Big Bad Wolf asks: What is the practical role of recent retired people in the church? Stacking chairs and serving cups of tea?

Hi Wolf,

Is their some personal hurt behind your question?  I would understand if there was because I have come across churches where the retired/older people are relegated to (what might sometimes be considered to be) menial or trivial tasks, and this is hurtful.  So there might be a question behind your question.

But to interact with your question as it stands…

A church, like any organised community, takes a lot of energy to run.  If people are to be blessed, particularly newcomers, then there is a necessary reliance on people putting their hand up to serve the community in many various ways.  This includes stacking chairs and serving cups of tea!

So, there is no reason why a recently retired person should be excluded from acts of service, if they are willing and able.  I have come across many recently retired people who have delighted to serve the church in such a way, and have valued the fact that they can carry some of that load while they have the energy and the freedom from caring from children etc. that may not be afforded to others.  Let us not denigrate the necessity, importance, and value of those so-called menial tasks of service and those that volunteer for them.  As someone who has reached the end of service to be faced with 100 chairs to pack up, having someone say, “Will, I’ll do that” is such a relief and a blessing, truly soothing.  I value it greatly.

But perhaps your question implies an “only” – is that the “only” role for the recently retired?  Absolutely not!  Each member of the body is gifted according to the Spirit one to another so as to build the people of God and further the gospel.  The task of the church is to encourage everyone, regardless of their age, towards ongoing maturity and the wise application of their gifts and talents.

However, if there is one direction that I would, generally speaking, encourage the “recently retired” to particularly explore, it is the task of mentoring.  The age group you refer to have a particular wealth of experience and knowledge to gift the church with.  If they can be involved in some way, large or small with the ongoing task of identifying, apprenticing, releasing and commisioning newer leaders they will have blessed God’s people and produced much fruit for his glory in that way, and it may be a useful framework for their direct hands-on ministry.

Thanks for the question,


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[Update:  In response to some feedback I have updated this post to include an experience of Pilgrim Coffee in Argyle Street.   I was also asked to clarify what I meant by “purely subjective results”]

Having worked in the Hobart CBD for the best part of three weeks my coffee shop rankings are currently as follows.

Based on the purely subjective results of ordering “Give me the fattest, strongest, largest flat white that you can give me.”

  1. Villino Espresso  |  Pilgrim Coffee  – Both gave me a full-flavoured coffee that had adequate strength of taste and kick with no bitterness or burn.  The temperature and texture was perfect for both.  Villino’s hit the belly a little softer, Pilgrim have a better, larger venue.  Equal first.
  2. Yellow Bernard – A nicely balanced flavour but a bit too much froth.  Very close to my work so they will be visited again.
  3. Jam Jar Lounge Battery Point (coffee is sourced from Villino) – Very decent, nice and strong but a little over extracted.
  4. Oomph Macquarie St A little insipid in flavour – perhaps a little stale?  Pleasant enough, but nothing spectacular.
  5. Dev’Lish – Strong but very very bitter and landed like lead.
  6. Hudson in Murray Street – I was shouted a “coffee” at a lunch meeting.  The conversation was good.


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Bishop John has announced that I am to be appointed as the new Senior Associate Priest of St David’s Cathedral and as his Research Assistant.

He writes, “Please pray for Will and Gill and their children as they make their move from Burnie to Hobart in August and as they settle in to a new place and new season of their lives”, and we would echo that request.  There is much to do by way of logistics and organising schooling and accommodation etc down south as well as getting our house ready to leave here in Somerset.  Please especially pray as we leave the Connections and Burnie church communities and connect with those at the Cathedral and in Hobart.  In all this  we have already seen much of the grace of God in sovereign providential provision and all manner of generosity and for that we are most thankful.

I am looking forward to working with the Dean of Hobart, The Very Reverend and most excellent Richard Humphrey who has a strong vision for the ministry of the cathedral in the city of Hobart.  The opportunity to assist Bishop John as he leads the prophetic voice of the church in the community is also a privilege.  Gill will continue as an honorary deacon and shape her ministry around the opportunities that become apparent.

We will be leaving Burnie with some sadness, of course.  There are wonderful people and an awesome community here, many of whom have been with us and us with them through thick and thin and ups and downs.  We arrived eight and half years ago, when we were in our twenties, with only the first three of our four children. This is where I made many first steps in ministry, and many mistakes, and learned much.  We have walked through some fire and times of pain, but also times of excitement, passion and purpose.  We rejoice in all that God has done, through Connections Church in particular, as well as the other places we have ministered.  We look forward to what God will do through his people on the North West Coast.  In everything there is a testimony of God’s grace which we will never be able to forget.

So, onward Christian soldiers! With our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith.

For those with a Roman Catholic heritage an Examination of Conscience may be familiar.  It’s a series of questions, often based on the Ten Commandments or some form of catechism, which you are meant to ask of yourself before going to confession: Have I committed this or that sin?  Have I had that wrong attitude? Where is my heart not right with God?

Being lumped together with confession it’s something the evangelical church has shied away from.  And not for no reason – at its worst, when mixed with penance instead of penitence an examination of conscience could be taken as a desperate attempt to unearth every wrongdoing in order to avoid the wrath of a vengeful god.

But at its best, when done in the light of the God of justice and mercy in whom forgiveness is a rock-solid given because of the cross of Christ, it is an act of devotion, a humble willingness to have oneself shaped for the Kingdom of God.  This is a thoroughly evangelical practice in line with the psalmist of Psalm 139:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

In this I agree with David Gushee from a 2005 Christianity Today article where he sees in such examinations a “rich moral inventory” and decries the “staggering moral sloppiness that frequently characterises us” as evangelicals.  And he asks:

Which evangelical traditions today train their adherents in the kind of rigorous self-examination represented by the Catholic tradition of the “examination of conscience”? The Puritans and the followers of Wesley used to engage in such practices, but they have largely disappeared.

Which evangelical traditions today encourage the kind of daily self-examination and rigorous accountability represented by the evangelical Wilberforce? Can one find this kind of moral seriousness actively taught in any branch of the evangelical world?

Christianity is more than an event, an experience, or a set of beliefs. It is a way of life characterized by moral seriousness and the quest for holiness.

I recently put together an Examination of Conscience for an Ash Wednesday service.  I did this by looking at a whole bunch of different resources, most of them catholic, and picking the good questions without losing the hard questions.  It has been a worthwhile exercise.

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Recently I posted an article on the facebook group Club Theo < and a member quoted me, writing:

Hi Will, I like what you said here:
“The resurrection can thus be seen the Father’s act to honour the son’s act of self-sacrifice – and to bring not only Christ, but all those he counts as “his” – into a place of new life and authority.”
What verses/ideas did this flow out of? I’d not heard it put this way before, but it rings true to me. (perhaps a new discussion is now born??)

Well, here’s some thoughts-on-the-fly and a bit of a biblical cherry-pick. I would like, at some point, to do this properly, dip into the greek etc., but for now I’ll do what time allows.

There’s two points to make:

  1. That the resurrection is primarily the act of the Father.
  2. The act of the Father is, at least to some degree, a response to Christ’s act on the cross.

If these two points are true then we have an insight into that wonderful phrase (hinted in an entry in my Connections blog): “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4:25).

So here goes:

There are lots and lots of places where Jesus foretells the resurrection in the passive – e.g. “…until the Son of Man is raised” (Mt 17:9). See also Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32; Mk 14:28; Lk 9:22. And also after the resurrection the simple descriptions are also in the passive – “He has been raised from the dead” (Mt 28:7). See also Mk 16:6; Lk 24:6; Jn 2:22; Jn 21:14. The implication is that the Father, or at least “God” is the active participant in the resurrection.

In Acts we have many similar simple descriptions – but we also start seeing some reason being ascribed. Consider:

Acts 2:23-24 – This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Although the reason for the “impossibility” for the hold of death is not given, there is at least a sense that God’s action to raise Christ was a right thing to do, not an arbitrary thing to do. [For further consideration: implications of the quote from Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-28, it is quoted again in Acts 13:34-35 where the “reason” for the resurrection is related to a fulfillment of covenantal promise]

The Pauline epistles, especially Romans, also use the passive “raised” and Paul is quick to apply the resurrection to us as part of the justification process:

Romans 6:4 – “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Romans 8 is probably my favourite chapter in Scripture and contains the wonderfully trinitarian reference to “the Spirit”, “the Spirit of God” “the Spirit of Christ” and “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom 8:9-11). Galatians 1:1 specifies, explicitly, that it is the Father who is the “raiser.”

In the letter to the Hebrews we, once again, see some reason/cause or purpose to the Father’s actions:

Hebrews 2:9 – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

In the end (and I’ve probably missed a whole heap of passages – so feel free to point them out to me), I think this famous passage sums it up:

Philippians 2:8-9 – “… he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”

In this well-known “hymn” the cross and it’s death is an act of the Son’s self-sacrifice and obedience – and the resurrection is an act of God – who “exalted” him and a response “therefore.” [For further consideration – exact nature of the “therefore” in the greek.]

Perhaps I can conclude with something of a blessing:

Heb 13:20-21 – May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleaseing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

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