Age, race and the local church: “Why shouldn’t I stay and build?”

Building Under Construction

Dan Phillips has really good thoughts in his post asking the hard questions about whether our local church reflects the entire age range. Some good challenging insights for those my age prone to wander and church-hop, those who immediately question whether a church is dying if you’re sitting among mostly white-haired saints.

For example:

“…a church lacking the very folks Paul focuses on first in Titus 2 lacks vital resources. Young men won’t have accomplished, seasoned models to look up to, won’t have those resources to draw on or be cautioned or matured by (to dangle a preposition). Young women won’t have those mature ladies to help them navigate the rocks and corals of their own passions or cultural blinders. Better to set out across the desert without water, than to try to navigate the world without mature, older believers in an assembly.

Look at it Biblically and matured saints aren’t a red light, a warning sign, or an obstacle. They’re a gold mine.”

I’m sure that the question could be posed the other way too. If you were an older Christian looking for a church, a group of Biblically faithful Christians on the young side of the register needn’t automatically be a roadblock. So what if their style of music seems foreign, or their understanding of life and faith seems too inexperienced? Maybe that’s exactly the group of people worth investing into, and transferring the gospel to.

But maybe you’re the only young guy in a church whose average age is over 60. Or you’re the only young family and everyone else seems preoccupied with matters of advanced age.

Dan ends the write-up with this anecdote:

“I recall a man telling a story some years ago that led me to respect (and like) him even more than I already did. He was a black brother, who’d begun attending this predominantly white church. After a time, he felt a bit lonesome and discouraged. It was still pretty much just him and his wife amid a sea of lighter shade of pale, and they sometimes felt like they stuck out. After a while of no change in the collective epidermal hue, he was tempted to leave, to give up.

But then Bill asked himself, “So, if I leave, what does the next black brother find, when he comes? Same thing I found. Someone has to be first, someone has to stay, someone has to build. Why shouldn’t it be me?” And he stayed; and in time he was not remain alone. In fact, when the pastor left, the church called a black brother to pastor the church. In part, because Bill asked himself, “Why shouldn’t I stay and build?”

This made me reflect a bit on our home church. In the years before we joined HBC, the church had become predominantly Caucasian and older-aged.

A family I respect a lot once told us about how they ended up joining HBC amidst barriers of distance, age and race because they wanted to find a church with faithful Bible teaching. They remarked how daunting it was to initially be the first “brown people” at the church in a sea of older white faces. But over time, God brought more young families, more people from different cultures and ages to build His church.

Now if you visit our church on a normal Sunday, you’d be worshipping together with a kaleidoscope of cultures, ethnicities and ages. For example, among our church body are bible readers of many different languages (I think there’s at least 30 different nationalities represented), with busy and thriving ministries at both the senior and junior ends of the age range. But it had to start with the first family.

So I’m very thankful that by God’s grace this family also chose to say, “Why shouldn’t I stay and build?”

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After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Rev. 7:9-10 (ESV)

(HT: Thabiti)

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