March 6, 2017
Jesus was a Millennial.
William Strauss and Neil Howe took sociocultural anthropology to the broad market with their first/signature book together, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069. From political campaigns to marketing initiatives, their description of four recurring generational types – and the likelihood of predictable mass behavior in the future, based on observing the past – has been instructive. Jesus wasn’t what Strauss and Howe would label a Millennial… but he sure could relate.
In America, we’re as intentional about naming generational cohorts as we are in naming newborns. No one contests the identity of Builders/Silents/Boomers/Busters (all living Americans who are over 30); these designations are accepted and embraced. The conversation lapses – among those four age groupings – when the “M Word” is whispered. “Millennials:” did someone let one in?
They sit on the folding chairs at the family holiday table. This next consumer age category is crowding the carpool lane: they’ve got 80 million buddies, and they now outnumber the Boomers who thought they would forever control the vote. Oldies wonder: will Millennials find their way, someday?
At last count, there are 248,760 people with the CEO title in America; that includes privately-held and publicly-traded companies On average, they acquired their title at 53; their typical tenure at the top is 10 years. This age has gone up eight years in the last twenty. Why? Boomers are holding on to power, and clogging the pipeline for the Busters and Millennials who are waiting in the wings for their shot at the C-Suite.
Typical lifespans are tossed around like peanut bags at a baseball game, but they’re misleading. “Average age” becomes far less meaningful when infant mortality and workplace mishaps are taken out of the formula. God revealed life spans 3700 years ago, in Psalm 90: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures…” (v 10). If you’ve got seven decades to do it all… when should leaders get their opportunity to emerge? Is age 53 the “magic moment?”
Joseph, son of Jacob – brother of the 10 knuckleheads who pawned him as a slave and had to bow to him as a political savior – went through hell as a slave before running the family office for Potiphar. Unjustly convicted for workplace sexual malpractice, he went to jail before getting hired as Pharaoh’s Chief of Staff. He lived to 110, but got promotion to the palace at 30.
David, son of Jesse – youngest of eight brothers; three were wussy soldiers who hid with their comrades from Goliath’s challenge. He took down the Philistine Big Dog as a teenager, just after Samuel secretly named him as Saul’s successor as king. For the rest of his teens and twenties, he’s on the roller-coaster from public hero to the king’s nightmare. He lives by faith on the edge of destruction… but emerges the victor, and is elevated to his calling at 30 when the 12 tribes recognize him as their king.
Jesus, son of God – his mission was clear from Mary’s pregnancy, but the path from Bethlehem to the Jordan was no easy journey. Imagine the Creator schlepping construction projects in Nazareth, biding time until declaring his intent to derail religion and replace it with the New Covenant. Before: God in a draped enclosure, found only in Jerusalem’s temple. After: God in rebirthed humans, to be found wherever they were. His human age when his Father announced him, at his baptism: 30.
Here’s the reality: every person faces the challenge in their 20s: will their life in that decade extinguish them, or distinguish them? Will their choices take them out of contention for God’s ultimate calling? Or, will their choices put them in the convergence of purpose, passion and potential?
Look around: do you know Millennials – young adults, still short of their 30th birthday – whose great future is not yet obvious? What are you doing – with/for them – to make sure that they arrive at their coming threshold, ready to go for the headlines of God’s history, with nothing holding them back?