taking the words of Jesus seriously

Most of us concentrate our ministries on reaching young people with the Gospel. However, sociological studies make it clear that, in the churches of America, the elderly are the most neglected, in spite of the fact that they make up 30 percent of the typical congregation, whereas young people make up about 6 percent of those who assemble on a Sunday morning.

The studies also conclude that, contrary to what is often thought to be “common sense, ” elderly people are among those who are most prone to lose their faith. This is because they have seen so much suffering and tragedy, both of which can raise questions about the existence of a loving God.

How many of them have seen some of their children or grandchildren die of cancer or in accidents or from drug overdoses? These elderly people prayed and prayed and yet there seemed to be no intercession by God. It’s easy to understand, given those circumstances, why older people are going through a crisis of faith.

Then again, there is the obvious—older people are more conscious of death. It is encroaching on them, getting nearer and nearer with every passing day. In the face of death, doubts arise. The certainties of youth seem to fade away and, as death becomes more and more of a conscious reality, fears emerge.

In spite of these spiritual traumas, the Church seems to simply let elderly people come to services, sit in their places, and listen to sermons and music, but they do little else to reach out to meet their deep spiritual needs or to help them at this crucial time in their lives.

Now, here is something you can do. Whenever you are traveling, send postcards to three or four elderly widows. My wife taught me to do this. It takes just a few minutes to purchase two or three postcards, and I stamp them and write a kindly note. I carry with me a list of such widows and make sure that I remember them, not only by sending the cards, but also in prayer.

The Bible says, “This is true religion, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep oneself spotless from the world.” That’s the kind of advice that all Red Letter Christians should follow.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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