The Church’s Generational Divide

Gary Wilkerson

These are the generations living today and the general time frames in which they were born. Which one are you?

Greatest Generation (1901-27)
Silent Generation (1928-45)
Baby Boomers (1946-64)
Gen X (1965-80)
Millennials or Gen Y – (1981-96)
Gen Z or iGen – (1997-2010)
Generation Alpha (Born after 2010)

I’m a proud boomer. We came of age in a turbulent era and think we’re kind of hip. I mean, we invented rock and roll and were in charge when the internet went global! You’re welcome.

That said, I have some bad news for my fellow boomers. We’re now the old guys five slots back from the newest generation. We’re more associated with hip surgery than with the Summer of Love.

Here’s the serious part: According to a 2018 American Family Survey, the fastest-growing group of people on the religious horizon is the “Nones,” those who check “none” on surveys that ask for their religious affiliation. It’s an irony that in our quest to make the gospel more relatable to new generations, we’ve made it feel out of reach.

It isn’t that people aren’t curious and desperate for God. Rather, it’s that children are raised more and more in environments where God is never even mentioned. Even worse, if they do eventually make their way to a church, they have a lot of questions, but they’re met with smiles and platitudes. A millennial told me recently that many of his peers don’t feel they can voice their questions to believers. Why? Maybe it’s because too many have prioritized relevance over faith. Maybe they haven’t even looked for the answers themselves.

C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity is adapted from a series of radio broadcasts he made during World War II. Both the book and the broadcasts were sensations because they voiced the hard questions. He knew his topic well from his own mighty struggle with the ideas of God, suffering, salvation and life in general.

Do we know our topic, the magnificent gospel message? Does it even matter how much we know? Be assured that it matters very much to the person who is longing to learn about Jesus. Peter thought so too. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, he urges us to keep reinvigorating our faith and be ready to share it. He sums it up with “Therefore…be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10, ESV).

Wise words, at any age.