Dear Millennials, Get over yourself
As best I can tell I either just missed the millennial generation or I just missed raising one. Most sociologists and social scientists tend to group millennials as anyone born between 1980 and 2000. I was born in 1975, my first son was born in 2005. I missed them both by 5 years or less. I suppose I am a pre-millennial raising a post millennial.
I am on the cusp between two generations and I have an interesting vantage point. Millennials, I baby sat for you all through middle school and high school. I grew up in a house with two younger sisters, who according to their birth years, are millennials. I have many friends in my community and my church who are considered part of this generation.
However there's this social phenomenon in our culture and especially in the modern day church that we need to do more to engage the millennials and make them feel accepted and loved. While I don't dispute this fact for one second within the church, I need you all to hear this. Our church doors need to be open to reach every generation, not just the generation who currently seems to have everyone worried.
I am in the generation right ahead of you and I am raising the generation right behind you and it's not looking any better.
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Matthews 22:36-40
Millennials you are not coming to church as much as the generation before you. Is it because we don't have enough cool activities or community projects, or because our pastor doesn't preach in blue jeans or we don't have a YouTube channel or have a trendy church name like "Relevant Church" that meets in community center? I think not.
You're not coming to church because you don't see it in us. Yes, you and me, who identify as Christians. We are the church and the millennial generation as well as every other generation just doesn't see the love of Christ lived out.
I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. - Jesus (John 13:34-35)
To my generation and my parents generation and even my grandparents generation that are still alive and active in the church, we have lost our saltiness in society. There is no light of Christ drawing others in. I wonder if our modern day Western churches could be compared to the church of Ephesus.
We have lost our first love - We have simply forgotten what it means to love God and love others.When I see political or social issues arise on social media from those who attend church with me and identify as Christians it makes me cringe. I need another blog for this issue. But I will say, your opinions and belief that you are the last voice of conservative values is absolutely perpetuating the stereotypes of what people outside of church really believe about Christians.
It is combative, hurtful, and disheartening. It hurts me to read it because, while you may be speaking truth, you have missed mercy and love, I can only imagine how it really affects others. It is not loving, it is not even speaking the truth in love.
There is nothing wrong with adhering to biblical values and beliefs, but truth without love is nothing more than legalism. The generations behind us are not buying it.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
You are loud, noisy, you hurt our ears, but you also hurt us, the Church. I beg of you to look deep in your hearts and return to your love of God which trickles down into loving others. Quit blaming everyone else around you. Learn to love in truth and in word and in deed.
Open your doors wide and pray the generation behind us back into our churches. Quit being the country club with exclusive membership rights to be accepted. Be the church who loves the least of these, the chief among sinners, the ones who look, think, act different than us. Love them with the love of Christ, love them right where they are, in the messiness, in the questioning, in the hurt places. Let the Holy Spirit do His Work in their hearts.
Before you think I have let the generation behind me off the hook (or better said, sandwiched right next to me), let me have a quick word. The Millennial generation is not completely different than any previous generation of youth. There were those who wanted to go to dance halls in the roaring 20's (1920's that is). Those who couldn't get enough of Elvis shaking his hips and greasy hair in the 50's. Then there was the Beatles mop top British explosion and the 1969 summer of love. Every generation has a fear of the ones just behind them.
The church has not always done a great job responding to this fear and has clamped down hard to stay in the culture without becoming like the culture. But the church has always been an institution of faith, community, and family. I would be willing to bet that our churches are trying as hard as ever to compel those of us age 39 and under to come through the church doors. They are doing more today to reach across the community to the places right where you are to engage you.
Listen closely - Everything is not the church's fault. You cannot put the blame squarely on how the church is not doing a good enough job trying to engage you. Good grief - you too have forgotten your first love or maybe you have never met HIM.
The church is not there solely to make you feel good about yourself or to cater to every trend and social issue pressing society today. The church is compromised of a body of believers with like-minded faith, who first and foremost want to be in a community with others believers to simply worship God and share the good news of Christ with others.
Since when did worshiping God need to be a Superbowl Sunday experience? Turn your ears to God and learn to worship Him within the quietness of your heart and soul.
There are people around you who are desperately searching for hope and light, and you know the truth yet don't share it because you just haven't found the right fit.
You don't like the way this church styles it worship toward God? You haven't found a group of people to connect with on issues of faith? You need a church that does more for the community around them? You press in.
I can assure you that there are more churches today than 25 years ago that are bringing dynamic worship experiences each and every week in both large and small venues and desperately want to connect. You refuse to take the first step and walk through the door.
Afraid that you won't like it or won't find the right connection? Ok, fair enough. Try another church. I'm serious. Do you really believe that if you are truly looking for a community of believers in Christ who want to help you grow, worship, serve, and connect with others that God is going to hold out on you? Please, don't tell me you think that??
Have you laid your heart before God and simply said, I want to fill in the gap. I want to have faith in something bigger. I want to know and believe in truth and share it with others. I am telling you that I believe with all my heart that God will honor that request and bring you to the church and the community of believers that best fits your God-given DNA.
All churches are not created equal. They are some weirdos out there. Seriously, every church has them. But every time you get a large group of people together, it's part of it. So don't put the same standard on all of them. It may take some time, but I believe God will be faithful and honor your prayer if you are truly seeking a place to fit in, to build community, to build your faith, to share that with others.
So as I sit here looking on both sides I am certainly thankful that I am allowed to ask questions and not always take every word at face value like my parents generation often were told to do. I am blessed to have a generation ahead of me that built my faith in Christ and in a community of believers. As I have grown and matured I do see a generation that has become increasingly "me-centric" as to believe everyone and everything must revolve around them.
Sorry millennials you guys are like super smart, super savvy and constantly rethinking status quo, but you are living up to the overarching stereotype of being the ME-Generation? We are fighting against a culture that tells us this is normal and good. But God's Word tells us that we did not come to be served but to learn how to serve like Christ. Greater love has no one than one who lays down his life (himself, his preferences, his wants) for another.
Help us engage our culture better. Teach us how to do it. But take some lessons from us too. Learn to give and serve others unselfishly. If you know the truth and hope that is found only in a relationship with Jesus, don't hold out waiting for the right church to come along to fit your preferences. You have got to share the love and truth within the brokenness of our culture.
Every generation matters. We have got to cross some of these divides.