Baby Boomer Christian leaders are retiring and Generation Xers are taking their place. Have you noticed the pews are emptying? The Gen X pastor talks but no one cares.
Millennial Christians largely dismiss their Gen X pastors. They see more value in Baby Boomer Christians like Billy Graham and Beth Moore. Graham and Moore probably are tired, but can they retire? Spiritual giants are aging off the map and frankly, we’ll be lost without them. Their Gen X replacements are here, but no one sees.
Spiritual giants are aging off the map and frankly, we’ll be lost without them…unless we change it.
– Diane Watt, Scripture Seeds
This is tragic. Gen X is, without question, unprecedented in its depth. No other is as profound. Don’t believe me? Go read song lyrics like Alice in Chain’s Nutshell. Millennials would greatly benefit from our leadership.
So why is our tithe worth more than our wisdom? Why are Gen X Christian leaders falling by the wayside? What are we missing? Why aren’t we effective?
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1. Gen Xers seek wisdom from extra-Biblical sources, rather than from the Bible itself. We think the Bible’s for babies. We’ve graduated to C.S. Lewis, after all. Christian Gen Xers are more likely to quote Steven Covey from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People than God’s Word.
2. Gen Xers are spineless about the Bible’s authority. We’ve been raised on relativity. That’s a big, smart word. Basically we believe God’s Word applies differently to each person and situation.
Relativity tastes weird with absolute truth. We’re squishy pudding when it comes to Biblical authority. Most couldn’t care less about the Bible’s right to rule. To us it’s merely a
boring Book we don’t understand nice Book of suggestions that we never occasionally read when there’s time.
No Biblical authority means no boldness. There’s no leadership without boldness.
3. We’re logical. Faith? We’re too sophisticated for that. We’re Spock-ish, after all. Faith makes us look stupid, and we’re
too much of a pansy to admit we don’t know everything not stupid.
4. We’ve replaced zeal for God’s Word with spiritual highs, drama, and service. We feign holy enthusiasm. Some are unnaturally dramatic. Everyone sees through it.
The other day I attended a Christian conference where the speaker was overly theatrical. She exaggerated and dramatized almost everything. Okay, cool. Except when I met her in person, she was totally different.
What bugged me (aside from the showiness) was almost no Scripture was used. Instead, the speech was more like a TED Talks. That’s fine if I’m at a corporate symposium, but at a Christian gathering I hoped for Godly wisdom.
Else we’re over-serving. I’ve seen it a thousand times: Christians without patience and interest in the Bible who compensate for Biblical illiteracy by serving until they die at church from exhaustion. Service is great, but we’re dis-serving ourselves if we choose the fate of Servant Martha over Biblically-rich Mary.
This is all too bad for us, except we’re leaders now.
Soon, spiritual giants like Billy Graham and Beth Moore will leave us. The abandonment will hurt. But then Gen X must step up. True leaders don’t only follow someone who follows Jesus. A leader also follows Jesus firsthand. They must carve their own path directly behind Him.
True leaders don’t only follow someone following Jesus. They also carve a path directly behind Him.
– Diane Watt, Scripture SeedsTweet
A follower-less leader is just loud. How do we get an audience? Our culture is saturated with people vying for attention. Anyone with a YouTube account and smartphone camera can captivate a crowd. Can we compete?
1. Pitch every book except the Bible into a garage box. Read only it until it becomes all you need. Those other books aren’t bad. They’ve taken too much place in our minds and hearts, though.
As a twenty-seven year old baby Christian, I was spiritually adopted by a wise eighty-seven-year old grandmother. I never met someone so astute. Anytime I was confused or lost, she’d know exactly what to say. I pictured her as a ravenous reader with her nose continually stuck in the wisdom of the classics.
I was wrong. Her house was devoid of books. “Ms. Rema,” I inquired. “Don’t you read?”
She stuck her wrinkled, resolute face in mine and said, “Honey, the only book I read is the Word of God. That’s all I need.”
I’ve been around thousands of seminary-trained Bible scholars and well-read Christian leaders. No one impacted my Christianity like Ms. Rema, a student of one Book.
Be like Ms. Rema.
2. Give God’s Word full authority over everything. Our souls are sick until we allow the Bible to shape our identity. Unfortunately we live in a Christian culture where many use God’s Word to validate instead of form. The result is a bunch of verse-spewing jerks.
3. Subvert logic beneath faith. Evidence isn’t everything. There’s a greater reality of which we’re not aware. Faith gives us eyes to see it.
For example, the Christian and scientific communities argue over how the universe was created. Literal Christians (like me) believe it was created in six days. Scientists typically do not.
I’ll do a ditty for the first person who finally says, “I don’t know everything.” Be honest. We know very little. But we know God’s Word. One day it will all make sense. Until then, faith gives us some solid outlines. Be brave. Believe God.
4. Prioritize God’s Word over dramatics, highs, and service. God has spoken. We need to know what He said. When we do, emotion follows.
I love the story in Nehemiah 8. After several decades of displacement from their cities, the Jewish people returned to Israel to rebuild. They’d been without God’s Word for some time. They were rookies.
Ezra the priest gathered all former exiles into the city square and read aloud the Word of God. Starting at daybreak, he stood on a platform and projected the first few books of the Bible. Suddenly, something happened. Excitement stirred. People began weeping. Then wailing. The Holy Spirit seized their hearts.
Ezra snapped the scroll closed. “Stop!” he said. “Today is holy. This calls for a celebration!” Rejoicing and merriment erupted. The party was unforgettable.
All this from simply reading the Bible aloud to a crowd. Who has the guts to do this now? I bet a thousand Starbucks gift cards it’d make 1/3 of the audience cry.
You see, we don’t need drama to be moved. Some leaders aren’t naturally theatrical. They look silly when they’re staged. We don’t need a show, and it’s embarrassing to see my Christian Brothers or Sisters perform uncharacteristically to keep a paycheck. If that’s your personality, great. If not, stop.
For those who replace Bible reading with over-service, I pray a divine thirst for God’s Word be supernaturally delivered to you. I know the difficulty of conjuring interest in the Bible. For years I
tortured myself served in the church kids’ ministry to compensate my Bible stupidity. Then, I got tired and picked up God’s Word. If I can develop an insatiable appetite for His truth, anyone can.
I recently read Generation X has a higher death rate than Baby Boomers and Millennials. Satan has targeted us. The loss will be incalculable if we step out of the ring. But I know better. Generation X is steely grit. Roll up your sleeves, Gen X. The battle’s just begun.
Diane Watt teaches the Word. A perpetual student of God, she seeks nothing less than excellence for King Jesus. She’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You may also contact her. Join her to prepare for the Coming King!