-For nearly twenty years, Pastor Pohly made an indelible mark on my life. Though he was fifty-two years older than me, I could never imagine wanting to spend time with someone else, more, than I wanted to spend time with him when he was alive. I was sixteen when I met him, he was sixty eight years old. Because he took discipleship seriously, and included me in the many different facets of his life, I was able to observe him on many different levels and experiences.
Working on his farm with him, I saw firsthand his hard work ethic, coupled with the tenderness he demonstrated to his animals. Driving with him on errands, I saw how he interacted with cashiers, bank tellers, and other people in the community in a variety of circumstances; I learned to imitate the tremendous patience and kindness he showed toward everyone he encountered. Sitting with him one-on-one every Sunday morning before the congregation arrived, I witnessed the prayer and hymns he sung hours before the Sunday service to prepare himself and the people to worship God.
While Pastor Pohly had countless friends his own age, and he often went to dinner with his friends and “went calling” on them at their houses (he also regularly visited people at the retirement homes in the community) he had little time for wasting his evenings away at “Home Group Meetings for the Elderly” or “Bible Study for the Decrepit and Aged”. Pastor Pohly believed his high calling was the discipleship of those entrusted in his care. True discipleship for Pastor Pohly was involving himself in the lives and families of his parishioners, in as many different environments and situations as possible.
One of the sad states of the modern church, is that the overwhelming majority of elderly Christians spend the main part of their lives with other older people. This is not what God desires. Biblical discipleship involves older men spending massive amounts of their week with younger men. Likewise, Paul literally says, “Let the older women teach the younger women”.
This type of discipleship runs contrary to the current American paradigm that teaches retirement is a period of satisfying the flesh. Americans tend to view retirement as the time in life where older people can finally do what they want to do; golfing, traveling, weekends spent on the yacht, ungodly amounts of hours cutting their lawns and tending to flower gardens. None of these things in themselves are evil. The problem arises when we see that for the vast amount of older Christians; this type of retirement tends to be the norm for their day-to-day lives.
Older people are the best qualified to help young adults in the church in a variety of ways; babysitting, helping do the laundry for mothers of young children, helping with dinner each night, painting, and tending to the various problems that arise in the home of young Christian adults. There are a myriad of examples in which older Christians, both men and women, can include themselves in the daily lives of young Christians, and this interaction then allows for discipleship relations to begin.
Discipleship does not look like Freudian psychology. Discipleship is not about a young Christian sitting across a desk from an older Christian where they experience an hour of counseling each week. Discipleship exemplified by Jesus is far more beautiful than the egotistical meanderings of secular psychologists.
Pastor Pohly regularly called on his parishioners homes, and the homes of non-Christians in his community. Even though I saw Pastor Pohly a lot, he and his wife would still make it a point to “drop by” my house to visit with my wife and I unannounced. I never had the opportunity to specifically ask him about this, but I’m rather certain his reason for doing so many unannounced visits was to check up on people and see them when they didn’t have a chance to put their best face on.
When we know we are going to a meeting or to church, we tend to prepare ourselves, both in the way we dress, and mentally. Pastor Pohly understood this, and didn’t want to only see his parishioners in a formal sense, but he wanted to see them for who they truly were. It was an important avenue that allowed Pastor Pohly to vividly see people; was there a month’s worth of unclean dishes in the sink? Were the children running around wild and screaming uncontrolled? Was the husband and wife at each other’s throats?
While it can be a bit inconvenient to have uninvited guests, when it is someone like Pastor Pohly, who has lovingly built a friendship of trust, and who you know has your entire best interest’s at heart, his visits were never inconvenient. On one of those occasions, he just happened to stop in on a particularly cold winter evening and our furnace had stopped working a couple hours earlier. He assessed the situation, and gave me the name of a furnace company he trusted, and told me emphatically, if the cost was too much for me, he would pay to have it fixed.
For a Christian, becoming older is not a time to focus on our selfish-happiness, it is a time to sew back into the body of Christ, all of the riches we have gained ourselves. Being a Christian elder is not merely a Presbyterian title, it is a high calling within the church to go into the whole world and make disciples of all men, starting with the young men and women within the church.
*stock image Nathan Anderson unsplash.com