GENERATIONS – 1 by Dr. Shah and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: I never been as excited about a series as I am about this one! My prayer is that God will use it to open our eyes to what’s happening in our culture and families. Also, I’m praying that it will touch lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ. At this time, I am going to invite my wife, Nicole, to come to the stage and join me. Some of you may know that she is in the process of completing her master’s in counseling. So, I usually bring her along when we talk about marriage, family, and children. The topic of generations has been a regular source of discussion in our family for quite some time. In fact, Nicole was the first one to introduce me to this subject years ago.
Nicole: I came across this topic of different generations after reading a Christian/SBC magazine breakdown of the various generations. Also, I have always been fascinated by genealogy research. I have found one of our ancestors all the way back to 1620s when he came to the early colonies. Recently, I found that my family has roots in Franklin County. One of our ancestors was very influential during the Revolutionary War and was even a pastor. Later, I read the book “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it” by Ken Ham. This book opened my eyes to how even church kids could walk away from their faith. This really burdened my heart.
Goal of this series: Not Entertain but Educate. Not list Caricatures but genuinely Come to Know. Not Poke Fun but Stoke the Faith of our Younger Generations. If we care about the eternal destinies of our children and grandchildren, then this is not optional.
The Bible repeatedly talks about this:
- God said to Abraham in Genesis 17:7 “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”
- Moses said to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.”
- Psalm 78 5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; 6 that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children.”
- Even in the NT, we see this emphasis on passing the faith on to the next generation. In Matthew 19 13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
- In 2 Timothy 1, Paul commends Timothy, saying, 4 “greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”
The place to begin is by doing an overview of the 6 generations we will be discussing in this series:
1. Greatest Generation (1901-1928): This generation is also known as the G.I. generation. They endured through the Great Depression and World War II. They took life as it came and made the best of it. This generation is dwindling as you can imagine.
2. Silent Generation (1929-1945): This generation, also known as the Builders, fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Unlike the previous “Greatest Generation,” they never had their “Roaring 20’s.” Life was grim through and through for them.
3. Boomers (1946-1964): This generation, born in the prosperous post-World War II era, saw the cultural pendulum swing to the opposite extreme accompanied with the advent of rock and roll music, television, and civil rights movement. Although there were many positives, the negatives took a serious toll on traditional values, especially marriage, with the largest divorce rate of any generation. Even so, their cry for authenticity has much to teach the younger generations today. While previous generation were willing to endure through it, the Boomers brought the need to seek help to the forefront.
4. Generation X (1965-1982): This generation, born in the Cold War era, is referred to variously as “Busters,” “MTV generation,” or “latchkey kids.” Each designation represents a certain trait: smallest generation in number, raised in a promiscuous and provocative culture, and mostly without adult supervision. As this generation lived through the aftermath of divorce, they became skeptical regarding marriage. They also waited until later in life to have children. Unlike their parents, they did not want a “have it all” lifestyle. Instead, they began to prioritize marriage and family.
5. Millennials (1983-2000): This generation was born with a computer and came of age right at the turn of the millennium. They are often referred to as “Generation Me” because of their self-focused upbringing by helicopter parents. As they entered adulthood, they seemed to be taking longer than other generations to figure things out. Haydn Shaw, in his book “Sticking Points,” attributes this to “life stage” rather than just laziness. Millennials just want to take their time to get things right. Any wonder that they have a lower divorce rate than the Boomers and Gen Xers!
6. Generation Z (2001-2015): This generation has faced more crises (9/11, ISIS, mass shootings, pandemic, riots, recession, to name a few) than any previous ones. Unfortunately, all this news and information has been sent to them on their phones! Tragically, they are also facing some of the worst moral and spiritual challenges. Think about all the gender dysphoria issues that are being dumped upon them. Furthermore, they are being told that the world is full of problems, and it is up to them to solve them. If they don’t, then they are the problem. In his book “A New Kind of Diversity,” Tim Elmore points out that, “mental health is their top priority.” Sometimes, we have all made fun of them about this, but none of us would be any better. We expect them to handle it like we would have, but they are kids!
Generation Alpha (2016-2030): The oldest member of this generation is barely 6 years old! This generation is playing with technology at less than a year of age! There is much we know about them, but there’s so much we still have to learn!
Ecclesiastes 1:4 “One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.” Is there any meaning in this madness of generations? Here, I want to introduce you to the Strauss-Howe Theory of Generations. Over thirty years ago, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, in their book “Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 To 2069,” gave a “history of the future” by examining the past generational changes in American history (See article by Amanda van Eck Duymaer van Twist). According to their research, generations occur in a four-stage cycle where each generation lasts about 20-25 years to a total of 80-90 years known as Saeculum (century). Each generation has a “turning” or a change in society and culture. The generation that is at its height in the cycle is the archetype of that cycle. Altogether, there are 4 turnings in a generational cycle. Every 80 years or so, there is a “fourth turning” of generations in history. At the fourth turning, there is a crisis that destroys the social order and creates a new order. Strauss-Howe labelled each of the turning as follows:
1. High: It usually comes after a crisis. Society functions as it is supposed to be. It is marked by strong institutions, social collectivism, and weak individualism. The generation at its height is the Idealist Archetype or the Prophet. They are the indulged children of the post-crisis era who become young crusaders. In mid-life, they become focused on morals and principles.
2. Awakening: Society questions why it was built the way it was and challenges it. It is marked by increased personal and spiritual autonomy. Social institutions are attacked. The generation at its height is the Reactive Archetype or the Nomad. They are under-protected and alienated during social chaos. They are practical, tough, and adaptive.
3. Unraveling: Society fails to function as it was designed to. It is marked by weak institutions that are distrusted. There is strong individualism in this period. The generation at its height is the Civic Archetype or the Hero. They are more protected and grow up very optimistic and overconfident. They can become political leaders.
4. Crisis: Society falls apart. Institutions are destroyed, but they will be rebuilt to function in a new way. Importance of community will be recognized. The generation at its height is the Adaptive Archetype or the Artist. They are over-protected because of the crisis. They are quick to conform. They like processes and they are caring and thoughtful.
There are weaknesses to their theory (as any theory) because it is only focused on American history, and it doesn’t consider race, socio-economic class, and other social markers. Also, it can stereotype entire age-groups. Having said that, it is very helpful to chart the craziness of what’s happening in our world. Look at how this works in American history:
So, what happens to Generation Alpha (2016-2030)? If Gen Z are the Adaptive Artists in the Crisis Generation (Crisis: Society falls apart. Institutions are destroyed, but they will be rebuilt to function in a new way. Importance of community will be recognized. The generation at its height is the Adaptive Archetype or the Artist. They are over-protected because of the crisis. They are quick to conform. They like processes and they are caring and thoughtful.), then Alpha will be the Prophet/Idealist Archetype in the High Cycle (High: It usually comes after a crisis. Society functions as it is supposed to be. It is marked by strong institutions, social collectivism, and weak individualism. The generation at its height is the Idealist Archetype or the Prophet. They are the indulged children of the post-crisis era who become young crusaders. In mid-life, they become focused on morals and principles.). God will use the Alpha generation in big ways!
One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10 “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”
I want to share with you some statistics that should awaken us (from Darrell Hall, “Speaking Across Generations):
1. Among Elders: 83% claimed Christianity; 7% claimed other faith; and 10% claimed Atheism or Agnosticism.
2. Among Boomers: 80% claimed Christianity; 6% claimed other faith; and 14% claimed Atheism or Agnosticism.
3. Among Gen X: 73% claimed Christianity; 7% claimed other faith; and 20% claimed Atheism or Agnosticism.
4. Among Millennials: 64% claimed Christianity; 8% claimed other faith; and 28% claimed Atheism or Agnosticism.
5. Among Gen Z: 62% claimed Christianity; 8% claimed other faith; and 30% claimed Atheism or Agnosticism.
There is still hope here. According to David Kinnaman of the Barna Group, “The rumors of Christianity’s demise among younger people are greatly exaggerated.” They even called Gen Z the “Open Generation” because of their openness to Christianity. They even found that young people are open to the Bible (60%) to teach them about Jesus. They are even willing to trust their families (60%), and even pastors (52%). But, don’t think that this will be easy. They have a lot of questions about the truth of the gospel that need to be answered.
Not only that, but the onslaught against gender and sexuality continues. According to the Gallup Survey (which is not always reliable), the number of US adults who identified as LGBTQ in 2012 was 3.5%. That number has surged to 7.1% in 2021, and it is holding. The reason I said, “it is not always reliable” is because numbers are sometimes used for political agenda. According to Lifeway Research, these are issues that Student Ministry has to address in a loving but biblical way (See “Conversations Key for Churches, Student Ministries as LGBTQ Identification Rises”). We are so glad that Ryan and Elizabeth do this on a regular basis with our Student Ministry.
One of my favorite quotes: “Children are the living messages that we send to a time we will not see” by Neil Postman.
What is the goal of this series? Not Entertain but Educate. Not list Caricatures but genuinely Come to Know. Not Poke Fun but Stoke the Faith of our Younger Generations. If we care about the eternal destinies of our children and grandchildren, then this is not optional.
We must take on the mindset of the Apostle Paul.
1 Corinthians 9 19 “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”
This is why we implemented so many changes in our church years ago, and we will continue to do that to reach the next generation.
Invitation: Do you see the need to be like Paul? Are you saved?