Back in the mid 80's the country music radio stations filled the airways with the mournful voice of George Jones singing a song that asked the following question:
"Who's gonna fill their shoes?
Who's gonna stand that tall?
Who's gonna play the Opry
And the Wabash Cannonball?
Who's gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you?
Lord I wonder, who's gonna fill their shoes?"
The ballad was an ode to the deceased or aging giants of Country Music history. The lyrics made reference to country hall of famers such as past greats like Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, Roy Acuff, and Lefty Frizzell. It also mentioned aging stars like Johnny Cash (now deceased), Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson. The premise was simple. Would there be someone – anyone – who would step up and fill the void that remains from the departure of those who had left this world behind?
It's a sobering question in the world of entertainment, sports, science, military, education, and business.
It is an equally sobering question to those of us who serve as "undershepherds" of the flock of God. When the "solid saints" of the "builders" generation go home to their Heavenly reward, who will fill their gigantic shoes in the local church?
In the past 6 ½ years, I have had the responsibility to officiate in 71 funeral services. In our church, alone, nine of our members have passed away in the past seven months. Six of them in the last four weeks! Most of these were older Christians. Mature in their faith. While we mourn our loss, we know that they are now rejoicing in the presence of their Lord. My heart is stirred with mixed emotions in the light of such statistics.
Over the past seven months, the ages of those we eulogized ranged from their 58 to 93. These were from the generation of "builders" and older "baby boomers". These were folks who had long ago committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. They were men and women who had been taught to be faithful. Faithful in church attendance, faithful in the support of the ministries of the church. Faithful to missions. Faithful to teach and to serve in the church. In short, these were folks who could be counted on to carry their share of the load – to do what they could do to advance the mission of the church.
They are now leaving us in ever increasing numbers.
The question today is, "Who will fill their shoes"?
Who will step up and take on leadership roles in the church? Who will teach the Bible Study classes? Who will lead in worship? Who will go as missionaries? Who will minister to children? Who will be the next pastors and evangelists? Who will be the effective witnesses in our culture? Who will give faithfully of their finances to advance the cause of Christ? Who will serve as role models for the children? Who will mentor younger men and women and pour their lives into them? Who will be the church?
The "church culture" as we know it is forever changing. Recent polls have shown that fewer and fewer younger people are identifying with a local church. Methods change but he message does not. While some of the time worn traditions of many of the local churches of the past are passing from the scene, still the concept of the local body of believers is a valid and scriptural one! While we may no longer DO church the way it was done in the middle of the 20th century, believers are still called to BE the church – until Jesus comes!
We are still called to be Ambassadors for Christ. We are still called to fulfill the Great Commission. Everyone has a part to play in the mission. These dear saints have done their part and now they are gone.
Who's gonna fill their shoes? Someone has to do it!
Will it be you?