“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green…” (Psalm 92:14).
All generalizations are false. Including this one.
Every rule has its exceptions. Including this one.
Even so, I’m going to make some general statements about seniors. Readers will think of exceptions. But by and large, these statements have been found to be solid and trustworthy throughout long years of ministry.
One: Seniors are not against change; but they dislike abrupt change.
There are no 1948 Packards in your church parking lot. No 1952 DeSotos. But the seniors driving those Camrys and Corollas did not one day trade in that Packard for the Toyota. There were a series of incremental steps in between–like, first buying a 1955 Fairlane, then a 1962 Chevelle, followed by a 1972 Bonneville, and so forth.
The old man stood at the checker’s station in my grocery store. The line behind him stretched out for a half-dozen people.
He’d bought a few things, but the process of paying for it was taking forever. He fumbled around in his pocket for his wallet, then struggled with it in search of his debit card, and only with the checker’s help was he able to insert it into the machine and complete the transaction. In the process, he flirted with the lady behind him, the one just ahead of me, and made friendly comments to anyone else who might be overhearing this.
I was interested to see both the checker and the woman customer were patient with him.
When he finished, the man seemed in no hurry to pick up his purchase and move out of the way for the next customer. He looked at the line forming behind him and muttered something about being 82 years old, as though this were an achievement for which he was being honored.
You will not believe this since I’m writing about it, but I was not impatient with him, and said nothing to anyone. I did not roll my eyes, did not react, but sent up a quick prayer for him.
But I was warned.
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).
Fears crop up from time to time.
They co-exist right alongside my faith, like tares among the wheat (referencing Matthew 13:30).
My faith and my fears are not friends, you understand, nor are they unknown to one another. They have fairly well existed alongside one another from the beginning, so they are well-acquainted, in the sense that competitors on the gridiron who do battle in repeated contests come to know one another intimately.
I identify with the fellow who, when told that all things are possible if he could believe, answered, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).
What do I fear? Let me count the ways. (I do this knowing full well that fears love to be given room and attention and energies, all of which serve to feed this cancer, causing it to mushroom.)
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood….” (Revelation 5:9).
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing….” (Revelation 5:12).
“And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).
Up in Heaven, they’re singing about Jesus.
And the Father, far from being displeased, threatened, or jealous, loves it.
“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).
I feel like I have a delivery to make.
I will drive 130 miles up the interstate and across some state highways, greet the members of Centreville, Mississippi, Baptist Church, and then join their worship service. At the appointed time, I will rise and ask them to turn to Matthew 10.
All week long, I have lived in Matthew 10. I’ve read it, thought about it, written about it, read about it, and talked to the Lord about it. I feel I have a load to delivery.
When I drive South this afternoon, I will feel spent. Empty. Unburdened. And drained.
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (I John 3:20-21).
“But I don’t feel forgiven.”
“I don’t feel saved after some of the things I’ve done.”
“I feel so bad. I know God says He has forgiven me, but my heart says otherwise.”
Every pastor gets this. People who have grown up in sound churches and call themselves Bible-believing Christians fall prey to this malady of judging their standing with the Heavenly Father by their feelings.
Imagine that. As though one’s feelings about anything are accurate, consistent, dependable.
“He who receives you receives me” (Matthew 10:40).
“He who hears you hears Me; he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16).
Imagine this scene: You are about to go out and preach the Word of God. You are devoted to your Lord, certain of the message, and sure of your call. But then….
You begin to worry about the kind of reception you will get. Will I be effective? What if I’m not ready? What if they don’t like me? I’m not that great a speaker.
That’s when you hear the most amazing words from the Lord.
“The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; quoted in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
In a real sense, the shepherd of one of the Lord’s churches demonstrates faith every time he goes about his business of tending to the flock, of preparing sermons, delivering the message, or stepping into a hospital room.
He never knows what God is going to do and lives in the hope and expectation that He will do something. Anything!
But there is another sense, perhaps on a deeper level, in which this one called of God may send a different kind of message, one of unbelief and not of faith.
“A mixed multitude went up with them (out of Egypt)….” (Exodus 12:38).
“Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving…” (Numbers 11:4).
Listening to the gripes of the Lord’s people is standard fare for ministers.
They ought to teach courses on it in seminary.
Someone please tell the newly ordained to get ready.
The primary nerve center for griping and complaining in the church house has always been the carnal and the worldly. This includes two groups of people: the unsaved (represented by the infamous mixed multitude of unbelievers and hangers-on who went up from Egypt with Moses and Israel) and the unspiritual. The latter group is saved but has taken a seat just inside the front gate and gone no deeper into the spiritual things.
Some chronic complainers are saved and some are lost. The problem is they look and act alike, making it impossible to tell outwardly. So, God’s faithful must be careful about making generalizations, that “Christians wouldn’t act this way.”
Not all Christians get these things right. Not every believer acts like a Christian.
This is the most painful subject I ever deal with (and I write about plenty of them).
The very nature of church conflict demands that the pastor be found in the midst of the firestorm. Sometimes, he is an innocent bystander, sometimes he inherited the problem, sometimes he is the problem and at all times he tries to be a healer.
In every case, he gets bloodied in the fray.
The church consultant we brought in to help us deal with a 30 year split in the congregation did his interviews, took his polls, and then announced, “McKeever is not this church’s problem. But he has become the focus of it in the minds of many. So, I’m going to recommend that he leave and the church start afresh with someone new.”
Sheesh. Thanks a lot, friend.
But, that’s how it happens sometimes. You were trying to help the church and were downed by friendly fire, as we call it.
At other times, the pastor is neither a healer nor an innocent bystander. Sometimes, he is the problem and the congregation decides to take action.
The only question is “what action”?