Do you remember the term generation gap? It was coined during the 1960s and referred to the differences between people of a younger generation and their elders, especially between children and their parents. The concept of a generation gap was created because of differences in musical tastes, fashion, culture and politics between the younger and older generations. Popular television programs, like All in the Family, focused on the generational disagreements in weekly segments.
The different values and tastes between generations have always been obviously true. However, the mandate that drives New Testament churches to reach people with the saving gospel is transgenerational. The Great Commission includes all nations, all peoples and all languages in all generations. Paul wrote: “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
In Psalm 78, Asaph reminded the people of Israel of the long-range result of effectively proclaiming God’s Word. He pointed out that Israel would not hide God’s teachings from their children but would show “to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. 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: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (verses 4-7). Asaph referred to communicating God’s Word to four generations—“our fathers. . . their children. . . the generation to come. . . the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.” Talk about long-range planning!
We must do all within our power to reach upcoming generations. In 2011, Thom Rainer and his son Jess wrote, “The Millennials—Connecting to America’s Largest Generation” (B & H Publishing). After painstaking research, they compiled enlightening statistics about the generation of people born between 1980 and 2000, called the Millennials. Some of the unique characteristics among this group is both encouraging and discouraging. The authors found that they are:
- Hopeful—96% expressed the belief that they could do great things that would really make a difference in the world. They believe they can change things for the better.
- Relational—They live to stay in communication. By cell phone, email, tweets, skype or Facebook, they will stay in touch.
- Learners—They believe education is the third most important thing in life, only behind family and friends.
- Less Religious—Only 13% considered any type of spirituality to be important in their lives. 65% do not attend worship services regularly. Many of their grandparents attended church, but they were not brought up in church. When asked if Jesus was the only way to Heaven, only 31% agreed.
- Family Oriented—86% believe they will only marry once. But 65% will cohabit at least once prior to marriage compared to 10% in the 1960s.
- Diverse—40% are ethnic minorities in America. They view diversity as normal.
The Millennial generation, at 77.9 million, is the largest generation America has ever produced. It is even 2 million more than the Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964). God desires His truth, His gospel and His Word, to be known and obeyed by every generation. Each generation is commanded to reach upcoming generations with eternal truth. The reason is obvious: one missing generation affects all future generations. If we win them, we must be sensitive to their needs, stay true to Scripture and follow Paul’s example, who was “made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake” (1 Cor. 9:22, 23). Each generation needs to hear God’s truth!