Part of my studies on the collapse of Christendom has been a study of ‘generational culture’. One of the generations which was much on my mind yesterday, Remembrance Day, was my parents’ generation, the Seniors. Tom Brokaw writes of them as “The Greatest Generation”. This is generation that secured democracy as a viable political option. They faced true evil and defeated it. They learned thrift through a Great depression. They added 30 years to the life span in the west. They invented retirement. What a set of achievements! Yesterday I was particular thinking of a spirit of self sacrifice which was particularly evident during World War II. People in uniform and people on the home front sacrificed for what was almost universally seen as a Greater Good.
Sadly that self sacrifice gene did not get passed on to my generation, the Boomers, in that same way. Today we recognize issues such as poverty, the environment, health care and the list can go on and we all wish they could be dealt with; but not at my expense. The surest way to end a political career is to suggest that voters pay a price for solutions to these evils. A variant of this is the Not In My Back Yard mentality. We want solutions at no cost or inconvenience and as a result problems exacerbate or at best get passed on to the next generations. This is quite depressing because this generation began with real promise but the idealism of the Flower Children became individualists and consumerists. This consumerism continues to dominate the current age.
The latest generation seems to have more in common with seniors than the boomers. Altruism is a virtue on the rise. Young people, both Christian and non-Christian, are finding meaning in service. The rise of short term missions to the Gulf or Haiti or…. evidences this. Millennials want to change the world but they want to do it one person at a time.
This provides the Church with the very opportunity it needs to become active in mission. As the Church begins to emphasize mission (changing people’s lives for the better) either at home or farther afield it can invite a generation, which is most absent, to join. Jesus literally discipled his followers on mission. They became believers on the road. As we go out in mission we can invite this group to join us or perhaps more effectively we may join their efforts! So often I hear people bemoan that there are no youth in church but the great commission has a “go” rather than a “come” in it. If we are up to it their is a chance to shape the altruism of a generation and point folks to the One who is the author of that altruism. Not an easy task and it requires us to change but if you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less!