Turning Baby-Boomers into missionaries
As we start this new year, let’s take a moment to reflect on a big-picture issue that will be affecting your church. We would all agree that there are dynamics of immense proportion taking place in our world today. Some shout at us from daily news headlines, like the war on terror our country is now engaged in with the fanatical groups of Islam. But there are other immense dynamics moving toward us more like an arctic glacier which keeps moving slowly and powerfully.
Let me suggest to you that two of these powerful dynamics are coming together in our country in the year 2011. This is the year that the Baby-Boomer generation starts turning a very young 65 years old. I say “young,” because longer life span is the other dynamic that is coming with them.
In the next seven brief paragraphs, I want to borrow some substantive quotes from Thom Rainer, our new LifeWay president. He wrote these notes in the Nov./Dec. 2006 issue of Outreach Magazine. As you may already be aware, Rainer is an extensive researcher. From his research, we need to think about the question, “What do these dynamics mean to the local Missouri Baptist Church?”
“Nearly one-third of all Americans living today were born between 1946 and 1964. This is the Baby-Boomer generation that has repeatedly shaped much of American life, including church life.
“Concurrent with the aging of the Baby-Boomers is a longevity boom. In 1900, life expectancy was 47 years. By 2011, the life expectancy of adults will approach 80 years. A huge and long-living older generation will be residing in our communities. How will the church respond?
“In just five short years, the oldest Boomer will be 65 years old, and the midpoint Boomer will be 56. These are not your typical mature adults, and churches that respond as they always have will miss a great evangelistic opportunity.
“Typically, receptivity to the Gospel wanes as people age. But the Boomers may defy this trend. Indeed, early indicators tell us that this group’s receptivity may actually be on the rise.
“These older adults will walk away from churches that focus on travel and entertainment as the primary “ministries” to senior adults.
“These adults will desire more than an occasional mission trip as a means to make a difference. They will want to invest themselves in something that is meaningful and longer-term.
“These new senior adults will not perceive themselves to be old, and any organization that communicates to them that they are will quickly lose the allegiance of this generation.”
I could see a wave of lay pastors, missionaries, church planters and church staff being raised up out of this generation. They have time, energy, insight and may also possess the financial resources needed to grow or plant a church. Many of them could be used for two-year assignments on the mission fields of the world.
Our own Missouri Baptist Convention could use two couples right now to live in El Salvador and act as the in-country coordinators for our churches and teams as they arrive and work in that country. There may be a couple reading this that could invest a year, maybe even as many as three years, living in El Salvador. If you are that person or couple, then I would ask you to call our Partnership Specialist, Norm Howell at: (800) 736-6227, ext. 620 to speak with him about this. Norm and I are asking the Lord to raise up at least one more couple who could do this. Call this 800 number anytime day or night and leave a message.
We can already see some of this Baby-Boomer shift taking place all across our Missouri landscape. Out in the hills and valleys of our state, you can observe new homes being built by retirees or soon-to-be-retirees. People who have finished raising their families are now returning to their roots, hometowns or personal interests. Many are ready to stop chasing careers and are ready to chase lifelong personal dreams. Are we ready for them? Will we reach them with the Gospel? Will we harness this incredible amount of energy, wisdom, passion and desire to continue to make a difference in the world? Or, will we bore them with trips to see the leaves die every fall in the Ozarks?
Let’s challenge this new wave to not hang up their boots, but keep them on and take the Gospel to the world. I believe this will be a generation that will continue to have incredible energy and vision. Some of these people will be numbered among the best lay preachers, staff and missionaries Missouri has ever seen. If you are a Boomer, why not let God use you. Don’t be satisfied with just catching fish in retirement, let’s fish for men!