Later Life and the Mission Field

Alexandra Drew

16 Feb 2024


Later Life and the Mission Field


Following her appearance on Episode 10 of the Everyday Evangelism on the same topic, Alexandra Drew from Faith in Later Life, explores the major gospel impact of older people in our churches.

The Bible is packed with examples of older people living purposefully for God, being respected in their communities, and sharing wisdom with future generations.

Abraham was 99 when God promised to make him the father of many nations. Moses was 80 when he spoke to Pharaoh, and the prophet Anna at 84 (or more!) was worshipping God with fasting and prayer, and telling people about Jesus. Abraham, Moses, and Anna are just some of those who honoured God well into old age and are now held up as wonderful examples to us.

Today, older people are still at the heart of many church communities. They’re often the lifeblood of the church; an army of volunteers sharing Jesus through preaching, mentoring, children’s work, serving on trustee boards, leading ministries, welcoming, catering, praying, giving, and more.

As well as supporting ministry across the church, many active older people are using their time, experience, gifting and wisdom to share the gospel with and disciple seniors.

This is brilliant to see, because although we can share the gospel with people of all ages no matter how old we are, exploring faith with someone who’s had similar life experiences and who understands our way of thinking can really make a difference. The result is that older people are hearing the gospel at seniors luncheon clubs, experiencing fellowship and faith conversations at coffee mornings, and deepening their relationship with Jesus in discipleship groups led by those in later life.

Beyond the church threshold, many older people have hugely important roles in their families too; supporting adult children by helping with grandchildren and finances, and with some also still supporting their own parents. These are wonderful opportunities to express God’s love to those who may not come to church, and to share the Good News of Jesus in different places.

God has called each one of us to join Him in His mission to make disciples, and that call is irrevocable.

God has called each one of us to join Him in His mission to make disciples, and that call is irrevocable.

How exactly we respond to that call changes throughout our lives. For the evangelist who used to preach to hundreds of people from the big stage, being cared for at home now, this will look different today than it did 60 years ago, and yet the call remains.

God, who made our bodies able to adapt to the different stages of life and glorify him in each, doesn’t limit our purpose in His kingdom as we age; there’s always something we can do, even as we approach the very end of our lives.

We know that there are older people in care homes throughout the country, though now less physically active, still telling staff and residents about Jesus, sharing tracts, praying for their neighbours, inviting their church teams to lead services, and living lives undeniably governed by the grace of Jesus.

This is fantastic because there are many people (old and young) in our churches, communities, neighbourhoods and care homes who don’t yet know Jesus. We don’t know how many more opportunities we’ll have to share the gospel with some of them, and the Bible says ‘Today is the day of salvation’, so we need everyone involved.

People can sometimes believe that sharing the gospel is just for the evangelist, but all Christians are called to share the hope that we have. For many who don’t yet know Jesus, hearing about Him from someone they know, albeit someone who doesn’t have a slick presentation, can be much more impactful than an experienced evangelist.

We heartily encourage people of all ages to keep on sharing the gospel, or to get started if they’ve never done it before.

It’s never too late to begin, and we especially encourage those who are in later life to embrace their calling, to use their experience, wisdom and the unique situations God draws them into, and take their place in His plan of redemption.

For some this will mean joining a team, for others it will be pioneering something new, for others still it will be one to one ministry, and for many it will be inviting God into the life of the church and individuals, through prayer. For everyone prayer should underpin our endeavours and we should invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we join Him in His disciple making mission.

Churches have a wonderful role in equipping older Christians to share the good news, to help nourish discipleship that sustains, and to mirror the value that God places on people who are in later life in the church community.

We encourage churches to value older people in word and in deed. This includes investing in and celebrating older people the way that we invest in and celebrate younger people. Older people should be given a voice, and opportunities for development, leadership, and responsibility. Churches who don’t do this are missing out on older people's insights from a lifetime of sharing the gospel and drawing alongside others, and may unwittingly miss out on helping people of all ages know Jesus for the first time.

As a whole church we need to be prepared for later life - we need a theology of aging - aging will happen to most of us! So what is the church’s message about God’s love for us and our love for each other as we age?

Are we modelling this, or just preaching it? How are we being prepared for the most challenging years of our lives, and how are those already there being equipped and encouraged to continue to respond to God’s lifelong call to make disciples?

The good news is that help is at hand.

At Faith in Later Life we want to inspire and equip Christians to reach, serve and empower older people in every community, through the local Church. Our website is packed full of resources to help you and your church with this.

London City Mission come alongside churches to reach people around them with the gospel – including often isolated older people in the local community. They’ll be holding a practical evangelism day in June, focused on reaching older people with the gospel, which you can find out more about here.

Later life brings with it so many opportunities for the gospel. I hope you feel encouraged to see these opportunities inside and outside your church!

Written by: Alexandra Drew

Alexandra Drew is Lead Officer at Faith in Later Life, where she works to inspire and equip churches to serve and empower older people in their community.