by Bob Gray Sr.
Psalm 71:9, “Cast me not off in the time of old age: forsake me not when my strength faith.”
Psalm 71:17-18, “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and greyheaded. O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is come.”
An interesting statement was made to me about an elderly church member not being a very good church member. I immediately rebelled at the statement and became offended at the very thought of such an accusation about a dear saint who has given their whole life in service for our Lord being judged by the circumstances brought about because of old age.
All of a sudden it dawned on me that as Mrs. G and I are entering our 70th year on planet earth that maybe someone is saying about us that we are not very good church members.
My wife has had 42 surgeries. After a right hip replacement two years ago there was the constant fear of a need for a left hip replacement. When the pain became severe we sought the help of our surgeon. Our surgeon told Mrs. G she was not a candidate for a left hip replacement because her bones were too brittle. She suffers 24/7 with this pain. I have become her care giver and I have no regrets.
I help bathe and dress my wife for doctor’s visits. She is is unable to dress herself and thank the Lord for the help of dear ladies like Denise Howie Dean and Diana Faye Ayres for their help.
Currently I am suffering from herniated discs in my lower back. I spent last Tuesday at the Hospital in NC with my back issues. When I arrived home I was taken to the ER for shots in my lower back. On Friday I went to the hospital in Tyler, TX, for more shots. Currently I have an appointment with a back surgeon on August 10.
Many a preaching trip upon arrival at home finds me in ice packs along with a two day recovery so I can fly out again the next week end.
I never gave much consideration to becoming older as a hinderance to our service to our Lord, but we are just about there. It is real and it is painful. I am so glad that through out my four decades of ministry I was a loving and a caring preacher for those whom age had become a significant factor in their Christian life. It is so easy to glibly throw verbal barbs at those who start to feel the pangs of broken bodies while forgetting the decades of sacrifice.
With this in mind it dawned on me that probably I, along with my wife, may be thought of as not being very good church members. We have been in the ministry for 43 years and pastored for 33 of those years. Hundreds of church members God has allowed me to care for were ill and home bound. I NEVER thought of them as being not very good church members, because they were physically unable to attend the services.
I was saddened by this off the cuff heartless statement about a faithful elderly church member. All of a sudden the former years of service mean nothing because of age? So sad! I wonder if talk like this does not downgrade the so-called “good church member” to the level of a “bad church member” themselves. Just wondering!
There are times I am unable to make it to church. Either because of my care-giving of my wife or because of my herniated discs. I thank the Lord that I never have expressed a critical spirit towards those who were ill and unable to do what some think makes a person a “good church member.” I have not quit loving my Lord, praying, Bible study, tithing, preaching, teaching, writing, and counseling. I’m a little slower and have to move more gingerly, but I still keep on going.
I am extremely grateful to our son, Dr. Bob II, who has been so kind to us not just as his parents, but as church members who cannot do what they use to do. We need to be careful what criteria we use to classify what we consider to be “good church members.”
We are so selfish. It is “What have you done for me lately?” attitude that is ruining us. I preached a sermon years ago entitled “What have you done for me formerly?” I lead our church in honoring former church members along with former pastors who were a blessing to our church in days gone by.
I am thinking of dear members of LBT who at the end of their life were home bound or nursing home bound. These members were as loved as any one who attended. I made sure they knew their pastor loved them and appreciated their years of faithfulness. The “Amens” of a Mrs. McKinley from one of the back sections of our auditorium was forgotten by many as she spent her last days in a lonely Nursing Home. But, her pastor did not forget her nor discount her years of faithfulness.
Does the person in the cancer ward cease to be a good church member because of their absence from the church services? Does the elderly lady in the nursing home cease to be a good church member because of the four walls that are their whole world? Does the elderly widow struggling to even get dressed for church lose her “good church member” card because she misses soul winning?
Does a Brother Danny Peurifoy, one of the greatest personal soul winners I have ever pastored, cease to be a good church member because of cancer incapacitating him physically at the end of his life? Can you imagine some critic saying, “He isn’t practicing what he preached all those years!” I made the rounds to our nursing home church members on a regularly basis and never thought of them as not being “good church members.”
Let me say this…
1) Mrs. G and I in our old age love our Lord
2) Mrs. G and I have been faithful servants of our Lord for decades before old age captured us
3) Mrs. G and I have been faithful to each other in these 50 years of Marriage into our old age
4) Mrs. G and I are faithful weekly givers to the cause of Christ even in our old age
5) Mrs. G is unable to go soul winning but I faithfully win souls to Christ on a weekly basis
6) Mrs. G and I have reared four children who love God and their families
7) Mrs. G and I have not brought discredit on our church or our Lord in our 70 years of life
However, I must admit that we are not really very good church members according to some! So, I promise we will work harder at being better church members. Please forgive us as we become more aged and less physically able to meet the expectations of some. I promise we will do our best to do better!
by Bob Gray Sr.