The Church in Britain is at a fascinating juncture – the ending of many things, and the starting of many more. It feels like a changing of the guard; the turning of the seasons.
Some things that are striking me: in general, I see more and more believers becoming more committed to following God in The Real World than ever; we are becoming more creative and mission-minded; we are discovering that God has not yet been destroyed. And yet, in spite of this burgeoning vision, we are incredibly disheartened.
Why? Because the Church is an ageing church. Our average age advances with every year, and it embarrasses us. We are scared that, being old, tired, out-of-date, we have let God down – because surely the world has proved that to be exciting and world-changing, you have also got to be young, ultra-contemporary, and wildly cool. The Church is none of those things, and we feel defeated. We think we are dying.
If we followed the methods of the modern world, the Church would attempt a radical image overhaul; to re-present itself as youthful and funky and full of mojo. After all, congregations like Hillsong London are like that, and they are huge and growing.
But what if God has chosen the aged things of this world to shame the young, the retired to shame the employed, the crinkly to shame the contemporary? God is not a respecter of funkiness – he chose Abram aged 75, Moses aged 80.
Here are some facts about the retired:
- they are living longer than ever (80 is the new 60, you know)
- they are more financially secure than any other age-group
- they have a more developed skill-set than any age-group
- they have more free time available than any age-group
- they are more community-minded than other age-group
Basically, if you wanted to build a church on 'the perfect demograph' (affluent, skilled, compassionate, available), you wouldn't need to look anywhere else. God has given us that perfect demograph, and it has made us feel defeated, because the world knows that you are finished by the age of thirty. The world is wrong.
My congregation (and in many places, the Church at large) has ideas and vision up to our eye-balls, talent shooting out of our ears, a heart to love God and serve our community, and the resources and available man-hours to put it into action. But only if the old people are returned from the scrapheap to their proper place at the centre of our mission.