Aged Preachers – "Seeking an Answer"
Baptisms and burials, over a lifetime the preacher performed a great number of these. From Genesis to Revelation, his words carefully uttered the precepts of God. His hair was once full and his face youthfully smooth. Now the hair sports only grey and wrinkles outline his face. God called him through the gospel and the preacher answered. He knows spiritual peace as every day brings him closer to his Heavenly Father. Yet, the preacher seeks answers. How long will he be able to continue preaching? He feels strong now, but for how much longer? His wife believes in him, but she moves slower these days. How will he provide for her when he can no longer preach? Still, God watched over them all of these years and the preacher knows He will continue to do so. He grabs his Bible and begins a new day.
Is your aged preacher unsound? Is he unable to preach? If not, why would you dishonor him and disservice the Church by seeking a replacement?
"Yea, even when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not, Until I have declared thy strength unto the next generation, Thy might to every one that is to come" (Psalm 71:18).
"We need a young preacher who can relate to the teenagers!"
"I asked him a question the other day and it took him a long time to respond, I think his mind is going."
"We need a preacher who can go up and down the street knocking doors."
Words such as these pop up in congregations around the land. Regardless of motive, accuracy, or wisdom, they represent a body of believers who believe the aged preacher is lacking something. That perceived lack may cause them to pursue the preacher's replacement. An alarming number of Sound gospel preachers have been abruptly dismissed from a congregation because they were "too old". Eventually, everyone ages. Does this make them worthless? Understand this, the only factors that matter when considering a preacher should be: Is this a sound man who can deliver a sound message?
"The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair" (Proverbs 20:29).
What does a sound, but aged preacher lack? He does indeed lack youth. A number of cultures prize youth above old age. A person's energy level certainly does change as they get older. Appearance transforms, hearing and eyesight dull, and the bone structure weakens. Response times cannot compare in most cases with younger people. A preacher may also lack modern vernacular. In other words, not only the terms or meanings have changed between the age of the preacher and the youth, but the topics of conversation are different as well. Most likely, the preacher also lacks knowledge of the latest gadgets. This particular preacher is one of them. iPad, iPhone, tablet, Kindles, Blue Ray … no clue. I know aged preachers who cannot operate a basic computer, let alone consider the newest technology. It might be asked by some: "How can the old preacher possibly relate without this knowledge?" Yes, the aged preacher may indeed lack some things that others prize. The greatest question to be asked is: "How much does God prize the preacher despite what he lacks?"
It seems a fair examination to note things an aged preacher lacks that might concern some people. Logic also appeals to the need to examine what a sound, but aged preacher does not lack.
An aged preacher does not lack experience. A preacher sees the good and the bad over the years. Bickering members, doctrinal disputes, debates, firings, church discipline, church takeovers, church splits, rebukes, adulteries, fornications, abused children, homosexuality, pedophilia, sermon interruptions, members storming out, weak elderships, overbearing elderships, elderships asked to step down, false teachers, addictions to drugs, gambling, sex, pornography, … the list of what a preacher has seen could go on and on. He has dealt with innumerable spiritual "catastrophes". An aged preacher should be thought of as a spiritual warrior (Ephesians 6:10-18). He fights battle after battle in service of his king. He should not become a forgotten hero. Understand sin does not change! Yes, it tries to take different forms, but a man who knows the Word, knows when transgression occurs. An aged preacher does not lack experience fighting spiritual battles.
An aged preacher does not lack wisdom, he fears God for he has spent his life coming to know him (Proverbs 9:10). The preacher studies the Word, the mind of God, and imparts it to others. As the years go by he becomes not simply an "old man", rather, he is a sage. An aged preacher friend of mine noted this last year that his mentors have all died off. Now, the mentored had become the mentor. While a preacher may not be an elder, quite often elderships confide in him to avoid difficulties and strengthen weak areas of a congregation. Knowledge gathered and applied over forty to fifty years of preaching must be respected. It cannot be replaced by good hair and a Powerpoint projector. A man who has likely raised children and seen thousands of others raised knows something about youth that a twenty year old kid with a Bible degree does not. Christians need to take time to listen to their aged preacher. They need to reach out to them while slowing down in their lives enough to pay attention. Biblical understanding trumps the emotions of members often letting the world have too much pull in their lives.
Finally, an aged preacher does not lack leadership. Early on, the feelings of fatherhood develop in him as he shares the Word of God to the Church. He begins to view the Christians as his children more and more. This can even be seen in the words of the apostles as they write to the Christians, calling them "children" or "my child". They understand that as they appear before the congregation each week and interact in their daily lives, others will try to emulate them. Thus, they work to set a standard. They try to lead souls to Christ by living godly lives. Everyone desires to see their children grow. No less does the preacher with the Christians not only in his location, but in the others he visits or reaches through recordings or writings. Yes, the preacher rebukes at times. He warns. He chastens. He exhorts Christians to avoid all forms of evil. Unfortunately, some may just view him as an overly cautious worrier. This conclusion comes not from the scriptures, but from congregants viewing the preacher as an old man rather than a speaker of God's truths. That problem lies not within the preacher, but within the Christian. Christians would do wise to consider this leader of men (Proverbs 23:22).
Aged preachers do lack in some areas, but they more than make up for it in others. However, when considering an aged preacher, consider two items a congregation should not lack: honor and compassion. A congregation should behave in an honorable manner toward aged preachers. If a preacher can preach soundly don't you dare hinder him. If due to age, he is struggling, elders talk about how you can help. Perhaps he would appreciate doing a few things differently or would like to preach only part time. Work with this man who has given his life to God. Do not pull his life line or passion out from under him. Again, act honorably and treat him well. Even if he is no longer able to preach full time, find ways to engage him in shorter venues or upon special occasions. Compassion is something Jesus demonstrated throughout his earthly life. Compassion goes a great way when dealing with an aged preacher. We are to treat all of our brothers and sisters well. If a preacher reaches the point he steps down, do not forget him. Do not fail to care for him as he has cared for so many over the years. Do not give him a chance to regret any service. Show him that his children loved him and learned from him.
A sound, aged preacher is worth more than gold. He may be lacking, but not as a Christian. He is experienced, wise, and a leader of generations. Have honor and compassion upon him. Pray that he finds the answer to his life of service as did Abram: "But thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age."(Genesis 15:15) Give him peace by providing him opportunity to preach until the end. Give him peace by caring for him and his wife. Give him peace by knowing you heard the Word he shared and the Word he lived.