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His name was Ernest, and I’ve never met a more aptly named person. I was 24; he was in his 70s. You’d think that Ernest had been stranded on an island without his Bible for years, because when I stood up to preach, Ernest was hungry for Scripture. Ernest was my biggest supporter, the most faithful attender, the most consistent intercessor. Along with his wife, Amelia, Ernest set the pace for the rest of us.

Every church needs an Ernest and Amelia.

Within the first year of my pastorate, Ernest and Amelia moved a couple of hours away so they could be closer to family. It felt like the church had been gutted.

I’ve met a few more people like Ernest and Amelia, but they’re rare. When you’ve found them, thank God for them, because they can change the entire culture of a church.

Praise God for the weathered saints who’ve maintained a tender heart for the Lord. Praise God that some of his servants don’t allow cynicism to take over their souls. Thank God for those in their later years who are kind enough to sit under the ministry of a pastor in the front half of life and love them anyway.

In his book Strength to Strength, Arthur Brooks argues that decline comes to us sooner than we think. By the time we’re in our fifties, most of us have peaked, and decline starts to set in. I think that’s why many of our churches tend to focus on youth. We want those who are near the peak of their abilities. We follow culture’s emphasis on youth, and dread the loss of vitality that comes as we age.

But the second half of life brings a different kind of strength: wisdom. We can no longer compete with the younger on their terms. We can’t work as hard or perform at their level. Instead, we can offer something the young don’t have. Brooks argues that we should kick our success addiction, begin to simplify our lives, embrace our age, be honest about our weaknesses, and lean into relationships. “Devote the back half of your life to serving others with your wisdom,” he writes. “Get old sharing the things you believe are most important.”

Ernest and Amelia did this. Every time I’ve seen older people follow this path, it’s unlocked something that the church really needed but couldn’t get anywhere else. Churches need a lot of things, but one of the things churches need most are older saints who continue to set the pace for all those who follow behind.

Pray for older saints in your church. Ask God to send you some if you don’t have any now. If you have some like Ernest and Amelia, praise God for them, and pray that they continue to follow God well.

But don’t just stop there. Aim to become like Ernest and Amelia. Aim to become a gracious old saint who loves God more than you do today and who is committed to serving and blessing until your final day.