In an era of youth evangelism conferences, Vacation Bible Schools for children, and evangelistic camps for teens, some believers may be inclined to ignore the need for evangelism among senior adults. But when Pastor Dennis McFadden turned his attention to this neglected group, his efforts resulted in an eternal harvest.
McFadden, pastor of Eaton Memorial Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, was out for a round of visits with Evangelist Don Mathis, when the two found themselves near a motel in a low-income part of town that had been converted into an apartment complex.
"I wonder if Jake's* home," McFadden said to Mathis, who was preaching a multi-evening revival at Eaton Memorial. "He usually is."
When they knocked on one of the doors, an 81-year-old man—poorly dressed and just recently awoken—came to meet them.
"Jake, I was just concerned about you," McFadden began. The pastor met the man weeks before and began a friendship, although they had only spoken a few times.
"We talked a bit about the Lord before," McFadden continued. "You know that Jesus loves you and I'm concerned about you. I'd like to see you know the Lord. You know, if you are willing to repent and ask Him into your life, He'll come into your life."
Jake simply nodded his head. McFadden closed the conversation by inviting him to the revival that evening.
"Well sure enough, he showed up that night, walked down the aisle, and got saved," Mathis recalled.
That same service, a 68-year-old man the church had been praying for followed Jake's example and placed his faith in Christ as well.
"I look back on that, and I don't know whether it would even have dawned on me to stop at that particular place or not," Mathis said. "But the pastor's concern for an 81-year-old guy that just about everyone else had forgotten, and witnessing to him—it really did something to the church for an 81-year-old and a 68-year-old man both to be saved in the same service."
Mathis believes churches have taken for granted that senior adults by and large are saved, when in fact many are overlooked, lonely, and very receptive to the Gospel. He identifies Baby Boomers in particular, who he says may have taken worldly paths growing up in the 1960s but are willing to consider faith in Christ.
"If you can share Christ with them out there, or if somebody will make friends with them, they'll come on inside of a church building," he said, adding that often "if they hear the Gospel, they'll walk down the aisle and get saved."
Mathis noted that focused prayer on a single individual seems to be particularly effective at helping draw adults to Christ. He sees it firsthand at the revival meetings he leads, where numerous people indicate that someone they prayed for was saved during the meeting.
"They will respond if somebody cares about the individual, loves them, and brings them with them to church," he said of seniors. "They'll respond to the Gospel."
While the number of elderly adults saved may not compare with the volume of decisions recorded at massive youth rallies or Vacation Bible School programs, the effort makes all the difference for every elderly man or woman who comes to believe in Jesus, according to Mathis.
It did for Jake, who after placing his faith in Christ, said, "I've been looking for this all my life."
John Evans, a member of Sagemont Church, is a freelance journalist from Houston, Texas.