In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus conveys the great commission to his disciples. He says that they have been given authority to disciple others in the name of Christ, and that he expects them to go out and do so. In fact, he even tells them where they should do so. In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus says that after they have received the Holy Spirit, they should be witnesses for the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the rest of the world.
But what does that mean for seniors of faith who decide to make homes in assisted living communities? It means a lot, because one thing Jesus definitely didn't do is excuse certain disciples because they were retired or older than the others. In fact, the Bible actually says that older individuals should share their wisdom with those who are younger.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus breaks down the concept of witnessing and teaching others about faith into different regions. But it's something that modern readers might miss, because we're not as familiar with the lay of the land around where the original disciples lived and worked. However, the same concepts can still apply to us as disciples today.
First, Jesus says to witness in Jerusalem. At the time, that's where the disciples were, so the city was the immediate community. Many of the disciples were Jewish, and most of the city was as well, so it was about more than sharing a location. The people of Jerusalem shared a culture and history.
For seniors in an assisted living community, this might equate to witnessing within that community. While the residents in any of our Bethesda Senior Living Communities come from a wide range of backgrounds and have disparate interests, they do have a few things in common. They all live within the same community, which means they interact with the same staff and neighbors and participate in many of the same activities. They also all, at some point, made the decision to move into assisted living.
These shared experiences can bring you together in fellowship and create a starting point for sharing your faith with others. Some ideas for doing so can include offering to lead Bible study or prayer within the community, sharing your testimony with others, talking about Jesus with your neighbors and simply praying for others and showing Christlike love to them.
Next, Jesus said that the disciples should teach in Judea and Samaria. These are the greater areas just outside of Jerusalem. The people might speak the same language, but they'd run into people of different backgrounds. Not everyone was going to be Jewish, for example, and there might be cases when the disciples had to try harder to connect on a personal level with others.
For seniors, this might be equivalent to interacting with others in the town or city surrounding the assisted living community. You'll run into people of all beliefs, ages and lifestyles, and how you share Jesus here might look a little different than how you do so in your own community.
Certainly, seniors can volunteer with organizations that share the Gospel or Christ's love with others. That might include teaching Sunday school at a local church or assisting at a nearby soup kitchen. But you don't have to volunteer to teach faith to others. Simply acting in a Christlike manner and being kind and loving to those you come into contact with as you run errands or enjoy assisted living outings can be a great way to set a good faith example for others.
Finally, Jesus instructs the disciples to carry the Gospel message "to the ends of the earth." In short, no place was out of reach and no person was to be forgotten.
This one might be the most foreign for seniors in assisted living communities. You might not be planning to hop on a plane and do mission work on another continent at this stage of your life. But you don't have to be an international missionary to teach about Jesus to the "rest of the world," especially in this modern age.
Seniors can consider all the ways they interact with others outside of their immediate communities and towns. That includes being on the phone with a call center representative, traveling to visit family or using social media. You don't need to create a pulpit and evangelize to others in an official manner to be teaching about Jesus. Simply displaying the fruits of the spirit, such as kindness, love, joy, patience and self-control, when dealing with others can be a great way to show them Jesus. And it can also open the door for having a conversation about your faith with others.
You're never too old to share Jesus, and moving into an assisted living community simply gives you new opportunities to do so.