Discipleship is not just for those who are young. Our calling is not just for those who can physically come to church. We are called to shepherd and to disciple all God has entrusted to us.
The renewed call to gospel-centered discipleship in the last two decades has been extremely helpful in clarifying the purpose of ministry. It has helped center the church on Jesus and the commission he gave us to advance his kingdom. It has helped us return to our basic ministry to make disciples of all nations.
Within this discussion, however, we often forget to emphasize important aspects of pastoral ministry: we miss the calling to walk with men and women to the end of their earthly lives.
Much of the writing and teaching on discipleship seems to focus on those who are younger and healthier. When this is the case, we overlook the great privilege of shepherding those who are almost home. When we enter into a church and seek to disciple those in our care, we must think about discipling every generation.
We put an emphasis on children’s ministry, on youth and young adults, and on multiplying disciples through small groups or other ministries. But we must not forget those who have helped build our churches.
Remembering Our Elders
In many established churches, there is a generation of men and women who have given their lives to show the love of Jesus. They have given generously to reach their community, they have been faithful throughout the years. They need pastors who will love them well and point them to their Savior. Our discipleship of older saints must reach into homes, hospital rooms, nursing facilities, and hospice care.
To be the church God has called us to be, we should not ignore the needs of older disciples in favor of making new disciples. Gospel-centered discipleship does both, and honors those who have made it possible for us to reach our community for Christ.