A Church Without Seniors

I moved a few years ago to a community known for its youth. People are in the front half of their lives. They are into fitness and looking good. Even the seniors who live here seem youthful.

Last Thursday, for the first time in a few years, I spoke to a group of seniors. The hymns seemed slower. Some of the seniors had a hard time hearing. The lady beside me had a hard time finding her way through the songbook. At lunch, the conversations were a little harder.

I watched the organizer. She led with such passion that it was clear what she thought of the seniors. I also looked across the table at the pastor as he leaned in to hear a senior speak. At that moment, the senior beside him had his complete attention.

I love the vibrancy and youth of a community like Liberty Village. I enjoy trying to keep up with people who are younger than me, fitter than me, and cooler than me.

But I loved spending an afternoon with seniors. I need younger people, but I also need those who are older than me. I need to learn from them, serve them, and most of all love them. For the first time, I'm pastoring a church without seniors, and I'm pretty sure we're missing out.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Introverted and Extraverted Evangelism

An extravert I know does an amazing job of meeting people and inviting them to church. His approach has a lot going for it. Meet enough people, and you will find lots of people who aren't interested in the gospel — but you'll also find a lot of people who are. He's right, and it works.

But an introvert I know also does a great job of meeting people, building relationships, earning trust, and influencing them toward the gospel. Her approach has a lot going for it. She meets resistant people, and can enjoy the process of friendship and gospel-sharing better than anyone I know.

We need both extraverted and introverted evangelism.

According to The Power of Personality, extraverts excel at:

  • enthusiasm — an eagerness to communicate
  • flexibility — the ability to respond nimbly
  • drive — a clear goal orientation
  • emotional warmth — a love for talking to different people
  • speaking — an ability to speak well

Introverts excel at:

  • listening — a capacity to understand others
  • calm — the ability to give others space, and to speak without aggression
  • analytical thinking — the skill of piecing together what others say in order to meet their needs
  • tenacity — patience a refusal to give up easily
  • empathy — an ability to put oneself in the position of others

Can we really say that one set of strengths is better than the other? We need both.

"God wants each of us to share our faith" writes Mike Bechtle, " but he wired us uniquely so we could share uniquely. Our effectiveness comes through our uniqueness." We need both introverted and extraverted evangelism.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Don't Close the Book

I once stopped reading Larry Crabb's book The Safest Place on Earth because I didn't believe it could happen. Crabb argues that, in church, we should be able to find spiritual community.

A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own and reveal our brokenness. Only then can the power of connecting do its job. Only then can community be used of God to restore our souls...

It’s time we paid whatever price must be paid to become part of a spiritual community rather than an ecclesiastical organization.

I liked what I read, but it seemed so far from my experience of church that I just couldn't see it happening.

The only problem: this kind of community isn't optional. Passages like Romans 12:9-21 and Colossians 3:12-17 don't give us much wiggle room. We need community, and perhaps nobody needs it more than pastors. "Does it seem best that most pastors are allowed to live outside of or up above the body of Christ?" asks Paul Tripp. "If every pastor is, in fact, a man in the middle of his own sanctification, shouldn’t he be receiving the normal range of the essential ministry of the body of Christ that God has ordained for every member of the church to receive? Is there any indication in the New Testament that the pastor is the exception to the normal rules that God has designed for the health and growth of his people?"

So now I believe it can happen, and it must happen. In fact, it is beginning to happen at our new church.

Maybe next time I won't put the book down.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Churches as Organized Complexity

In his book Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder, Ken Greenberg reflects on what he learned about cities from Jane Jacobs. Jacobs taught that there are three kinds of problems:

  • problems of simplicity, which deal with two variables
  • problems of disorganized complexity, which deal with more variables that are not connected
  • problems of organized complexity, which deal with more variables that are connected in subtle ways

Cities, according to Jacobs, are forms of organized complexity. "Cities are not simple mechanical constructs," writes Greenberg, "nor are they randomly chaotic. Instead, as if better understood through the science of living organisms, cities are problems in organized complexity." Cities are full of unexamined, intricate relationships.

If cities are viewed as problems of simplicity, then mechanical approaches would work. But because cities aren't mechanical, a different approach is needed:

The conceptual shift from an inert mechanical model of the city to an evolving biological one suggests a whole new vocabulary for describing what happens in cities. In environments that are more like gardens than factories, it can be said that ideas, relationships and initiatives are seeded, spawned, fertilized and grown. Grafting and weeding occur and hybrids emerge. (Kindle Locations 935-937)

The role of an urban designer changes. The role becomes collaborative. There's not much room for superstars, and the answers aren't immediately apparent. He quotes Dick Broeker, former advisor to the mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota: “Beauty is born ugly."

As I've been reading Greenberg's book, I've been thinking about the parallels in church life. Churches, too, are forms of organized complexity. Scripture is replete with images of the church and the kingdom that are agricultural and biological.

What does this mean? Mechanical approaches to church life aren't going to be much help. There's not a lot of room in the church for superstars. The unexamined, intricate relationships within the church will shape the culture of a church far more than we realize. We learn as we grow together. Nobody has all the answers. We can seed, spawn, weed, and fertilize, but we can't make anything grow. The growth process is awkward and sometimes ugly, but the results can be beautiful.

I love watching the church grow, and realizing that while I play a role, I'm only part of something that's much bigger and much more glorious than what I can plan

Liturgy

We gather on Sundays. Someone stands at the front and welcomes us. The music team takes its place and leads us in singing. We then come to the offering before the pastor gets up and preaches. As soon as the sermon is over, the music team reappears and leads us in a closing song before we leave.

Most of us don't think we follow a liturgy, but most churches I've attended follow the pattern I've described above. It's not a bad liturgy, but it is a liturgy nonetheless. It's worth considering why we do things the way that we do, and if there's a better way.

"To talk about liturgy in its most basic sense is to talk about what the congregation is gathering to do," writes Mike Cosper.  "In this sense, every church has a liturgy; we all gather with work to do." In his book Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel, Cosper argues:

Our church gatherings are forming the character, beliefs, and devotional life of those who attend ... The goal of our gatherings should be to cultivate practices that form our church to live in the good news of the gospel.

In other words, we have the opportunity to re-tell the gospel every week not just through our sermon, but through the very structure of our services. This means that our services can benefit from following the general pattern described by Bryan Chapell in his book Christ-Centered Worship, including:

  • adoration
  • confession
  • assurance
  • thanksgiving
  • petition
  • instruction
  • charge
  • blessing

"Taken together, these rhythms help the church pray and sing through a full range of human experience," writes Cosper. The goal isn't to wow those who attend. It's to shape and refine the identity of God's people around God's Word and the gospel.

Cosper is right. When we gather on Sundays, we have work to do. We can use the structure and content of our services to help form our people around the gospel.

If you're a pastor or worship leader, I highly recommend Cosper's book. It's worth thinking about the ways that we can shape our liturgies — with pastoral sensitivity, of course — so that the very structure of our services helps form our people to live in the good news of the gospel.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.