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Have we forgotten about sharing the gospel with older people?

Kevin Croft

7 Jun 2024

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Blog

Have we forgotten about sharing the gospel with older people?

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LCM Field Director Kevin Croft asks how we can rebalance our evangelism so we might see a truly intergenerational church.

A favourite memory of mine is the joy of walking into the ministry centre in Vauxhall one day and calling to the church leader, “Sam, I think Tony has just given his heart to the Lord!”

One day Tony*, in his mid-seventies, and a friend popped into our outreach centre in Vauxhall, I invited them in for a cup of tea, and over the following weeks and months he shared his life story with me. At one time he’d considered training to be a priest, but pursued football instead.

I’d visit him in his very warm flat, talking about life, we would watch the Jesus Film, and then chat together thereafter about Jesus and what we had just seen. And then one day I asked him directly: “Do you want to follow Jesus?” and he said, “Yes, I think I do.”

And that was it: the time, I believe, when he came to the Lord. Tony was one of the first attendees at the newly established Hope Church in Vauxhall and from the start he made an impression.

He came to the very first service, sitting in the front row. The service was due to start at 11:00 – though we’ve never started on time. At about ten minutes past, he said, “You've had 18 months to sort this out you still can't start on time”. Another time his phone rang in the middle of a sermon. Most people would scramble to silence it, but no, he answered the call and continued the conversation on the phone while the minister was still trying to preach. It was just beautiful to see how completely he felt at ease in church services.

A wonderful thing is that others from the church began to visit him too – a demonstration of real fellowship in action.

God has a missional purpose for all of us at every age and stage in life. Paul tells the church in Philippi he is sure that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. God has plans for the youngest person who comes to faith in him and the oldest person who comes to faith in him.

"A wonderful thing is that others from the church began to visit him too – a demonstration of real fellowship in action."

Real family

One of my strong desires for the church is an intergenerational ministry where senior saints testify to God’s faithfulness over the years and younger people bless the older generations. The church is a family of all ages – something we don’t see in many other places in our society.

God unites people who could otherwise never be united. Isn’t it wonderful to see little reflections of the Kingdom in every community!

When people outside the church see the love we have for one another, it’s a powerful testimony, one of the biggest witnesses to the power of the gospel we have.

Speaking hope

We often assume that older people have grown up knowing Bible stories and the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I think we should check that assumption.

Before becoming a missionary, I was a Funeral Director for 18 years, which means I have officiated and seen funerals from every angle. At one service I was asked to give the address, and I based my talk on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Afterwards, a colleague asked me about it, as he’d not heard it before. I directed him to John’s gospel, inviting him to have a chat if he had any questions about it. What struck me was that he had attended many funeral services but had never heard about the hope of the resurrection.

A funeral is a prime opportunity to hear the message of Jesus Christ, yet somehow he had missed it. In the same way I find that many older people have never heard or understood the gospel message.

Yet ministering to older people is not always a high priority in our evangelism. Look at the job adverts for assistant and associate ministers. Many are looking for people to minister to young people, children and families. You don’t see jobs seeking ministry to older people.

I think we need to acknowledge that in some places we’ve got the balance slightly wrong.

Sharing the gospel often begins with spending time and understanding them as individuals. One of the best ways is to listen, to hear their stories. They may have led a life that didn’t include God, but common grace says that somewhere they have wisdom to share. As time passes and we get to know them better by hearing their story, there will be opportunities to weave in God’s incredible salvation story.

"We often assume that older people have grown up knowing Bible stories and the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I think we should check that assumption."

Equipped for mission

We’re running a Practical Evangelism Training day on June 15 to help equip you for the vital work of reaching out to older members of our communities.

  • Get a practical introduction how to start to build relationships with older members of our community, and why this is necessary.
  • Build up your skills holding conversations that link the story of the good news of Jesus Christ with older people’s own life stories.
  • Explore what it means to be an intergenerational church in which older people bless younger people, and younger generations bless older generation.
  • Together we will examine some of the false narratives around seniors, and it will also help maybe your older members of their congregation see how they can still be used by God for wonderful, wonderful things.

Reaching seniors with the gospel

Date: Sat 15 June 2024

Location: Nasmith House, 175 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 2AH

Time: 9.30am - 4pm


Written by: Kevin Croft

Kevin is the south London Field Director, and his ministry has a particular focus on Council Estates and Seniors. He is a born and bred South-Londoner and began working with the Mission in 2013.

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