Earlier this year the Pew Research Center released their definitive dates related to the four major generations alive in the United States. These are: (1) the Silent Generation, born 1928-1945 (ages 73-90); (2) Boomers, born 1946-1964 (ages 54-72); (3) Generation X: born 1965-1980 (ages 38-53); and (4) Millennials: born 1981-1996 (ages 22-37). Though not named in this Pew report, Generation Z makes up those born since 1997; they are age 21 and younger in 2018.
I found this study interesting for several reasons. The first is that many Boomers continue to lead civic, business, educational and church institutions. As Boomers, we were influenced (for better or worse) by the major cultural changes in American life in the 1960s: the sexual revolution, the importance of the Civil Rights movement for black Americans and the acceptance of moral relativism in place of revealed truth.
But at the same time, Boomers are part of an aging population. About 10,000 Boomers reach age 65 every day. (Click here for more information).
Millions of Boomers age 62 and older are drawing Social Security. They are dependent on Generation X and Millennials to pay the taxes necessary to handle Boomer retirement that will likely last another 35 to 40 years.
The second reason I found this so interesting relates to my location as I write this column. In July, Susan and I attended the IPHC’s YouthQuest event in Covington, Kentucky. The focus has been on the IPHC 2018 core value, “We Prayerfully Value All Generations.”
I was so grateful to see the emphasis given to Arise 2033 during YouthQuest. This generation of teens will be in their late 20s and early 30s when the IPHC gathers in 2033 to commemorate the 2000th anniversary of the death, resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Day of Pentecost.
The Fine Arts part of YouthQuest includes short sermons. Because I am so interested in the young people the Holy Spirit is calling into ministry, I always enjoy listening to these sermons. I’m grateful for the number of young women who are encouraged by pastors, parents, and congregations to participate in preaching. This year the preaching text was Malachi 4:6a, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (NKJV).
As these young women and men preached, they all spoke with passion about the responsibilities of one generation to the next. Some told of Malachi’s historical context and related it to our present. Some spoke with heart-rending personal stories of surviving the broken marriages of their parents. Some described how the reference to the prophet Elijah in Malachi 4:5 was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:7-14; 17:12, 13).
As these young preachers read or referenced Malachi 4:6a, I had this picture in my mind of a stone engraved with the Hebrew text of that part of the text (see the photo on this page). Several years ago, while we were younger Baby Boomers looking to an older generation for inspiration and guidance, Susan and I found the engraving and keep it hanging on a wall in our home. It’s a constant reminder to us of the opportunities and responsibilities we have.
It’s important to note that Malachi 4:6 begins with a prophetic call to each generation of “fathers” (and “mothers”) to turn their hearts to those coming behind them. We who are older cannot wait for the younger to turn to us. We must first turn to them.
We turn with repentance, understanding, and patience. We turn not in some feeble effort to be “relevant,” but we turn with grace, truth, and love. We turn as people whose lives can be imitated. We turn not because we are better, but because we have gone further on the journey with the Lord of the generations.
I believe that as revival, repentance, renewal, reconciliation, and restoration occur among those of us who are older, it will be a witness and sign to those following us of the Lord’s great faithfulness.
For us Boomers, the clock is ticking. Our time on this earth is short. Let us turn towards the younger generations with Spirit-anointed passion. Perhaps the closing judgment mentioned in Malachi 4:6b is always dependent on how and when we turn to those who are following us. Let’s eagerly invest our lives in those who are coming after us.
You can find more information about the Pew Research study here.
By Doug Beacham
This article was published in the August 2018 issue of Encourage.