Our pastor is leading us to provide ministerial sustenance to people age 50 and older. Are we missing something? What are the ethical perspectives of limiting our outreach like this?
One of the glorious truths of the gospel is the astounding breadth of its reach. All who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. There are no age requirements, no background checks, no limits on race or gender. Call on Jesus, and you will be saved.
What is more, those who call on Jesus are made a part of his family we call the church. The end result of this profound openness to the world is that someday, souls from every tribe and nation will belong to the family of God (Revelation 5:9).
God calls congregations to live in anticipation of this future. Local faith communities stand as signposts of the coming kingdom of God. Churches that have a rich diversity of age, race and socio-economic backgrounds in their membership give the unbelieving world the best picture of what God’s kingdom looks like. Every church should be thrilled to welcome people who increase their congregational diversity. Any church that purposely excludes someone based on age, gender, race, etc. has strayed far from the ways of God.
One of the mysteries of the gospel
That being said, one of the mysteries of the gospel is that God tends to reach the multitudes by first connecting with a particular group of people. In order to bless the nations of the earth, God first chose to work in a particular people, the Jews. In order to save all of humanity, God became incarnate in one man, Jesus Christ.
To put this another way, it is impossible to reach all humanity in general. We have to reach the particular humans God places in front of us. For your church, that may be people who are 50 years old or older. Perhaps they make up the bulk of your neighborhood or are the people most likely to respond to the particular gifts and makeup of your congregation.
If that is the case, there is nothing unethical about focusing one’s outreach toward that group, so long as the church understands that in reaching this particular group, they have the opportunity to extend their reach or blessing to other people, as well.
I know several cowboy churches that set out to reach a particular group of people, but who, in the mystery of God’s ways, now attract a much more diverse crowd to their congregation.
Connecting with the community
Focusing your outreach efforts on adults 50 and older may help your church connect with your community in a new way. It may be the avenue God uses to help you reach a great diversity of folks. Just remember, while focusing your outreach on a particular group of people fits the biblical pattern, limiting your outreach to that particular group when God moves in a new direction betrays the gospel truth.
Taylor Sandlin, pastor
Southland Baptist Church
San Angelo, Texas
If you have a comment about this column or wish to ask a question for a future column, contact Bill Tillman, consulting ethicist for Right or Wrong? at firstname.lastname@example.org.