I believe the Lord has uniquely positioned boomer pastors at this critical moment in the history of the American church. In spite of the fact that so many of our colleagues have crashed and burned, jumped ship, raised the white flag, or reluctantly retired, we are still the largest group of leaders in the American church today. We still have an opportunity to lead our churches, which are desperately in need of renewal and relevance toward transitional and transformative spiritual action.

The prophet Jeremiah learned the hard lesson that the Lord wasn’t sympathetic to his whining. Elijah had given up and run away, but he learned that the Lord wasn’t through with him, and he wasn’t as alone as he thought he was. The Lord’s challenge to both of those understandably weary men was essentially, “Stop your whining and get back in the game!”

This is going to sound very boomer-like – incurably egotistical – but this is too critical a moment in history for boomer pastors to waste time and energy whining and complaining about how difficult things are for us and how frustrated we are with our churches. This is no time to recite to God how rotten our culture is and evil the opposition. This is no time to run away and hide in a cave. It’s time to get back in the game!

We have always had this inner desire to make a difference and leave our world a better place. We have always wanted to lead our churches to new heights of effectiveness and fruitfulness for the Kingdom. As discouraged as we might be at this stage of our lives and ministries, let’s take heart in the fact that it takes time, opportunity, and desire to achieve those high goals. We still have time, though it’s short; we still have enormous opportunities; and, hopefully, we still have the will and desire to press on in the work of the Kingdom, not for our sakes, but for the sake of His Name.

One of the knocks against boomers is that they are a bunch, albeit an enormous bunch, of spoiled brats, self-absorbed, always whining about one thing and another, never content, restless, and obsessed with a competitive arrogance to leave a lasting mark on society. That last point is at least a sure bet without regard to its positive or negative nature.

Researchers say we have never been a happy bunch. In a 2008 Washington Post¬†article, staff writer, Monica Hesse, writes, “Boomers used to be gloomy because the world needed change. Now, they’re gloomy because change didn’t work out quite as they’d hoped.” She goes on to quote Mary Furlong, a consultant with a California firm that works with companies in marketing to boomers. A boomer herself, Furlong says that back in the 70’s “we were going to build an idealistic culture. We weren’t going to be alone. We were going to leave the world a better place.” We don’t see much hope for that anymore, we must admit.

The Greatest Generation never had much of a chance to exercise their youthful idealism. For them, that was blown away on December 7, 1941. We as boomers have never gotten over ours, and, perhaps, that’s a part of the reason we sound so much like whiners. Things just haven’t turned out as well as we thought they should, and we’re pretty sore about it. Here we are in 2011 with over 10,000 of us turning 60 every single day, our home values have declined and our 401k’s are frightfully shrinking. We resent feeling that the world is spinning out of control at so many levels and so quickly. It’s really not that we mind all the changes. We just want to be the ones making them!

Like our cohorts, we boomer pastors have never lost our idealistic zeal to be world-changers. Our zealous nature has been sorely wounded, but it’s still there. That may be why we are a disappointed and frustrated group as a whole. We might even need to confess an anger-induced depression. But this inherent idealistic zeal just may be the trait the Lord will use to renew the church in America if this boomer zeal is redeemed and refocused on the power and purposes of God. The focus has been too long on how we¬†could change the world. Jesus Christ is the real world changer. Many boomer pastors would do well to refocus on him and remember that He’s the church builder. We’re just the tools.

A lot has been made of the fact that baby boomers are the offspring of the Greatest Generation – that generation that so heroically and courageously endured the Great Depression, so eagerly fought and won the war against the powerful forces of fascism and imperialism, preserving America and the world for freedom. Not through yet, they followed those feats with hard work, creating for themselves and the country and period of economic prosperity. And then this greatest of all generations filled up their newly acquired , three or four bedroom suburban homes with 3.5 children, or about 78 million, born between 1946 and 1964.

I was one in that “swarm of locusts” that descended on the country, a cloud so thick that it blocked the Sun from shining over America. We hungrily devoured the crops of prosperity, turned the culture on its head, and now are sending America into economic ruin as we approach retirement, draining the “system” of its resources. At least, that’s te way some perceive the impact of this unique generation. This seems somewhat harsh to a boomer, but not all criticism of the boomer generation is unjust.

Our parents came of age in the midst of global tumult. We came of age in the midst of superficial domestic tranquility that soon erupted into a full-scale rebellion. Coming out of the Great Depression and a great world war, our parents embraced the virtues of peace and prosperity, which, at some point, we interpreted as shallow, empty, and hypocritical. Our parents believed they had achieved a pretty decent world. Somehow, we thought we could make it even better. The Greatest Generation never thought of themselves as heroic world-changers, but they were. Conversely, in all our egotistical idealism, we believed we were going to change the world and envisioned an unprecedented ticker-tape parade when our job was complete and our laudable labors celebrated. It’s pretty clear that nobody is going to put on a parade for my generation. Do I sound disappointed?

It has been noted that pastors may retire from the pastorate, but they never retire from the ministry. I can think of many examples of men whose life and ministry affirm this general truth. One man in particular comes to mind. He is a member of the Greatest Generation, nearing his 90th birthday, and still driving himself to preaching engagements regularly. Many boomer pastors have reached retirement age. The rest of us are getting there quickly, and many of us are disappointed and discouraged because we haven’t had the kind of positive impact we had hoped for. In fact, we approach these current critical days in our lives and in American church history with a disturbing knowledge that the American church is in crisis. We can’t help but wonder if we have missed our chance to make an important contribution, or if there is still an ¬†opportunity to have a say in the future of the church and God’s movement through history.

What do you think?

So much has been written and chronicled concerning the baby boomer generation that few people get excited about any mention of this much heralded and often maligned group of Americans. Perhaps no other generation has been put under the microscope, analyzed, and dissected more than the baby boomer generation. This inordinate amount of attention has yielded countless books, articles, and research papers. I suspect many people have grown so weary of this subject that they avoid the subject altogether.

I might have been one of those until it occurred to me in recent years that baby boomers make up the largest percentage of senior pastors in the evangelical church. After all, the hallmark of this generation is its sheer numerical size. That being the case, it is not surprising that boomers are so prevalent among the senior pastor crowd. I am a part of that crowd, and I’m interested in the role we have been given by God to play in the future of the American church.

With so many of us still in positions of leadership and influence, and with the American church in a state of crisis, there is a lot we can do and a lot we must do. One thing we most surely cannot do is surrender in defeat or despair. Not now! Not ever!

What do you think? Do boomer pastors have anything to say about the future of the American church? Can we play a role in the renewal of the church and the restoration of the church’s influence in our current culture? What could, what should that role be? I’d love to explore this with you.

To be continued…