“Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding” (Job 12.12).
Father’s Day this year meant church with Dad. Church with Dad meant a morning spent with the men of Adult 7. (For all you hipsters, that’s what churches call Sunday School classes before small groups, cell groups, community groups, life groups, and care groups). I thought I was doing Dad a solid by flanking him in Sunday School, but clearly it was the reverse.
By the way, there is no Adult 8. It will not surprise any of the men of Adult 7 if they attend another funeral this week of any one of them they saw today. They’re used to the probability one of them will not be back next week, or ever. I have no idea if there is any intentional correlation between seven being the biblical number of “completion” and Adult 7, but it does fit.
These are men who shot really big guns at really bad people for a really long time. These are men who have buried wives (maybe two) and children. These are men who increasingly bury really close friends. And they are still humbled by the grace of God to them. They can tell war stories, but would rather tell you about Jesus. They have earned every wrinkle and every ounce of our respect.
These are men. Christian men. Men who started together in Adult 1 and now six decades later still meet faithfully together. The church in all its so-called “wisdom” and innovation has passed them by. One room church buildings have given way to children and youth wings with strobe lights, plasma screens and gut-rattling speakers. And here is Adult 7: men still gathering every Sunday like they have for the last sixty years, with their Bibles and Sunday School books open on their laps. They’re praying for the litany of doctors’ visits, the new widows of their friends and the salvation of children and grandchildren. They may ride an elevator to their class now, but they still run the race.
The men of Adult 7 can’t hear very well. They walk slow. They hobble along in their high-waisted pants. But the men of Adult 7 don’t complain. They don’t make excuses. They don’t miss.
They don’t text. They talk. They don’t whine. They work. They don’t grumble. They give.
These are men. Christian men.
These are men who smile and have conversations. Their legs may be weak, but their handshake as firm as ever. They look you in the eye and greet you in the Lord.
They still wear their coats and ties because that’s what men like them do. The men of Adult 7 still fill out their offering envelopes. They still use their tattered KJV Bibles with decades of notes scribbled in the margins. Bible on a phone? Who needs that?
The men of Adult 7 don’t care about blog posts, Facebook or who’s tweeting what about whom. They care about eating breakfast together Tuesday at Chick-Fil-A. They know the precious value of Christian brotherhood and how quickly it comes to an end. Social media for these men is a hot cup of coffee shared across a table.
In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis wrote:
We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
The men of Adult 7 are men with chests. They are men of honor. They are not perfect. But they are men. Christian men.
And if you have any sense about you then you don’t run your puny mouth in Adult 7. You sit. You watch. You listen. You learn.
I wonder if we need less catering to pre-teens, tweeners, teenagers and singles. For all our baptized theatrics, youth camps, guitar riffs and decisionism, we have not made men with chests. We’ve created spoiled consumers who think the church exists to entertain them. We’re not creating 60-year men. Many might say the “youth” are the church’s future and therefore we must do everything we can to keep them interested, whatever the cost. I wonder if we should lock the door to the youth wing and make every student sit in Adult 7. And they should do so until they realize “adult” has less to do with age and more to do with a scarred, weathered, hardscrabble life of faith in Christ.
Let’s create men. Christian men.
Say what you want about all the “progress” the church has made. In the end, this “youth” hopes to be a man worthy of Adult 7.