The Next Awakening: Is it Around the Corner?
The Next Awakening: Is it Around the Corner? — Jay Zinn
“To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? They are like children playing a game in the public square…”
Jesus described the quality, condition, class, beliefs, and collective behavior of the “generation” of the people he confronted. I wonder if he sees our generation as children playing a game, entirely out of touch with their surroundings, or any sense of danger. A generation playing a game of materialism, utterly unaware of the Savior while we go about our every day lives in the public square. Sometimes it takes a shaking up of things to get our attention and make us not only aware of our external surroundings but to make us aware of our internal condition. Such is a time like this.
In their book, Generations,[i] William Strauss and Neil Howe tell us that each generation carries its shared attitudes about family life, sex roles, institutions, politics, religion, lifestyle, and the future. These attitudes are shaped by the reaction of the generation before them, and the generation before them. History reveals a cyclic pattern of four peer personality types of generations that begins with Idealists, followed by Reactives, then Civics, to Adaptives, and back to the top of the cycle with idealists. Briefly, here’s how they define each type:
1st Gen—Idealists are visionary, individualistic, spiritual, prophetic, and often stressed out.
Core Values — include principles, religion, and education.
Typical Weakness — perceived as dogmatic, taking principle/morals to an extreme.
2nd Gen—Reactives are rebellious, pragmatic, materialistic, and streetwise.
Core Values — include liberty, practicality, and survival.
Typical Weakness — perceived as amoral, taking pragmatism to an extreme.
3rd Gen—Civics are heroic, collegial, rationalistic, and striving to get ahead.
Core Values — include community, technology, and affluence.
Typical Weakness — perceived as insensitive, taking rationalism to an extreme.
4th Gen—Adaptives are conformists, sensitive, and cultured.
Core Values — include pluralism, expertise, and social justice.
Typical Weakness — perceived as superficial, taking adaptability to an extreme.
Strauss and Howe further reveal in their book that each generation is affected by a pattern of two historical events they call “social moments.” These events will define and shape the entire culture and usher in a new phase of history. These events are:
- Secular Crises: Outer-focused events that challenge the external structure of society—i.e., wars, the threat of war, pandemics, or catastrophes.
- Spiritual Awakenings: Inner-focused events that challenge the internal values of society—i.e., sees society as sterile and rationalistic.
Examples in our History:
The American Revolution (1773-1789)—a secular crisis followed by a Great Awakening (1822-1837).
The Civil War (1857-1865)—a secular crisis followed by another Great Awakening (1886-1903).
The Great Depression and WWII (1932-1945)—two secular crises followed by the Boom Awakening (1967-1980) of the Hippie and Jesus Movement.
So now we have:
1st — Idealists (Boomers)—1943-1960 (rising adults in the time of spiritual awakening).
2nd— Reactives (Gen X)—1960-1980 (children impacted during the time of spiritual awakening).
3rd— Civics (Millennials)—1980-2001 (rising adults in the time of a secular crisis).
4th— Adaptives (Cyber Gen)—2002-2025 (children impacted during the time of a secular crisis).
If the pattern of the four-part generational cycle of peer personalities holds, then we’re on the upswing toward the next generational cycle, starting with Idealists. The Millennials (Civics) and the coming of age Cyber Gens (Adaptives) into adulthood are experiencing a secular crisis in this pandemic. It will completely alter the course and their future collective attitudes of family life, sex roles, institutions, politics, religion, lifestyle, and the future. And if the pattern remains consistent, the current social moment (coronavirus/economic pandemic) will be followed by a spiritual awakening and the opportunity to see another “Great Awakening.”
If the Lord doesn’t return in my lifetime (as an Idealist Boomer), it’s comforting to know that I might live long enough to see the beginnings of an explosion of a spiritual awakening that will usher in a revival among the dead and complacent saints in the church. It’s going to alter everything we’ve been used to as being “church,” and the shaking of this crisis will shake everything that can be shaken. It will raise up an army of young people that will turn the world upside down.
As long as I’m alive (Lord willing), I will do everything within his power to train and equip the saints for the work of the ministry ahead. To take on the next wave of new converts (like the wave of new believers that flooded churches when I was a young man), we must become disciples ourselves so that we can become disciple-makers. “Why?” you ask. Because “you” need to be ready for the coming “baby-boom” of new converts. Are you equipped for that? They need spiritual parents. Can you be a spiritual parent for them? They’re going to be looking to you to feed them and guide them into the kingdom-culture of Christ. And the only method Jesus gave us to do that with is discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20).
Grace and Peace!
[i] Generations—The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, William Strauss & Neil Howe, Quill, NY—1991