What Millennials Want, and Why It Ultimately Doesn’t Matter

unsplash-kitsune-3About a year ago, enormously popular “post-evangelical”  blogger Rachel Held Evans wrote an essay for CNN called, “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church.”  It went viral. Since then, increasing numbers of Christians have lept to action, frantically trying to solve the problem. Since millennials are allegedly leaving the church, it follows that they are not getting what they want. In the last several years, evangelicals across the western world have had meetings, written articles, and conducted studies to discover what it is that millenials want. The evangelical community seems largely poised to do whatever it takes to entice the younger generation to attend church.

However, something is terribly wrong with this approach. In truth, a few things are wrong. First of all, it is not entirely accurate to say that “millennials are leaving the church.” According to George Barna, six in ten churched members of this age group walk away from the faith they were raised in.  However, that still leaves four out of ten, and since millennials are an enormous group, that four represents a large number. Therefore, a substantial set of millennials remain in the church. To act as though millennials are absent from the pews is simply an overreaction at best, and disingenuous at worst.

Second, every generation has its own struggles just as it has strengths. There are valuable things millennials want to see more present in evangelical churches. Millennials want liturgy. Millenials want depth. Millennials want “authenticity.” Millennials want meaningful relationships (a rather vague and relative phrase). However, the church should not adopt or condone everything millenials want any more than it should adopt and condone the attitudes and biases of any other specific generation. According to Evans, “young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” Some of these are legitimate concerns, but some are not. Moreover, millennials have needs that they may not necessarily want, such as the need to be morally challenged, to be intellectually grounded, to be held theologically accountable, and to be spiritually convicted. If we forego what millennials need in favor of what millennials want, then we have undergone a tragic metamorphosis from historic Christianity to freestyle “Millennialism.”

Instead of preoccupying ourselves with what millennials want, we should ask a related, yet entirely different question: How can we better help all believers to become committed, convinced, mature followers of Christ? There is one unchanging standard for Christian maturity; God’s standard. There is no such thing as “millennial Christianity,” “baby-boomer Christianity,” “Gen X Christianity,” or any other generational variety. There is one church, bearing witness to one timeless truth. This teaching permeates Scripture. For example, see 1 Corinthians 12, and the entire book of Ephesians.

If we still find ourselves overly concerned about an ecclesiastical mass exodus of the younger generation, we need to remember something. God does not abandon his people, nor has he ever struggled to preserve the Church through the ages. The people of God will endure until the end. If we doubt that, we doubt not only his sovereignty, but also his trustworthiness. If he is not sovereign or trustworthy, then he is not truly God. Finally, if YHWH is not God, then millennials are right to leave the church.

But YHWH– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– is God.  As we await the return of Jesus and the fulfilment of his promises, we should seek to be the nothing other than the continuation of Christ’s historic Church, preaching his Word, obeying his precepts, and discipling the nations. Millennials should not join in because their desires or even needs are being met; instead they should join because the message of Christ is the only true, final answer to the human condition, given once and for all generations.

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. – Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (John 17:13-18)

 


 

*Note: For anyone wondering, I am 29 years old, and thus am solidly a millennial.

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The Bible is unchanging as are Gods teachings, etc. I think perhaps the point she may have been driving at is that the outward appearance of the Church itself is very ugly right now. It looks like hate, it looks like Fix news supporting, anti-gay, and anti-everything not fitting into the mold. The Church should feel safe. A refuge for all. I know that Jesus change condone the acts of the people who were disobedient to his Word, but he did have compassion for them. He didn’t make then feel unwelcomed, no one felt line a lost cause. People in sin should be made aware of their sin, of course. That’s part of the pictures to becoming saved. But the introduction to God should not feel so impossible to attain. Especially for someone who knows nothing of the Bible. God is unchanging as is His Word. I’m not asking to be preached to about accepting sins or that the world is changing and we must change with it…but this generation it’s advertised sex and other things without their consent and so it raises more questions in their minds. They shouldn’t feel guilty because of curiosity. Our own youth shouldn’t feel scared to talk to the Church leaders because they fear the repercussions of their curiosity. And if our own youth is scared to think outside the box, imagine how kids completely I the outside must feel, esp when they gave the same questions and are searching for answers. We long for the Church to feel more approachable. I could give a rata behind about drums and praise and worship Music..I’m fact I hate that haha. I prefer hymns and traditional services. I don’t want (what I perceived of) her message to get lost in translation. she’s actually saying we want the Church to stay the same…just maybe change the outreach, change the way the Church is viewed. stay the same, but be more accepting. we can’t change the world but Christians can change their sI wholeheartedly agree with you. The Bible is unchanging as are Gods teachings, etc. I think perhaps the point she may have been driving at is that the outward appearance of the Church itself is very ugly right now. It looks like hate, it looks like Fox news supporting, anti-gay, and anti-everything not fitting into the mold. The Church should feel safe. A refuge for all. I know that Jesus change condone the acts of the people who were disobedient to his Word, but he did have compassion for them. He didn’t make then feel unwelcomed, no one felt line a lost cause. People in sin should be made aware of their sin, of course. That’s part of the process to becoming saved. But the introduction to God should not feel so impossible to attain. Especially for someone who knows nothing of the Bible. God is unchanging as is His Word. I’m not asking to be preached to about accepting sins or that the world is changing and we must change with it…but this generation is advertised sex and other things without their consent and so it raises more questions in their minds. They shouldn’t feel guilty because of curiosity. Our own youth shouldn’t feel scared to talk to the Church leaders because they fear the repercussions of their curiosity. And if our own youth is scared to think outside the box, imagine how kids completely I the outside must feel, esp when they gave the same questions and are searching for answers. We long for the Church to feel more approachable. I could give a rats behind about drums and praise and worship Music..in fact I hate that haha. I prefer hymns and traditional services. I don’t want (what I perceived of) her message to get lost in translation. she’s actually saying we want the Church to stay the same…just maybe change the outreach, change the way the Church is viewed. stay the same, but be more accepting. we can’t change the world but Christians can change their approach to those who are different. don’t identify yourself with a political party, or close minded… because really Good did befriend and minister to all prior…not just the do-gooders. the ones who really need to find Him. if he had been closed off or damming to particular types of sinners how much would have been accomplished? John 3:17…for God did not come into this world to condemn the world, but to save the world thru Him.” And that should be our mission too. What authority do we have to condemn anyone when that’s not even why he came here.

  2. “The preacher, he’s too young, or maybe he’s too old;
    The sermons, they’re not hard enough, or maybe they’re too bold.
    His voice is much too quiet-like, sometimes he gets too loud;
    He needs to have more dignity, or else he’s way too proud.
    The sermons, they’re too long, or maybe they’re too short.
    He ought to preach the Word with dignity, instead of stomp and snort.
    That preacher we’ve got must be the world’s most stuck-up man;
    Why, one of the ladies told me the other day, ‘Well, he didn’t even shake my hand!'”

    Anyone remember that popular gospel song from the 80’s? I can’t help thinking about it every time I read an article on why millennials aren’t going to church. Most of their “reasons” are nothing but excuses, and their excuses are just as petty and contradictory as the ones expressed in this song.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s