This is the day, this is the day.
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice, we will rejoice,
And be glad in it, and be glad in it.
Most of the church family at the Beverly Shores Church of Christ are in their golden years, and from what we can tell, are quite happy about it, a not uncommon state of being for seniors, by the way (https://news.yahoo.com/happiness-declines-peaks-age-125236685.html). After several days visiting with some of our church family in and around Leeward and “The Villages”, who worship at Beverly Shores, it seemed quite clear that they specialize in breaking a lot of stereotypes around being aged --- starting with the way they somehow make their 65 voices sound like 120. They just about lift the roof off their building when they sing, starting every worship service with the upbeat song with the lyrics mentioned above. The songs that follow are each introduced by the song leader by first reading aloud the corresponding scripture that inspired the writing of the hymn --- a nice touch to help worshippers focus on what God says on the theme we are about to sing. I also enjoyed how the song leader had enough volume that no one could successfully sing off tempo if they tried because they’d be overtaken by the rest of the congregation singing the tempo of the spirited song leader.
Allow me to back up a little bit. The story behind our visiting Beverly Shores goes back to when our friend, Joshua Gurtler, years ago, contacted Mark one day, asking if he could fill in for him on an online LIVE Facebook / YouTube Bible program called Answering Religious Error. Mark filled in and was immediately asked by Bryan Garlock, who runs the show, if he could be “a regular” on the program. Then in September of 2020, Bryan also asked me if I’d be interested in doing a similar program for younger women with an older woman who, because of her years of experience in education, had been especially helpful to him in his preaching career. My answer was an immediate, “Whatever I can do to help”. So Ila and I had been working hard at that project together about six months at the time of our visit to Ila King’s congregation, the Beverly Shores church of Christ. The King’s warm hospitality was my first opportunity to meet in person, this cohost I’d spent so many hours on the phone with, creating this weekly program she named “Older Women Likewise” that has been well-received on Facebook YouTube, and the eight podcast platforms such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify that distribute the audio versions of our programs. It’s a lot of work and we BOTH love it!
Ila and her husband, Wallace, a deacon at the congregation, adore their congregation, and gave us a lot of inside scoop as to why, and as those reasons surfaced, I began to realize what a good job this congregation does to break the stereotype that is not always true: That the younger the average age of a congregation’s membership, the more active the congregation will be for the kingdom of God.
For example, this congregation realizes the value of keeping up with the advances in technology that help shout soul-saving truth into the soundwaves. Ila and I have learned first hand how hard it can be to find women who are open to LIVE internet programming as a venue for fulfilling God’s mandate to “... encourage the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible and pure, to manage their households, to be kind, and to submit themselves to their husbands”, but it was this retired school principal at Beverly Shores who was willing to step up, name the program Older Women Likewise and take on the duties of being executive producer, which means, among other things, making all the contacts to schedule guests to come on the Older Women Likewise program and help us help younger women.
Another example of this congregation’s willingness to learning how to use every resource to the glory of God, is that the members at Beverly Shores church of Christ Zoom like there’s no tomorrow. Ila told me that one of the wonderful things that has come about during the pandemic has been the use of Zoom for their classes. They not only offer Sunday evening and Wednesday evening classes for everyone, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, they also offer very well-attended classes for the ladies. Those who have participated in Zoom have felt quite connected, and I noticed during our visit that many signed on early and stayed on afterward for news and warm, family laughter. A recent newcomer to their congregation commented on how easy it has been to learn all the new names at the congregation from seeing everyone’s names on Zoom, which helped her feel, she said, like a part of the group right from the start. Ila and this new sister-in-Christ are studying The Big Picture workbook every week, and other volunteers set up individual classes using Zoom for those who want to study more in depth on a particular subject.
The church has a website that is well tended to, and in addition, the good preacher, Tommy Hagewood, puts much thought into his PowerPoint slides as a visual aid, and even has his own YouTube program with about 100 5minute videos called Search Serve Share, viewable here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkb-S61yIgavx6_KMf2wjsg/videos.
Clearly, seniors are not necessarily slow on the technology uptake, in fact, this is the first congregation I’ve heard of who’ve ditched paper church directories, for the online option available at instantchurchdirectory.com. There congregations pay seventy-five dollars per year for this service and sync their secure church directory right to an iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini or Android device to email, call or text — right from their device. Pictures are easily updated and they can more easily share directions to each other's homes. When updates are needed, members can submit a suggested update to one of the volunteer editors.
Just one more final mention as to what a blessing it is that these older Christians are so unafraid of learning something new. I learned that in preparation for Ila and Wallace’s postponed 2020 trip to Switzerland, Wallace had contacted two men, Christoph and Boris, who are preachers in the churches there. In an initial Zoom meeting with Boris, Wallace discussed live-streaming as well as evangelism using social media. The men there were interested and wanted to learn more, so Wallace contacted Bryan Garlock to present information to the group. 15 men met on Zoom, 4 in America, 1 in France, 1 in Germany and 9 in Switzerland, remotely attended the informative presentation, during which Bryan gave a thorough, well-received and appreciated explanation on the use of Facebook and YouTube in spreading the gospel. I guess sometimes what you really need most is a “middle-man” to connect Christians with skills to other Christians to teach them the ropes!
Many are involved in many ways in this vibrant congregation. At present there were five elders and three deacons to spread out the workload of this congregation. They genuinely like to interact with each other, in fact, several take the time to pray through the membership list, and in addition, several members have a habit of checking in on the well-being of each member regularly. I find them to be a living testimony to the truth in 2 Corinthians 4:16 that “... though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day.” Like Caleb in his old age, they are still ready for battle with that ageless spirit of Caleb when he said, “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.” (Joshua 14:10-11)
Beverly Shores Church of Christ
1318 Griffin Road, Leesburg FL 34748