At this moment, we are—understandably—being flooded with information and reflections about the coronavirus. There is much helpful stuff for Christians to read, but I fear that one of the most obvious and critical things has not yet gotten much attention.
We are hearing very good general information that is important for all people: wash your hands, cough into a tissue and then throw it away, avoid physical contact, seek medical advice if you feel unwell, stock up a little but do not panic buy, and so on.
We have some good public-policy level conversations going on too: flatten the curve, screen at ports, urgently invest in our healthcare systems, and more.
There are also excellent general reflections specifically for Christians: draw peace from God’s sovereignty, be wise in the conduct of our gatherings, be excellent neighbours and citizens, and good things like this.
If coronavirus is particularly dangerous to older people, then surely we should be proactively ramping up our evangelistic ministries to seniors.
All of this is most necessary and most welcome. But it still seems to me that what is lacking is a focus on one quite specific thing that we really ought to be prioritising. If coronavirus is particularly dangerous to older people, then surely we should be proactively ramping up our evangelistic ministries to seniors.
Barring the return of Jesus, all of us must face the spiritual realities of death. But it seems plain that if there is a group in our communities that is facing a heightened risk of death in the near future, we should be putting extra effort into sharing the good news of eternal life with them as a matter of some urgency.
Who are the older people in our churches’ local communities? Are we not only caring for them physically (which we ought to be), but also spiritually? Can we divert some of our resources—money and time—towards more ministry in aged care homes? Have we got good printed materials to distribute; and are they in large print? Would it be possible to run some special church services for older folk only (taking into account every piece of public health advice of course) and could we use them as times to be especially clear on the gospel?
And then, what about our elderly, unbelieving relatives? Have we been waiting for the ‘right moment’ to have a, potentially awkward, direct conversation with them about Jesus? Could now be the best ‘right moment’ that we are going to get?
Thinking about all of this makes me wonder if we generally do too little ministry among the elderly. After all, they are always the group among us that is closest to death. That is probably a good question for churches to think over, and it might even be that we decide that what we start now can continue on indefinitely.
Over the months ahead, it seems sadly possible that those of us who conduct funerals will be conducting more than we usually do. As always, we do not want people to grieve without hope. Now is the time to put extra energy into sharing that hope with the most vulnerable.