In the last six months, we’ve all seen numbers of articles and blog posts about why the modern church is, generally speaking, not reaching Millennials. In reading many of these articles and posts, I’ve gone from interested, to confused, to downright frustrated… So I hope you will humor me as I give my thoughts!
I come from a church that seems to be doing most of the suggestions mentioned in these posts for reaching the younger generations. We make funny videos, we have fun and crazy events, we have a multi-generational staff, we have modern worship music, and we just finished raising $200,000 for an audio/video/lights upgrade to our Worship Center to help many different things, include our online presence. We have embraced trying to reach the younger generations.
But I see one big thing missing from the majority of these posts. They all address the failures of the church, and where it’s lacking. But what about where the Millennial generation is lacking?! Can some of the reasons Millennials aren’t in the church be due to our own lack of character?
It’s sad that it has become popular to throw the church under the bus. Churches are made up of people, so of course they have faults. But do we realize that Jesus called the church his bride (Ephesians 5:25-27)?! How can we so openly bash the bride of Christ?! I definitely wouldn’t like it if people who claimed to love me openly mouthed my bride…
As a 26-year-old, I have owned up to my own inconsistencies, and am constantly trying to work on them. Many of these inconsistencies seem to be prevalent among my generation, and should at least be brought up as potential reasons my generation is virtually missing from the average church. My goal is not to bash, but to challenge, as well as own up to inconsistencies within my generation!
Hence comes a few thoughts and challenges for Millennials:
Passion is great, but pursue commitment.
We are known for being passionate. If my wife would describe me with one word, this would probably be it! But this passion is often lacking commitment. There are lots of examples you can use to reveal this tendency among Millennials (and really just humans in general): exercise, school, career, church. Passion will come, then change, then we’ve moved on.
Frankly, we’re too emotionally driven. As soon as the passion subsides, I don’t want to have anything to do with what I was passionate about. We must work on this! As Christians, our ultimate goal is that we desire to obey Christ in everything….But does this mean when we don’t desire to obey, that we just shouldn’t?! Of course not! That’s where commitment comes in! Even when I don’t feel like following Christ, I hopefully will choose to do so anyway.
Just because a church doesn’t have cool videos, or contemporary worship, does that mean it’s suddenly not doing what it’s supposed to do? I’m all about thinking about how to get people into the church, but this should not be our Number 1 priority. Our number 1 priority should be obedience to God’s Word. And guess what? You can worship God with hymns, and with contemporary music. You can hear from God’s Word with an engaging, hip preacher, or with a boring, seemingly out-of-touch preacher… The point is that it’s God’s Word, and this truth alone should make us interested and engaged.
Commitment should drive passion, not the other way around
Again, passion isn’t a bad thing. In fact, God wants us to set our mind and affections on Christ (Col. 3). But are we driven by our passions? Are we driven by emotion? Or are we driven by our commitments?
I would speculate that this is a huge reason why divorce is so rampant, in and outside the church. We actually think we can’t help who we love! We consider love to be some pit that we “fall” into and can’t get out, instead of a choice. Husbands will leave their families, and say, “I can’t help it; I fell in love with this other woman.” WHAT?! You can’t help it? Love is so much more than an emotion, it’s a commitment. It’s choosing to serve and focus on something even when we don’t feel like it!
I’m all about romance, and in a very real sense I can’t help but love Lauryn. But you know what’s more meaningful for her? That I CHOOSE to love her…not that I can’t help but love her. You won’t always feel like you love Jesus, just like you won’t always feel like you love your wife. What makes love love is that I choose to love her even when I don’t feel like it. Why? Because I’m committed to her.
My commitment to following Christ means that I’m committed to God’s primary chosen vessel for ministry, his Church. Matthew 16:18 makes clear that the church can’t fail. Yes, individual bodies of Christ may close their doors, but the Church as a whole will never fail. There is no doubt that Christianity is a communal faith, and that communal faith will never be perfect. But even with all its faults (that we should address and improve), Christ calls it his “bride.” Our primary questions about a church before we join should about their commitment to preaching/teaching God’s Word and promoting Biblical fellowship and accountability. It breaks my heart that our first questions when considering a church usually have to do with things as unimportant as music style and relatable, down-to-earth ministers. I’m all about being relatable, but do we desire pastors and ministers that are relatable more than we desire pastors and ministers that are Godly?!
Seek a church that’s centered around God’s Word
Opinions are great, truly. Speculation is great, truly. Even strategizing for how to reach groups of people we’re not reaching is great. But there’s something better, and more important.
God has spoken, plain and simple. I’ve known some great pastors in my lifetime, but I don’t want to hear their opinions as much as I want to hear God’s Word. I don’t want an inspirational message based on inspirational thoughts that the pastor came up with during the week. I want an inspirational message that comes directly from God Himself! Why settle for less?!
Seek a church that takes this seriously, and will challenge you to dig into God’s Word yourself. Instead of seeking a church that will coddle you and make you feel good about your sin, and willing to pretend that you have no sin, seek a church that will lovingly challenge you to become more and more like Christ by killing sin and being overwhelmed by the Gospel!
Seek a church that is explicitly Gospel-centered. What is the Gospel? God created you and you are accountable to Him (Gen. 1:1), you rebelled against Him (Rom. 3:23), He became a man and died on the Cross for your sin and rose from the dead defeating death (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16), and if you repent (literally, change your mind and heart) from your sin and place your faith in Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38), you are saved. You’re not only saved from hell. You are saved from a worthless life of being enslaved to your own happiness. You are freed from a life of narcissism and self-love (perhaps the very thing that makes us blame the church for our own inconsistency) to live a life that glorifies God through obedience to Him and His Word. Is there any great purpose for which to live?
The church isn’t a building, it’s a group of people. Instead of talking about all the failures of this or that group of people, let’s challenge each other to follow Christ more wholeheartedly, despite our preferences not being met. Let’s obey God’s Word first and foremost, and yes, let’s also try and figure out how to reach every generation!