Brother Marlin Connely, Jr. was a faithful and forceful gospel preacher. I heard him preach a number of sermons and classes at Freed Haredeman University over the years. He died on April 10, 2020 a few days shy of 85 years old. Brother Connelly was a powerful preacher and skillful expositor of Scripture. Besides teaching at David Lipscomb University for 33 years, he preached at the Bellvue Church of Christ in Nashville for 26 years, followed by 14 years at the Hillsboro Church of Christ, then another seven at Bellvue. I was blessed on one occasion to travel with a group he led on a tour of the Holy Land. I truly believe he knew more about Israel than our Jewish guide – and a whole lot more than the guide knew about the Bible! I heard him talk about how alliteration and illustrations are gates a preacher could and should use to swing open Bible truth and make it more easily accessible and absorbable. I relate the following story and application he made in one of many bulletin articles he penned over the years, and then follow it with application to a particular Bible passage. Brother Connelly wrote: “In the natural world, abilities and responsibilities change with age. For example, in 1925, G. A. Rosch, a German scientist, demonstrated that the work of the honeybee changes with the age of the bee. Upon emerging from the broom comb, the young bee becomes a feeder of larvae. After several days, however, it gives up its nourishing duties for pantry work, as it receives and stores nectar brought by the foragers. At about 15 days’ age, the same bee becomes a wax-maker; on the 18th day it begins guard duty; and on the 21st day it becomes a forager.” Brother Connelly continues, “Now, nowhere in the Scriptures is the church called ‘God’s hive.’ But the working principles of a beehive in God’s natural world are mirrored in the fellowship of Christians. In the early church, differing abilities meant different roles (Rom.12:6-8). All of the roles were necessary – each complimenting others, to make a whole, functioning fellowship (1 Cor.12:14-27) …. Whatever your place in the hive, work with others of different roles” (I would only add and different ages).
Now let’s swing on the gate to another passage. As he instructs Timothy about proper conduct and relationships in the church (described by Paul at 1 Timothy 3:15 as “the house God, the church of the living God”), the apostle reminds Timothy at 1 Timothy 5:1-2 that the church is comprised of a diversity of members. If you take time to read that passage the Bible will mention (are you willing to listen?) There are two and only two genders in the church’s membership – “men” and “women.” But some of the men are “older” and they are to be encouraged as “fathers.” Along with “older” men are “younger men” whom Timothy is to treat as “brothers.” There are also “older women” who are to be treated with the respect and love we would give our “mothers.” Besides these there are also “younger women,” whom Timothy and other brothers in the church are to treat “with all purity.” The apostle goes on in verse 3-16 to deal with a another special group of church members when he says in verse 3, “Honor widows who are really widows.” Older men and women, widows and widowers – your role and work in God’s church may change as time passes. You may be further downstream on the river of life than you used to be. But the church needs your presence, prayers, wisdom, guidance, love and support for the gospel and the Lord’s work. Let us take time to remind our widows and widowers – the Lord and His church love and need you! God bless you!