Last Monday, I had lunch with a group of business executives, all Christ followers, on the nearby campus of Northwest University. It was interesting to listen as they unpacked a collective church experience which seemed, in their minds at least, to have missed the mark. The conversational bottom line went something like this: “Our church leaders do not understand us and the world in which we work; nor do they recognize our desire to be useful in God’s Kingdom, that our business careers contain significant elements of spiritual calling. We don’t relish being viewed simply as money makers, skilled in providing for our family and supporting others who do the ‘real work’ of Jesus. To find those who do understand, we have to go outside the church.”
Being the only pastor in a room filled with businessmen and women representing a wide variety of church connectivity, I found myself wishing that their pastors could hear what I was hearing. It was brutal, but honest. Straight from the heart. Accurate? That’s beyond my scope to measure. What I do know for sure is that these men and women love Jesus. They’re just frustrated with church. Period.
I couldn’t help mentally rehearsing similar conversations with some much younger in age than those present, who were also expressing feelings of irrelevancy with regard to the church in their lives. And working as I do with adults entering or already well into life’s second half, their discontent often reveals itself loud and clear.
So what is it with all this negativism, these feelings of frustration and a sense of being devalued? Do I need to get a set of new friends? Run with a different crowd? Who are these people? Naysayers? Complainers who need to grow up? One pastor recently summed up his feelings to some older adult constituents, “If you don’t like what’s happening here, there are a half dozen churches nearby that I’ll be happy to refer you to.” Hard to feel the love there, pastor. Even you are frustrated!
So what’s the point? Well, for one thing, we can’t hide our dirty laundry forever. Not from family. And not from neighbors. The ones Jesus told us to “love as you love yourself.” The family sees it. Neighbors see it, too. Neglected and unwashed, it’s not a pretty picture. The stuff of our discontent piles up. It not only looks bad, it smells bad. If we can’t love ourselves as followers of Jesus, the neighbors will note that and will make their choice. A day at the beach or on the golf course, a quiet morning or dinner with the kids will seem more relevant. More need meeting. Clearly better than staring at a growing mound of dirty laundry, wondering why it never gets cleaned, folded and put away.
Across our nation, the month of May was designated “Older Americans Month.” But anytime is a great time for cleaning things up and throwing things out. Not just material things, but spiritual stuff, too. It’s time to take some ownership. If anyone ought to know how to clean up a pile of dirty spiritual laundry, it is the older Christ follower, the young elder (midlife-69) and the master elder (70+). Let’s not wait around, hoping to be served. let’s lead the way. If we don’t show the the kids how to wash, dry, press and put away their problems, how will they ever learn? Besides, some of the stuff in that pile belongs to us!
Come on. Unleash the power of age!