My wife and I recently went to the Billy Joel concert at Banker’s Life. We are acquaintances (well, we know him; he doesn’t really know us), and we grew up with his music, including an ’89 hit: “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” He wrote it because a friend’s assessment of Joel’s “Baby Boomer” era was “nothing really happened.” So Billy Joel wrote the song recounting the Boomer era which includes those born between 1949 and 1989. The song recounts 119 people and events that mark the period beginning with Harry Truman and ending with the Pepsi/Coke campaign war.
In considering specific generations, there is a never a time period about which one can say, “nothing really happened.” What happened in my Boomer age has shaped a generation in a way that the church can greatly benefit today. Here’s how I see it, based on what experts call the characteristics of the Boomer era.
- We are healthier than any previous generation. Because of that, we will be able to serve the kingdom for a longer time than those who went before us.
- We are more educated than those before us. Since that is true, we have the potential of knowing, understanding, valuing, and communicating the Scriptures with care and clarity.
- We are competitive. Because we Christians are involved in a spiritual warfare, we have the generation impetus necessary for facing our Enemy head on and being “more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”
- We are goal-oriented. We love to see the task completed. The Lord’s commissioning of us to make disciples of all people groups is one that we take seriously when we have the strategy well laid out for us.
Admittedly, there are some challenges in being a Boomer as well—aspects of who we are which will require the Holy Spirit of God working in and among us so that we will not fall prey to the schemes of the Evil One, resulting in ineffectiveness.
- We haven’t suffered. We are children of those people who comprise what Tom Brokaw called, “The Greatest Generation.” That generation learned how to push through the economic struggle of the Great Depression and World War II. Suffering refines and purifies. Boomers are soft, not by choice but simply because of life eases and luxuries.
- We are work-centric. This mindset and behavior has grown out of task-oriented tendency. Working hard is a virtue, as long as it doesn’t lead to an imbalanced life coupled with a sense of entitlement. Of course if that is allowed to pervade, creeping into our theology is a works mentality which too often trumps the place of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
- We are independent. Out of that comes a pride about single-handed accomplishments and self-sufficiency and self-reliance which all stand contrary to the New Testament teaching that we are members of the Body of Christ operating interdependently for the sake of honoring the Head, Jesus Christ.
So as Boomers, we have our opportunities to shine for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we have our weaknesses that will lead us to being ineffectual in the work Christ has given us to do.
I, for one, want to rise up and use my life opportunities to serve the Lord. I am also committed to laying myself down—my sins, weaknesses, characteristics—before God’s throne of grace so that I will not fail at making the most of every opportunity.
Consider what could happen if we lived in such a way that we could write our own Boomer anthem, “We DID Start the Fire,” of ensuring that all peoples everywhere have an opportunity to know the name Jesus.
Let’s find out as we obey the Lord’s commission of us.