As of 2018, the generation that Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation,” is quickly moving into the sunset of history. This is the generation that survived the Great Depression and fought in World War II and the Korean War.
The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946–1964, is reaching retirement age at the pace of ten thousand a day. The strains this is putting on health care and Social Security will have profound budgetary consequences over the coming decades. Younger generations, their numbers in the USA decimated by at least 60 million through abortion on demand, besides wars and natural deaths, will face higher taxes to take care of our aging population.
If not for immigration, the population crisis in the United States would be even more severe. Twenty years from now when younger generations control state and national political institutions, they may decide their elders are not worth the costs.
Today one can hardly examine a magazine, blog or podcast without hearing of millennials and Generation Z. We feverishly try to find ways to understand one another across multiple dividing lines of generation, race, culture, music, language and even gender.
This year is an opportunity for the church to speak truth, grace and love to our society about generations. God is always at work in every generation. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 28:13; 31:24; 35:12).
Recently I was in Barranquilla, Colómbia, for the thirty-fifth anniversary of Way, Truth, and Life Church. It was the thirtieth anniversary of the church becoming part of the IPHC.
The founding pastor, Alvaro Castro, died in July 2017. His son, Emmanuel College graduate Sergio Castro, has assumed the leadership of the local church and currently leads the eleven congregations that make up the IPHC in northeast Colómbia.
At the celebration anniversary dinner attended by over two hundred people, I observed the young and old worshipping, eating and fellowshipping together. I asked Sergio about the generational diversity and he replied, “We are intentional about being different. We are a multi-generational church; it’s what we do.” He was right, and you could see it in the crowd.
The passing of his father, and Sergio’s appointment as pastor of the local congregation as well as a leader of the movement, reflected something I recently heard at a meeting of evangelical and Pentecostal denominational leaders in Chicago: “The old model is that ministry is a marathon. You run until you drop. The new model is that ministry is a relay race. You run as fast as you can and then hand off the baton to the next person who is also running as fast as they can.”
At the same meeting, another leader remarked that when Joshua died at age 110, he left the sad legacy stated in 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.”
That stands in stark contrast to Moses’ death in Deuteronomy 34. Moses had carefully passed the baton to Joshua and his generation. The Promised Land lay before them. Moses saw it, he had the vision for it, but he could not take them there. Yet he successfully handed off the baton to the next generation for the divine assignment of their time.
What adds to the impact of these two deaths is Moses’ age. He was 120 years old when he died. The IPHC will remember that we are 120 years old this year, the year 2018.
We were birthed in the holiness revivals of the late nineteenth century that led to the formation in 1898 of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church and the Pentecostal Holiness Church of North Carolina. The two groups merged in 1911 to form the IPHC as we now know it. But it was 120 years ago that our spiritual DNA took its primary form through those two movements.
So, here we are 120 years old, talking about generations, about passing the baton from one generation to the next, about faithfulness, about vision, about honor and about preparation. But I can’t help but be mindful of Joshua at 110 and the failure to pass the baton, the loss of memory of what God had done, the loss of obedience to the divine call.
Somehow the dynamic faith of one generation failed to be passed to the next. It’s a sad commentary whose cycle repeats itself in ways far worse than the agonizing movie Groundhog Day.
Which year will mark us as the IPHC? Will we be on the rejoicing side of 120—passing the baton like Moses did? Or will we be on the downward side of 110—failing the next generation?
I know which is my heart’s desire. I pray that in this new year we will discover the fresh wind of the Spirit enabling us to be a multi-generational church that enables our children and grandchildren to inherit the good, merciful, and truthful promises of God expressed in Psalm 100:5: “For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.”