Dave wrote recently about funeral trends. The discussion that ensued was very interesting. It seems like there are some trends that are regional, while others are more universal. More and more people are having funerals on Saturday. More and more people are being cremated. The visitation thing seems to vary more by region and culture.
Here’s another discussion for you. Baptist Press had an article last week about ‘Gray Divorce.’ The article explores the rise in cohabitation, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and divorce among senior adults. If you saw the article, I’m not sure how you responded. Were you surprised or shocked? Or did you nod your head in agreement because what you were reading was consistent with your experience?
Kenneth Long pastors First Baptist Church in Sun City, Arizona. Apparently, Sun City is a retirement community with a minimum age of 55. He is quoted in the article as saying that his “biggest challenge” is “senior adults living together without being married.” This is true among both professing Christians and nonbelievers. The article goes on to quote some statistics that are consistent with my experience in ministry. You can read the full article here.
I found the article interesting because I have spent a significant amount of time in my brief ministry combating these types of issues. This is not something I expected while studying for ministry. None of my college or seminary professors told me that one of my biggest challenges in ministry would be sexually immoral senior adults. I guess I was naive and thought that was something younger people dealt with.
Most people in church will give you a hearty “amen” while you preach on sexual morality, as long as you stick to things like homosexuality and other sins committed by those other people out in the world. But as soon as you begin to address the sins that are more common among the brethren, you will likely experience some push back. Start talking about the Bible’s teaching on divorce and someone is sure to quote Matthew 7:1. Look a longtime professing Christian in the eye and confront him about an inappropriate relationship and he’ll say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” See, in the church, we are good at making excuses for our sins while beating up on the world out there. Dave’s latest article talks about our comfortability with talking about other people’s sin rather than our own.
It saddens me when I see older church members who are convenient relativists when it comes to certain areas of morality. These church members will look down their nose at the teenage girl who turns up pregnant, but they don’t give a second thought to spending the night with a significant other or even shacking up. “I’m grown,” they often reason. No one is going to tell me what I can and can’t do.
I certainly don’t mean to suggest that all of our senior adults are this way. Most are not. I have been blessed as a pastor to be surrounded by some of the godliest senior adults in the world. They have encouraged me. They have loved me as their pastor. And they have been an example to me as I seek to follow Jesus. I cannot begin to tell you all the ways I have been impacted by the godly senior adults I have had the privilege of pastoring.
But I must admit my frustration with those who have supposedly been walking with Jesus for a long time, but have the spiritual maturity of a new baby Christian. I won’t stop pastoring them. I will continue to love them and speak the truth of the gospel to them, including the call to repent and follow Jesus. But I’m wondering if my experience is unique. I wonder if the recent Baptist Press article is consistent with your experience as well. In what ways have you ministered to some of your oldest members who are struggling with these kinds of issues? Help a young pastor out. I want to hear from you.