I wrote this post on a blog on one of my old blogs. It is in relation to the how I feel about the church not addressing the needs and desires of my generation. The Millennial Generation is much different than many previous generations. I hope this post is the first of many conversations about how to engage churches in reaching my generation for Christ. Please commit back or contact me if you have any questions or thoughts.
Confessions of a Frustrated Millenial: We Don’t Want Power, We Want Purpose.
For the last few weeks I have been reflecting on my generation and wondering about the disconnect between the church and millenials. This is the first of a few articles demonstrating my heart and frustrations with my generation either leaving the church or feeling useless in it. The following thoughts are things I want out of the church, and there might be a few people who disagree with me and want more. At the same time I have done some research and talked to some others as well. My goal is to start a discussion, and see how we can impact the world with the gospel.
I remember complaining once to my dad about church when I was younger. I was frustrated because I felt like the worship was not engaging, and he told me “just wait son, you will be in charge, and you can make it whatever you want to be.” Well I have waited, and as I see the church losing influence in American and many who claim to be its followers far from the gospel, I can’t just sit back and wait anymore. My first act is to write about how I feel. Instead of letting these feelings stay inside, I have decided to let them out. The truth is I don’t want to be in charge, I want church to have purpose. The goal is purpose not power. I don’t want to tell people what to do, I want to be inspired to a relationship with God at a deeper level.
I want a church that realizes the mandate, applies the Bible to the real world, and engages our hearts and minds in worship.
First, I need to answer the question of who am I? I am a thirty year old married guy with young kids. At times I have been called an established churches poster child because most churches are seeking to attract young married people with kids. I am also a young professional who believes his occupation should make a positive impact in my community. At the point in my life I have chosen to be a teacher in a public elementary where the majority of students live in poverty. For me, church needs to be a place where I receive encouragement, and I am challenged to do even more for the kingdom.
Often many believe if we say do kingdom work, people will follow through and do kingdom work. Truth is, most of us need places and opportunity to do kingdom work. This is where church leadership comes in. I believe it is one of the jobs of the pastor and church staff to provide opportunities for God’s people to serve in the kingdom (or empower members of the church to be in charge of this).
If you look back in the book of Acts, you see the original reason why the church formed the position of deacon. It was not for them to be the rulers of the church; it was for them to be the servants of the church. The Apostles were overloaded with teaching and leading responsibilities with the result of the widows not being helped. The Apostles responded to this by creating the position of deacon with the purpose of serving the church and the community. As a millienal, I want the Early Church model of service. I want my leaders to inspire me and give me opportunities for service, not to be the primary ones who do service.
Christians are called to be the salt and light in the world. This means we need to be sharing the gospel and living the gospel. Sadly, most churches go to an extreme. Either they are so caught up in community service that the gospel is left out, or all we do is preach the gospel without trying to meet their needs. Most millenials see the church as taking care of herself and not others.
Most Millennial Christians see local churches as business as usual, focused inwardly, more concerned about the needs of the members than the needs of the community and the nations. The bad news is that most American churches are not attractive to Millennials because of the inward focus of these congregations. 1
If we look at the example of Jesus and the early church; we see how they meet needs and spoke the truth. Meeting needs while sharing God’s good news is living the gospel. I want a church that understands and demonstrates both sides of the gospel, not just one or the other.
Living both sides of the gospel is how the church follows through with her mandate. NLT
In order to hear the mandate the Bible has to be applied in the real world. The biggest complaint many have about the Bible is that it does not apply to the world today. The temptation is to think two things. The first is those think this do not have the Holy Spirit to enlighten then about what the Bible says. This is true because God’s Word cannot be understood by those who do not follow God. The second idea is we blame them for not trying to read the Bible in the first place. More than likely for many the most they have heard about the Bible is from pundites trying to distort it or politians who attempt to manipullate it for their personal benefit. While these things might be true, as Christains we need to think about how we can show others how the Bible can be applied to the real world.
The temptation is to focus on the external reasons why people have a bad attitude about the Bible. As Chrsitains and chiurch leaders we need to focus on things we can control. What we can control is the message we portray about the Bible. We need to be focused on applying the Bible to the issues and problems of the twenty first century. This is what Paul did in Acts 17 when he was talking to people in Athens. He quoted their philosophers, he used their temple as an example, and he met them on their terms. He also addressed what he saw was their biggest problem of the day, pluralism. Pluralism is the worship of multiple god’s.
We can make the Bible relate to all people, but in order to that you have to do two things. The first is study the Bible. This is more than everyday devotional reading. This ranges from reading commentaries to reading books that cover different areas of theology. The second is to research, study, and get to know the people inside and outside your church. See what areas they excel at, and what areas they struggle at. The job of any leader is to see what is holding is people back, and preventing them from moving forward. Also understanding what people outside of the church struggle with helps show those who are following you the best way to minister to those outside the church. The Bible is an amazing book. The more you read it, the more you connect it to your life, and see a God who desires to have a relationship with you.
One the best ways to build out relationship with God is through worship with God’s people. Worship is where we as Christians express our love for God by praising who He is, and seeing how we can be more like His Son. The problem many have at worship is they are not engaged. They feel like worship is designed for someone else, and they get nothing out of it. This comes from sermons not having practical applications and music that is not appropriate for the worship service. When planning worship services we have to think what will engage out hearts and minds. Jesus said in John 4:24,
For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
When engaging hearts the first thing you have to remember is worship is for believers only. Over the last thirty years the church has realized a huge problem, we are not reaching people with the gospel like we should. At one point in American church history, we saw large masses of people coming to Christ at a time. So many churches and pastors have decided the worship service should be the time where we attempted to reach the masses with the gospel. The problem with mass evangelism is while the numbers looked good, there were many who said yes to Jesus, and they were never seen again. Now there are times in the early church and in our history where mass evangelism has been effective. Acts 2 where Peter preached and 3,000 came to Christ that day is a great example. Billy Graham’s ministry is an example of someone in our recent history that was blessed with an amazing talent of being able to reach thousands at a time with the gospel. However, when it comes to week to week worship the focus needs to be Christians.
The best way to engage a believer’s heart is to focus on the grace all Christians have received from God with faith in Jesus Christ. In music, I prefer songs that specifically speak about the nature and character of the all members Trinity. From A Mighty Fortress Is Our God to Blessed Be the Name of the Lord, all of these songs have same theme, God. There are some great songs written about believers or the life of a Christian that are good, but they are best suited for Christian radio, not Christian worship. The focus of our worship is the one our heart desires most.
As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God. Psalm 42:1 NLT
As we long for our God, we desire to learn more about our God. Rainer and Rainer wrote this based on their research about my generation:
Millennial Christians are seeking to move as close to New Testament Christianity as possible. They have a deep hunger to learn more about Scripture. They understand that they are a relatively small minority in their generation, and they want to be unwavering about their beliefs and convictions. Diluted doctrine and anemic biblical teaching and preaching are huge turnoffs for most Millennial Christians.
Nothing frustrates me more than a sermon or message that has not purpose or real teaching. Sermons that have no challenge to live better or be more like Christ fall on death ears. This goes back to worship being for believers. The type of sermon I like to hear is one that look at a passage of scripture, and breaks down what it says. This style of sermon is called expository preaching. While many consider it old school, it works. Many of the great preachers of yesterday and today preach expository sermons. The sermons that are timeless are typically expository sermons. I want my mind engaged when the pastor is bring God’s Word to those under him.
I know this post was more venting and has little practical application. My hope is it will start some thinking in your mind if you truly desire to reach millinials. Churches that are reaching my generation are getting some of the most active and gospel minded individuals America as not seen in generations.
The good news is that the churches that are successful in attracting Millennial Christians may have some of the most dedicated members in generations.3
I want a church that knows her mandate, shows how the Bible addresses real problems, and worship that engages my heart and my mind. I have no desire to run the church, I just want to see her engage her community in a way that lifts it up.
1. Rainer, Thom S.; Rainer, Jess W. (2010-12-10). The Millennials (pp. 257-258). B&H Books. Kindle Edition.
2 Rainer and Rainer. 261-262
3 Rainer and Rainer. 258
P.S. That is me in the picture above, and what I am ripping in half is a set if Ikea directions. They frustrate me too, but I will save that vent for another day.
This post is part of the daily challenge.