When I came to pastor Auburndale Baptist Church almost 15 years ago there were 30 elderly members. After the death of a beloved 96 year old widow on Saturday, 6 remain. I have a range of emotions as I prepare for the funeral of this dear faithful saint and anticipate the others in the coming years. There’s the obvious personal loss of this sweet lady who was unwavering in her support of me, even in the dark years. But there is also the weighty reminder that these faithful older members who kept our church going for so long are almost gone. I find a unique sadness each time I now bury these final few original members.
Ultimately, I have feelings of gratitude mixed with my sadness. I am grateful these faithful older saints endured with a messy young pastor making mistakes. I am thankful that God called me to this noble and important work of Church Revitalization before there was even a term for it. I am stirred afresh to train young men to go do this noble work in a dying church; to challenge them to love and shepherd the older, faithful saints who remain to their grave. And hopefully see new life come to the church as I did.
The honor it is to walk these sweet saints to the arms of Jesus is hard to describe. It is hard, but strangely satisfying. As I preach the funeral this Saturday and prepare for 6 others in the future, I will embrace the sadness I feel. But I will also embrace the unique satisfaction that comes with taking the reins of their beloved church they handed to me and seek to be a faithful steward for the next generation. As I place them in the ground awaiting the resurrection of our broken bodies, I will humbly continue to stand on their shoulders.