27/01/2007

The gift of old people to the church


I was recently given a copy of the excellent new Africa Bible Commentary. It is a one-volume commentary written by African Bible scholars to assist pastors and teachers in Africa to teach God's word more effectively. It is an evangelical commentary that is written with the perspective of African culture. It is a valuable commentary for non-Africans, too, containing lots of practical insight and helpful articles on issues such as debt, democracy, HIV/AIDs, idolatry, poverty, rape, slavery, and widows and orphans that are not normally covered in a standard commentary.

The introduction explains its style and purpose: "The ABC is not a critical, academic, verse-by-verse commentary. Rather it contains section-by-section exegesis and explanation of the whole Bible as seen through the eyes of African scholars who respect the integrity of the text and use African proverbs, metaphors and stories to make it speak to African believers in the villages and cities across the entire continent. The application is both bold and faithful. Thus the ABC does not speak of a Black Jesus. To do so would be a travesty of the Bible story and cheap scholarship. Instead, the ABC is true to the text and honest to its context both in Bible days and in our day.
"The ABC is, in fact, a mini-library that equips pastors and teachers to teach the churches and encourage students and church members to study God's word for themselves."

One of our retired elders is using it as part of his daily time with the Lord - something I am about to follow. I shall report on how I get on!

However, the purpose of today's post, is to share something generated through my reading of the commentary's introduction to the Pentateuch. It points out the many references to passing on the knowledge of the Lord and what He has done from generation to generation. Then the writer says this:

"The death of an old person is like the death of a library."

That has left me very challenged - how do we treat the older believers in our churches? They may not be "the life and soul of the party"; they may be frail in body (and perhaps in mind); and they may not appreciate the modern way so many things are done in church today. But they are a library of rich volumes of experience with God. Many of them have a lifetime of reading His word, hearing His voice and seeking His face in prayer. They have a wealth of testimonies of how the Lord has guided, protected, provided, answered, comforted and encouraged.

Maybe we don't like to visit our local library because it is old and dusty. But if it closed, the books would be lost forever...

When the old people in our fellowship die, their 'books' are lost forever. We may prefer the company of friends our own age, but we are surely missing something if that is all we do. How about spending time with some older Christians - seasoned saints - and asking them, graciously, about their lives. Then their 'books' will not be lost but handed on - to you and me. And we will be far richer because of them!

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