A Challenge to Baby Boomer Believers
By Landa Cope
World Christian – March 1999
Editor’s note: in October 1988 at the first Finishers Forum in Chicago, Illinois, Landa Cope challenged restless baby boomers to harness the dream of their generation and change the world for Christ during their mid-life and retirement years. This article is adapted from her plenary speech.
In 1965, I was a first-year university student and an atheist. I gave speeches on why not to believe in the Bible. I wanted radical injustice eradicated, political corruption exposed, peace rather than war. We wanted materialistic values to be replaced by something meaningful.
We had a dream as a generation, and our dream was that we would change our world. Time magazine told us God was dead and we were eager to fill the void. We were the largest genaration in history and we were a force to contend with.
But our dream was shattered as we wept through assassination after assassination. Shattered as we watched resignations. Shattered by idols dying of drugs. Shattered by a thousand inconsistencies between what we hoped and dreamed for and what we were actually able to accomplish.
Despair and disillusionment drove millions of our generation into the kingdom of God during the 1970s and 80s. And, lo and behold, Time magazine announced the “Jesus Revolution.“ Megachurches were born. Young people excited about their new found faith were dubbed Jesus freaks. Contemporary Christian music was conceived. The largest missions movement in history was launched.
On a Mission From God
I came to Christ in 1970, not because I wanted to be a Christian but because I met the God who created the universe and had to bow to the reality of him. I have always been a reluctant Christian, but an eager believer. And after nearly 30 years of missions, I still am. I had seen what the radicals of my generation could not produce. I had seen what didn’t work. When I came into the kingdom of God, I thought, “Now Jesus and I are a majority and we’re going to change our world.“
Our generation’s dream – a dream birthed in the heart of God – was to change our world, to make it a better place to live, to make truth reign. (Even when we didn’t know what truth was, that was our dream.) God birthed our dream for justice, equity, peace, quality of life, truth and meaning not so we could merely hope to attain them, but so we could bring them into existence. It is our destiny to change our world!
And we have changed it. Never has the church been larger. Never has it been more diverse. But our dream has never been to be the largest or the most diverse. If that were our dream, we would enjoy the last part of our lives and relinquish the unfinished task of world evangelism to another generation. Our dream was to change the world, but we’re not satisfied. We’re not satisfied because we have not yet seen our dream fulfilled.
I’ve seen men and women of God in much smaller numbers change history; they evoke change so powerful even non-Christians noticed. The United States calls itself a Christian nation, yet this country has never been more immoral, materialistic, violent and unjust. The church in America has never poured more energy and prayer into any single issue than abortion. And what have we accomplished? Well, we have family values as a political platform. But what I want to know is, whose family values? Statistics show that Christian families are ending in divorce at the same rate as non-Christian families. And we have imparted our “values“ to other nations.
We claim a large percentage of Africa has been evangelized. However most African nations – Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia and Ghana, to name a few – did not change for the better even with the arrival of Christianity. Each of these nations remains diseased, violent, unjust and devastated.
Are we not aware that we have words without worth? We’re a big generation, praise God, but we’re not deep. We may have the largest church in history, but may also be the weakest and least effective church the world has ever known. How can this be? Does the gospel have no teeth? Where is the tangible, visible evidence that Christ makes in our lives, homes, communities, cities and nations? How can the fruit of the largest church in the history of the world be so minuscule?
How can we say that this is how the kingdom looks? Every Sunday we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.“ Then most of us go home and say, “Jesus, come quickly because it’s messy down here.“
It is way past time to transform the church. We must see local churches demonstrating the truth that empowers believers to see their lives changed, to not talk about keeping families together, but to see the revelation that keeps families together. God wants us to tell a generation of Xers and Busters, who are scared to death of marriage: “Here is what God’s plan was and here’s how to see it restored. Here’s what we didn’t know before, but what we know now.“
Realizing Our Dream
Our dream was to change our world and we are not satisfied. We are not satisfied because as a generation we have not fully inherited our dream. We are not finished yet, and God is not finished with us. When Joseph was 17, he thought he knew how to inherit the vision. By the time he was 30, he realized he knew nothing and was almost ready. When he was 37, he saw God’s vision fulfilled through him.
We are just about ready as a generation to inherit some of the promises we made when we were 17. We are just about at the end of our tether and ready to say, “God, we’re the biggest bunch of Christians in history, and we don’t have a clue!“
We are also a generation that could lose it’s promise. Israel did. God promised them a nation, but they didn’t have a big enouch concept of God or a great enough faith. They said, “No.“ And it took 40 years for the next generation to be prepared. Can you imagine what will happen if we drop the torch now? If we turn our backs on God’s destiny for this generation, it may be 40 years until the next generation is prepared to even begin! Where will our world be then? This is not about us; this is about God. It was not Israel’s dream to have a nation; it was God’s dream. It is not our dream to change our world; it is God’s dream planted in us.
We are commanded not only to reach all nations, but to disciple the nations – to turn our world upside down as the apostles did. The Roman Empire, the greatest kingdom of its day, was totally transformed by the lives of these early believers. We’re called to get back the dream we had as teenagers, because that was God’s dream for us as a generation.
Stand and Deliver
You are not too old. You are not too late. You are just right. Moses was 80 years old when he got started! Now is the time for the baby boomer church to begin expressing its creativity and wisdom. Now is the time for a radical church to rise up and say, “We will find out how to bring servant influence to our communities and nations.“
You are on a misison from God. It is a mission yet unknown in the world that we live in. God is not calling us to join things. He’s calling us to change things. And missions needs to be changed. We are reaching the lost, but we are not discipling them as is evidenced in their lives and communities. God said to proclaim the gospel to all creation and disciple all nations. We need to see mission not only as proclaiming, but also as discipling. And we can begin right where you are. I don’t know if you’ll be led overseas. Jesus wasn’t. But you still have a mission. And your mission is not yet fulfilled.
We’re not finished yet. We’re not even close. But we have to fight to give fire to the dream. We have to let this fire spark into flame what we thought we lost forever. Because it’s not too late, he’s still working and he’s been expecting you. You have unfinished business.
Landa Cope, Founding Dean of our College of Communications, University of the Nations, a ministry of Youth With A Mission, speaks frequently on discipling the nations.