing it once you got started.  You may have a special heart burden or a need for specific guidance for which you fast.  Often, this focus will be repentance and personal renewal; if so confess, not only obvious sins, but less obvious ones as well — the sins of omission as well as the sins of commission.

Resist the urge to have that “last big feast” before the fast.  Wean yourself off caffeine and sugar products to ease your initial hunger or discomfort at the early stages of your fast. Buy some breath spray; mints or gum will make you hungry.  Many people are reluctant to tell others that they are fasting so they will avoid the sin of the Pharisees: fasting just to gain recognition for oneself, but it is OK to tell family members who have a need to know.

Finally, get alone with God. Somehow, in some way, give the Lord extra attention.  Read His Word. Listen for His voice. Don’t expect a spiritual high; you will see the results later.  Pour out your heart in prayer regarding your heart burden that is the occasion for your fast.

You can download the fact sheet and find other resources used in our prayer emphasis at First Baptist, Tallassee, as we participate in Praying Across Alabama, here.


2 isfasting/index.html — Link no longer in existence

3. — Link no longer in existence


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