A Better Country for Old Men

A Better Country for Old Men

This is a plea from the younger generation to the older. We desperately need you.

Please don’t phone it in just when the King’s about to call. Don’t retire on the world’s terms and abandon your long-time local church.

As the tsunami of the Baby Boom begins to flood the shores of retirement, please don’t leave us Millennials to fend for ourselves and make the same mistakes all over again. Join John Piper in rethinking retirement, and complete the course, all the way to the finish line, proclaiming Jesus’s might to another generation (Psalm 71:18).

Your Wisdom

For your joy, and for our good, we need you in this family called “the church.” You are our fathers (1 Timothy 5:1). The apostle wrote not only to young men, but to you — not just to the younger generation, but to the “fathers” (1 John 2:12–14). Don’t leave us as orphans.

We need your wisdom. We need your experience. You have made the long journey, watched fads come and go, rejoiced with those who have rejoiced, wept with those who have wept, endured the dark night of the soul. As the young men see visions, we need you to dream dreams (Acts 2:17) and lean in, not out. Help us be courageous when we should be brave, and gently direct us to a different course when we should back off.

What will we hobbits do without our Gandalfs?

Your Example

We need your example. The young bucks need your discipling and your encouragement to be self-controlled (Titus 2:6), to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (2 Timothy 2:22). We need you to model for us how “not to be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil” (2 Timothy 2:24).

We need you to be “sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2), to temper the energy of our youth with your patience, to complement the young man’s ambition with the perspective of the happy, old man who’s already been around the block a few times.

Your Grace

We need your forgiveness. In our fervor to create the future, we often have seen things out of focus. At times, we have been so naïve as to think things would be better if your generation would get out of the way. It might be easier, but it emphatically would not be better. How deadly it is when spiritual ardor ferments into arrogance. We have been foolish. We have sinned against you. We need your mercy.

We need your patience. We need your grace. Young leaders are not always easy to deal with. We ask you to remember what it was like to be younger, even as we try to keep in mind that one day soon we will be older. We ask you to listen, truly listen, and give those of us who manifestly love Jesus the benefit of the doubt. We’re not trying to ruin your church, but prepare the way for greater things still yet to come. We’re not trying to kill your gospel legacy, but keep it alive.

And we need you to do all this, not in your own strength, but in the strength that God supplies, so that in everything he gets the glory through Jesus (1 Peter 4:11). He has promised explicitly not to forsake you (Psalm 71:18), but to carry you, even to old age and gray hairs (Isaiah 43:4). He will empower you, and preserve you to hear his voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

More Than Ever

For decades, you have walked as “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). And now, as you slow down and grow weaker, and so acutely feel yourself closer than ever to heaven, more than ever “seeking a homeland” (Hebrews 11:14) — as you “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” a city prepared for you by God himself (Hebrews 11:15) — please don’t settle for a little Sabbath evening of rest on this side.

We need you — ordinary, average, imperfect you. Not only do we long for the likes of Raymond Lull (martyred among Muslims at age 80), and Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna, burned alive in 155 at age 86), and J. Oswald Sanders (who wrote a book a year beginning at age 70 and died a week after he turned 100). But we also earnestly need the unknown senior sages, laboring without renown in out-of-the-way local churches, participating without occupying the positions of privilege, engaged without making the final calls, on the bus without having to be in the driver’s seat.

“Most men don’t die of old age,” said Ralph Winter, “they die of retirement.”

Please don’t retire from the local church. We need you more than ever.


More from Desiring God on generational dynamics:

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.