Churches have a Biblical mandate to reach out to people of all cultures and ages. There are going to be significant opportunities for evangelism and outreach with older people as there are going to be many more older people in churches who are able to participate in this aspect of ministry and many many more older people in our communities who need to hear the good news of the gospel.
We share the gospel of Jesus Christ in many ways. The Apostle Paul said that he adapted his teaching to the thinking of people in their different cultures so that he might be able to reach them.
Loneliness and isolation is a key issue for many older people and this, combined with a lifetime of experiences to unpack, requires some new approaches to explore the Christian faith.
Older people are sometimes seen to be stubborn, or inflexible in their thinking. This is not because their mental processing is slower (although this can be the case) but it is often because they want to retain their autonomy: they don’t want to be vulnerable to persuasion by others. They want to make their own decisions (as we all do).
Throughout their lives, their experiences have shaped their expectations and their understanding. Many will have heard the good news more than once, sometimes directly, sometimes peripherally. They may have accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour, or they may have rejected him. They have laid down layers of thinking that justify their decisions.
Evangelism to older people therefore needs to include such considerations and reflect the fact that some older people find it hard to concentrate for longer periods of time and they can also have difficulty with the written word. The video below is a useful introduction to why ‘relational evangelism’ works particularly well with older people.
A Practical Look at Evangelism - Putting Faith First
Often when we're meeting with upcoming speakers for our Faith in Later Life Events, we'll say, "We're Faith in Later Life, and that order is important to us. Faith comes first and that's what we're hoping to see at this event." Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation is the cornerstone upon which everything at Faith in Later Life is built, and it also happens to be the same foundation upon which all Evangelism needs to rest. Evangelism isn't passive though, it is an active outworking of that inward faith that each of us has received, and therefore there is an ongoing need to work out how to do that well, both personally and practically.
We're immensely thankful to Terry Puttick, a member of the board here at Faith in Later Life and a part of London City Mission, for joining us on a number of occasions to talk about Evangelism. His wisdom on the subject has come as a result of years spent sharing the gospel with others, looking to the Bible for guidance, and submitting himself over and again to the Lord in prayer.
Below you can watch an excellent seminar we hosted with Terry in January 2023, which takes a broad look at Evangelism from a Biblical perspective. If you're encouraged to go on and do the same, Terry has also put together a guide to help budding evangelists know where to turn in the Bible for various needs and issues. Finally, we've also shortlisted five great resources we believe will be of help to you in this endeavour.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, there are people all around you who need to hear the gospel.
As it is written: "Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."