GEN’XERS JUST LACK THE NUMBERS . . .

But we have the skills.

I was Anthony Michael Hall
I was Anthony Michael Hall

The title of this blog post is a quote from the Sunday paper article highlighting the passing of the torch from Baby Boomers to Millenials.  The piece appeared in our local paper, the Austin American-Statesman, but was written by Rick Montgomery of the Kansas City Star.

The gist of his argument is that the divisiveness in government we are experiencing right now is the fault of the Baby Boomer politicians who are now in control.  Montgomery quotes a generational expert who summarizes the issue like this:

Remember, baby boomers were on both sides of the guns at Kent State.

He goes on to say that the Baby Boomers are the second largest generation in American history, and the largest are the Millennials. Sandwiched in between are my peeps—the Gen Xers. That is when he says,

The Gen Xers—those late -30-and 40-somethings in between—just lack the numbers.

Montgomery is talking about politics, but it is true in just about every realm of culture—business, boardrooms, entertainment, and yes, especially church life. The fact is there are not many Gen Xer pastors. Boomers, yes. Millenials, yes. Gen Xers are a rarity, and it is only becoming more pronounced as you look at the ‘church planting’ movement. I am not against church planting, but that is the focus of much church/denominational life today, and I do not know if it is intentional, but a by-product of this movement is to skip Gen Xers, because it is millennials that people want to reach. No one really cares about the 30-and 40-somethings in America right now—those people who have teenage children, a mortgage, aren’t cool or hipster, and are just trying to love their families and friends.

But we have skills. We have mad skills.

I had the privilege of speaking last week to some pastors, and one of the things I was talking about was leadership styles, and I just referenced that I was a Gen Xer and that colored my view of church and life. A big part of that is being noticed or singled out is not really what matters to me. What matters to me is being a part of a tribe—my group—and expressing myself without fear or condemnation within that group. The freedom to do what I want to do without being told I am wrong or stupid. If that sounds familiar, it is because most Gen Xers are still locked away in that library on a Saturday morning with the rest of The Breakfast Club.

I have a prediction. Some of you will not like it, but here it goes. The Millenials have started fast, but alas, they will falter, sputter, and in many ways fail. Their failure will be because they have been so busy being important, clamoring for their 15 minutes of fame, and vining that they have not developed any real skills. That is when Gen X will come to the rescue, after our kids have grown up and the mortgage is paid.

We have mad skills, and we will save the world, with Alive and Kicking playing in the background.

image from mentalfloss.com

SOMEDAY . . .

I spent some time this morning pondering the biblical story of Caleb’s boldness in Joshua 14:6-15.  The essence of the story is that at eighty-five years of age, Caleb was chomping at the bit to claim the land that was promised to him by Moses forty-five years earlier.  He was not afraid of the giants, the Anakim, who occupied that land.  He knew he could take them because the Lord had promised him.

Verse 12 gives us a little of his gumption:

So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities.  It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.

Remember, that is an eighty-five year old man saying that.  Lest you think that is some kind of ‘well everyone was older in the Bible’ stuff, even the Bible makes a big deal here about how old Caleb is.

Someday, I"ll . . .
Someday, I”ll . . .

This time period in biblical history is hard to get a handle on, because things are fluid, and it is hard to reconcile Christian ethics with the warfare and genocide recorded in the conquest of Canaan.  However, that aside, four things jump out at me from Caleb’s story that are inspiring.

1.  Caleb never forgot what his goals were.  I can imagine that everyday for forty-five years he went to bed thinking, ‘Someday, I’ll take that land.’  There is probably something missing in our lives if we ever lose that feeling of, “Someday, I’ll ….”

2.  He was thinking of his children, grandchildren, and lineage.  He knew he’d never enjoy the land for long, but he wanted to secure it for the generations.  If only people in church, in business, on the streets, and in the government would make decisions based on what as best for the generations that come after us.

3.  He kind of liked it that the Anakim were in the land he wanted.  The Anakim were giants, and Caleb liked the challenge.  The bigger they are, the harder the fall.

4.  Even though he was strong-willed, he still submitted himself to his leadership for permission.  “Give me this,” he asked his old friend Joshua.  Joshua knew it really wasn’t his to give, because in God’s eyes it was already Caleb’s by promise.

It is tempting to draw an equal sign between Caleb’s desire to claim his promise of land with our spiritual inheritance of eternal life.  There is some level of truth there, but a more applicable truth is that Caleb is an encouragement to us to pursue our dreams, never give up on our goals, and to take responsibility for securing a better future for ourselves and our offspring no matter what our age is or what obstacles might be in our way.

I hope and pray that I have Caleb’s fire every day.

CHANGING DEVOTIONS

One of the realities of living is that we age.  I am noticing as I get older that I am changing:  My likes, dislikes, and needs.  Sometimes this is unsettling and results in denial.  One major change is that when I am in my car, I tend to listen to the “oldies” station more than the “top 40” station.  Even my tastes in cereal is different.  I would rather have the corn flakes and Grapenuts than Cap’n Crunch.  Really.  For a while I was in denial about these sorts of changes but have decided to embrace them as the “new old me.”

Where this makes a difference in our spiritual lives is the notion that spiritually we have different needs in our devotional life at different times in our lives.

            Youth—Youth should work at memorization while their mind is still young.  The Scriptures learned in adolescence will stay with a man or woman throughout his or her life.  This will provide a powerful base of strength in later years.  Major Bible reading in the youth years should be the Gospels. 

            Young/Single—The young single woman or man might be starting a career or college.  Either way, learning will be a part of their adjustment to the great big world.  To accompany this, I recommend the young and single spend their devotions in systematic reading of the Bible straight through. 

            Young/Married No Kids—Couples should definitely study and pray together.  I recommend that married people study the letters of Paul and spend time deciding what kind of Christian couple they will be.  3 days a week study and pray together, 3 days a week study alone.  On Sunday worship!

            Young/Married w/Kids—These are the toughest years to carve out devotions.  The temptation is to forget the kids and study when they are asleep.  You can do that a little, but do not neglect the children, even preschoolers.  Do not make it complicated, though.  No extra books are needed.  Just tell Jesus stories, read a verse or two, and make your prayers together before bedtime.  Start teaching them the Lord’s Prayer and 23rd Psalm.

            Mid-life—This is a wide ranging time span ranging form older teens to empty nest.  This is when folks should start focusing in upon theology.  Use your devotional time to learn and study deeper issues:  The Trinity, salvation, atonement, history etc…  These studies will help you, because at this point in your life you are likely one of the respected leaders of your community of faith.

            Senior Adult—If you’ve been with Jesus for a while, by now the temptation is to stop reading and studying and just wait for heaven.  Don’t!  Now is the time when your devotions can take an unexpected turn.  Supplement your Bible reading with books about the church.  The church will be part of your spiritual legacy.  By reading and studying in your older years about the church you will know how to help the next generation build a strong community.  The happiest senior adults I know are those who continue to learn and inspire.

This is only a guide to how it might look.  I suspect a lot of believers already have a good pattern, if that is working for you, then keep at it.  I would love to hear back from you on what some of your devotional practices are and how they might have changed through the years.