Friday, March 21, 2008

Seasoned Believers

A few posts ago I challenged you to guess how many people 45 and older live in the nine counties we call Greater Cincinnati. A few took the plunge but I suppose the risk of being off by a few thousand people kept some from guessing.

My buddy Ron Tate has read numerous books, demographic studies and census reports and here is his report. There are some 870,000 people 45 and over around the beltway in Greater Cincinnati. That is a lot of people.

Is your church doing anything to appeal to this huge demographic? This group is the richest, most experienced and best educated cohort of Seasoned Citizens ever. To ignore them is to risk spiritual and economic ruin, yet I know of few churches that have even thought about reaching out to the more mature among us.

The number of Seasoned Believers among the 870,000 total is unknown. Some researchers indicate that about 2/3 are unchurched. Modern church planters and church growth experts do not, to my knowledge discuss reaching this group.

Some Seasoned Believers have told me that Pastors were threatened by their skills and gifts and refused to involve them in significant ministries. I believe it.

Our ministry is looking for men and women who are successful in life and who want to serve God more fervently now that they are reaching midlife. A retired physician volunteered to assist in a local hospital. When he showed up ready to use his forty years of medical experience the administration assigned him to wash and refill water bottles.

A friend was attending a small country church near Cincinnati when the Pastor was called to active duty in Iraq as a Chaplain. There were three retired ministers in the church but the denomination would not allow them to volunteer to fill the empty position. They were, however, allowed to help plant flowers and clean the church.

In fact, I was told by a young Pastor in Cincinnati that I should "step aside" so he and the young city leaders could take over and run the renewal ministries in Greater Cincinnati. The new organization they had formed to "bring renewal to the city" lasted about six months but the one headed by us old geezers is still in operation.

Can this be what the Bible meant for Elders? Does God want the experienced and well off Elders to play golf all week? Does the term Elder mean people in their fifties and sixties should just get out of the way?

What has happened to turn ministry/servanthood into an exclusive club for professionals? Are the 2/3 of the Seasoned Citizens who now fit the description as "Church Alumni" staying away from church because they are not allowed to fully use their talents, gifts and experiences?

In April we are going to look at some of these issues when we gather at River Hills Church in Loveland, Ohio. Write me for more information.

Gary Sweeten


paul said...

Dr. Sweeten,

As a young pastor (32) preparing to start a new church in the Cincinnati area, I apologize for the way my generation has disrespected our elders.

We are driven to accomplish a vision and often leave a trail of hurting, disrespected, competent seniors in our path.

I pray God's blessing on your initiative!

Gary Sweeten said...

Paul, Thanks for the confession. I forgive you and others who think they can do without seasoned people in their groups. I hope the Spirit will draw many Seasoned Beloievers to your congregation where they can use their time, talents and finances to support the Lord's work.