You don’t live near a pier...or a popular park...or even a Starbucks. And by the time you’re able to go witnessing the colleges are closed and no kids are walking home from high school. Where is a people-lovin’ saint to go when wanting to reach out? The answer is—the local mall. Enjoy this practical wisdom from Allen Atzbi.
January 6, 2020
Seasoned saints are one of the greatest untapped resources in the Body of Christ! Godly seniors have a lifetime’s worth of experience and insight just waiting to be unearthed. Some are even retired, and for the first time since childhood have heaps of uncommitted time on their hands to be used wildly by God. Proverbs 16:31 says, “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory.” We can’t forget many of our heroes of the faith weren’t spring chickens when God most used them. The great lawgiver and deliverer of Israel, Moses, hit his stride at the tender young age of eighty (Exodus 7:7). Abraham’s story really picks up when he hits one hundred, giving birth to the Jewish nation (Genesis 21:5). The apostle John wrote the world’s most famous book on prophecy, Revelation, when he was likely somewhere between sixty and eighty years old. Space would fail to list all the older people God has used, and is using, to impact the world.
“Seasoned saints are one of the greatest untapped resources in the Body of Christ!”
When we hear Romans 12:2 quoted—“do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”—we translate that to mean “don’t watch R-rated filth,” but in reality, it’s far broader. The world’s values and mindset aren’t something we’re supposed to buy into as believers. Society teaches that when you hit a certain age the goal is to score a condo in Florida and hang around collecting seashells till you die. That’s insanity! Don’t be conformed, be renewed. You’re old, not expired. Resolve to be used by God in your golden years. Be like fine wine and let age mature you into something better. Be an arrow in the Lord’s bow. Be His warrior. Be His messenger to bring the good news to those who so desperately need to hear it! Redeem the time, don’t squander it. I’m all for enjoying the fruits of your labors and soaking in a good vacation, enjoying your family and friends, perhaps even taking it down a few notches, but retire from your job, not your life. If you have breath in your lungs, God isn’t done with you. People are blindly sprinting to Hell moment after moment; you have a lot of work yet to do. We need you! Your most effective days for His glory may be ahead, not behind.
Age is accompanied by more than virtues, though; the closer we get to Heaven often the more the physical body begins to creak and crack, and there is only so much duct tape can do. How do you reach out if you have mobility issues, are on a tight budget, no longer drive, perhaps live in an assisted living facility, or can’t stand young people (tongue-in-cheek, mostly)?
“Society teaches that when you hit a certain age the goal is to score a condo in Florida and hang around collecting seashells till you die. That’s insanity! Don’t be conformed, be renewed. You’re old, not expired.”
While every situation is unique, here are a few ideas:
- Start a phone ministry. Get a White Pages (they’re still free) and start calling (press *67 each time to block your number). You could say something like this:
Hello, my name’s Jim. This may sound strange, but I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m a Christian who is a retiree and I’m literally going through the White Pages calling people as an act of kindness. I don’t plan to call you again, I just wanted to see if there was anything I could pray for you about? [Gently offering to pray for someone can be a very meaningful and rare gesture, as well as a loving door opener—be ready for a lot of shallow answers with a few moving gems in the midst.] Great. It’d be my honor to pray for that. Before I do, can I tell you, I’m 68 right now. I have had dear friends who have passed on, and I sense my own mortality more than most. What do you think happens after someone dies? Do you think you’re good enough to get into Heaven? The Ten Commandments give us the standard God will judge us by. Have you ever told a lie?… [Share the bad and good news.] Thank you for hearing my heart and being so open. Would it be okay if I prayed for you right now over the phone? [Pray.] Thank you again. I encourage you to press into following Christ with all your heart, and find a good Christian church in your area and read the Bible every day. Have a great night.
- Be somebody’s Yoda. If you’ve been sharing the gospel for years, you have a wealth of experience. Don’t hog it, share it! The older are supposed to teach the younger (Titus 2:3,4). I have been eternally grateful for the older mentors God has brought into my life through the years; you could be an answer to someone else’s prayer to grow in Christ. Perhaps you could keep an eye out for someone at church to invite out to lunch. Get to know the person better, then shift to evangelism and pass along what has worked well for you. Maybe it’ll grow into an ongoing spiritual apprenticeship, or maybe it was just a one-time edifying conversation with a saint. Whatever the case, finding ways to pass along what the Lord has taught you will greatly build up the Body.
- Become a scholar. If you can retire, you are living the dream. You have time on your hands to do whatever you want. Why not study all sorts of books on apologetics and evangelism? Not only will the information be an asset you could digest and pass along to others younger in the faith, but it will help you to become a more effective soul-winner yourself (could there be a greater cause?).
“If you’ve been sharing the gospel for years, you have a wealth of experience. Don’t hog it, share it!”
- Flourish where you’re planted. Think about right where you are. Look around and see how you could better reach out. Maybe there is a high school around the corner and you could hand out tracts across the street when school gets out, for just twenty minutes once a week. If you’re in a nursing home, perhaps you could start a weekly Bible study and invite unbelievers. Focus the study on tough questions about God: “Is the Bible really God’s Word?” “Why is there evil in the world?” “How do you know the true path to God?” etc. A certain grownup I know puts sunglasses on his dog (who is also a senior) and rides his bike with him. Everyone gets such a kick out of seeing them. It’s a very funny and disarming way to transition into a gospel conversation.
- Find a nearby fishing hole. A senior I know goes to a local laundromat to reach out. People must wait for what seems like an eternity while their clothes are being washed and dried, and he uses the fact that they have time to kill to their advantage and gets into gospel conversations. You could set up a booth at a local flea market. You’re able to sit most of the time and people will come to you to get tracts, answer a witnessing survey, etc. Perhaps this could be an official outreach of your church and they could help cover some or all of the costs. Maybe you could even get a young buck to set up a tent awning, table, and signage (here is a great banner)—this is an excellent outreach to do with the grandkids (quality time, plus training them in the way they should go). A friend went to a hospital and visited random rooms, offering to play an instrument for those interested, then offered prayer and shared the gospel (works just as well without an instrument). Similarly, a caregiver recently mentioned that she knows a sweet Christian woman who lives in a very large nursing home, and every night she goes room by room, visiting people and offering to come in to pray and chat (and hopefully share Christ). At a natural pace she just slowly makes her way around the entire building, going down one of the seven halls one night at a time, until she covers every room in a week, and then she starts over again. People, many bedridden and lonely, light up at her warmhearted visits. The sky is the limit with where you could go if you’ve made up your mind to make a difference.
- Letter writing. You could go online and easily find celebrity addresses (many of whom have been long forgotten and are excited to be remembered) and send individuals a personalized message, thanking them for making people laugh/cry, then sharing your testimony and the gospel (customizing it a bit for each person). You could do the same for inmates or soldiers, two other groups eager to get mail. On the flipside of evangelistic letter writing, you could also write letters to encourage those faithful believers being persecuted for their faith (Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors both offer options).
- Volunteer. Few ministries don’t need some sort of manpower help. Check your local food bank, homeless shelter, pro-life pregnancy center, veteran’s association, hospital, rehab center, prison, and more. Did you catch the common denominator in all those places? You’ll find human beings with a pulse, many of whom do not know the Lord and need that introduction made. There are needs all around if you stop and look. And each of these volunteer roles, in one way or another, will give you an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God and verbally reach people with the gospel. Try something. There is a 100 percent chance you’ll reach no one sitting around reading books and watching TV all day, but there is an excellent chance you’ll touch someone’s life if you’re out there on a mission to spread the hope of the gospel.
- Open-air preaching. For some their limitations are physical, for others they are mental. You may think open-air is a young man’s game, but it really isn’t. Ray Comfort, at the time I’m writing this, is 69 and open-air preaches every Saturday at the base of the Huntington Beach Pier. He’s joined by Stuart G. Scott who is also a seasoned citizen. They’ve been going weekly for over a decade. If you’re in good health, don’t let your lack of experience or age be an excuse (it is physically and emotionally taxing—your heart will likely race with fear and adrenaline the first few [hundred] times—so you do need to be in proper health for this). We offer a summer Ambassadors’ Academy training program that teaches you how to open-air, and also offer a substantial playlist of examples on our YouTube channel.
I hope this short list of ideas stirs up some fresh fires and sets the wheels of “praystorming” in action. If you’re a sanctified senior, an oldie but a goodie, may God use you in tremendous ways to reach the lost with the gospel. May more come to Christ in these years through your faithful efforts than in all the years leading up to them.