America & The Church: Facing The Challenge Of The Elderly


The Need For The 5 Fold – Part I

The Issue: The Elderly

One of the last things Jesus did on earth while on the Cross in pain was to take care of his mother upon his death.  He instructs his beloved disciple John to take Mary as his mother.  He “releases” John to not only “take care of the widows” but to “take care of his mother, a widow”.  We never hear much about Joseph, his father in the gospels except at Jesus’ birth and searching for his 12 year-old son who was at the Temple doing “his Father’s business”. The narration of Joseph is then silenced, I assume probably through death, for Mary is alone at the Cross, given to John to be cared for.  In Paul’s apostolic letters, the Church is always exhorted to take care of the elderly.

The Church always has asked, and still does: “How are we to take care of the elderly, the widows?” Are they to build “Assisted Living Homes” and “Nursing Homes” that are popular today, or teach their followers to have their parents move in with them as their responsibility?

With the large number of Baby-Boomers in America, a growing “older” population is begin to wonder, to worry, to fear its future. Who will take care of them? Their parents lived in the Post-World War II prosperity, establishing retirement funds and government programs to take care of them when aging.  The Baby-Boomers are trying to follow their father’s footsteps, but with the prosperity era closing as everything is becoming “world-wide” instead of nationally centered, prosperity is being shifted globally affecting the wealth of America. The younger generation, now in their 20’s & 30’s, do not have employer financed Retirement Programs, but are offered personal IRA, Individual Retirement Funds, that they personally finance in spite of lower wages and a dwindling middle class.  As the wealthier get wealthier, and the poor remain poor, the middle class is finding a large chunk of itself now falling under the poverty level. What future for “old age” do they have when barely maintaining a current cost of living?

How is the American Church to address this dilemma? This blog’s purpose is not to specifically answer that question because it does not have specific solutions. What it does have to offer is a tool that can effectively come up with an answer: the five fold.

As a church locally or nationally, it needs to pull together its resources of evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles to address the question and come up with the solutions. Reading Acts 15 may help, for the early Church found itself engulfed in a church political question about the Jew/Gentile relationship and how it would effect the Church and its future. They faced the tough questions, challenged the hypocritical attitudes of its time, make the question personal to Peter, Paul, & the others present, called on the Holy Spirit for a solution, and came to one in unity.  They then released the evangelist to “birth” or announce their decision among the entire church, released the shepherd particularly among the Gentile Church with guidelines on how to maintain, grow, and develop this new organism, the Church, released the teachers to teach their congregations how to “live out” this word of unity they now had, released the prophets to make this written edict, this written word a “living word” by actually sending out people from their midst, whom I believed were prophets, to help the Church now make this decision a “living decision”, and released the apostles to not have to “do” the work, but only “see over” what the Holy Spirit just decided and “release” all the others to use their gifting, passion, and point of view toward the unifying good for the entire Body of Christ, the Church.  That is how it works!

To answer the question “how to take care of the elderly, the widows”, the Church at large, particularly the church locally who needs to implement the answer among themselves, needs to bring together their diversity of passions and points of view, their evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles to ask the Lord through His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ for “revelation”, to reveal the answer to all present that will bring “unity” in vision, direction, and purpose upon a solution to the problem, then release each of them to use their gifting to make this written agreement a living agreement. In old times a man was only worth the value of his “word”; his “word” was his bond”, but the “word” was of no use unless nor valued unless it was “lived out”!

The uniqueness of “trusting the Holy Spirit” is that he may tell one group specifics on how to “take care of their elderly” differently than he may another individual group because of different societal norms and values and traditions of that group.  One way may be effective in one area that would not be effective in another.  One area may be strong in family values, thus calling upon individual families to be the strength of their joint ministry, while in another location where the family has disintegrated, the church at large might have to become the family to teach individual families how to function Biblically, how fathers are to father properly modeled by their heavenly Father, mothers to mother with godly nurturing, siblings to encourage one another, not challenge, fight, nor kill one another, etc. See the Holy Spirit knows and will reveal “the heart” of the local church and what is needed for “heart restoration” in solving the problem.

Once the answer or solution has been “revealed”, for “revelation of Jesus Christ” is at the heart of the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, then the church needs to “release” the evangelistic spirit in its midst to “birth” or “rebirth” that solution in their midst, “releasing” the shepherding spirit to grow and develop that solution based on Godly principles taught by the teacher through the Word of God, the Bible, whose relevancy will be “revealed” through “releasing” the prophet to make it a “living” “active” solution, to be “seen over” by proper apostolic oversight, those who see the big picture of the entire solution process, but who are willing not to do the work, nor control what is being done, but continuing to “release” the other diverse giftings, passions, and points of view toward the unifying solution to the problem.

That is how the five fold is to work to solve problems.  Church, lets face our challenges, especially taking care of the elderly, the widows, the senior saints who have labored for decades for the cause of the gospel as they enter the fall season of their lives, by trusting the Holy Spirit for solutions, Biblically based, by actively living out the solutions to resolve the issue until the challenges dissipate.  This is the first century Church model as outlined in the book of Acts; this is the twenty-first century Church model we, the Church, needs to implement and exercise in our time, today.