Millennials, The Church, And You.

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A post came across my timeline the other day, then a friend sent it to me and asked my opinion. I must admit, when I read this post about 5 trends millennial Christians need to stop by John Wesley Reid,  I was terribly conflicted. I was conflicted because there’s a lot in those five trends that is spot on and needed criticism of Millennials and how they “do church.” Some of it, though, comes across like a “get off my lawn” fundamentalist. Then I saw the guy’s picture. He looks about my age, and he’s not married, so I’m guessing he’s a bit younger than me. Since I straddle the Millennial/Gen-X border, I imagine he’s firmly in millennial territory. Edit: he’s nine months younger than me.

This confused me further.

So I read another post, and another, and another. I read 4 or 5 of Reid’s posts in all in one sitting, and then I got really confused. I agreed with virtually everything else I read. So I sent the guy an e-mail. I told him I was going to write this post and asked him to interact with some of my confusion (no response yet…) because some of the trends he sees in Christian Millennials are spot on…these ones though…not so much:

#IAmAChristianBut

A couple weeks ago this hashtag started trending. Evangelical reaction to it was mixed. Some people were opposed to it,others saw it as a harmless way to poke fun at our own foibles. Reid, it seems, was against it. Saying:

Your advocacy for Christ should never come at the expense of your relationship with Him. Here are 5 ways that many Christian millennials are hurting their delivery of the gospel to a world that desperately needs it.

If you’ve been a reader of mine for any length of time, you know that I think the church at large has much to repent of in how we have at best presented the gospel poorly over that last 50 years or so and at worst supplanted the gospel for Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. I think we need to find a balance between good, solid orthodoxy and being winsome and loving. It’s ok to laugh at each other and ourselves once in a while.

Tolerance – You’re using that word…

I hate “tolerance.” Not the concept, I think that’s pretty great. I hate the word. Nobody knows what it means anymore! There’s a new tolerance and an old one, a liberal one and a conservative one. Reid says this about it:

Jesus was the prime example of love, but never does He display an ounce of tolerance.

Um…no, sorry. Though I guess to be fair, I don’t know how Reid uses the word. If, however, he is using it like I use it: to “put up with something you disagree with, or something that is wrong” then he’s wrong about Jesus. Jesus is super tolerant, uber tolerant even. After all, Jesus spent three years walking around, tolerating 12 sinners who kept dropping the ball pretty heavily. The 12 didn’t become the definition of awesome until Acts 2, and by then, Jesus had ascended into heaven. Not to mention all the times Jesus and God the Father allowed people to live after they had sinned. I once heard John Piper say: “Every breath you take is an unmitigated act of mercy [tolerance?] on God’s part.” So, yeah, Jesus, and His heavenly Father are actually pretty darned tolerant.

Don’t do anything secular, ever!

At least, that’s how it comes across:

But even the movies we watch and the music we listen to are important. If it has an explicit language sticker on it then there’s really no justification to be listening to it. It needs to be tossed. “But I’m an adult.” Yes, which means you’re a Christian and you’re old enough to know better. Not to mention you’re supposed to be setting the example. Junk in, junk out no matter your age.

I get it. I went through a “get rid of all my Dennis Leary CDs and Grand Theft Auto games phase” too. But let’s not forget that Jesus hung out with sinners so much people thought He was one! Now, by no means am I advocating mindless consumption of entertainment for no reason. And of course, if you sense yourself being drawn into unholy behaviours by something you take in, by all means, cut it out of your life. But listening to and trying to understand where secular people are coming from is not a bad thing. I’d say it’s step one in effectively sharing the Gospel.

Keep your criticism to yourself. What we’re doing is fine.

It’s popular to bash the institutional side of Christianity. Heck, I’m guilty of it as well! but this line struck a cord with me:

Christian Millennials are quick to throw the Church under the bus. Blogs are constantly cycling the internet like “3 reasons why I left my youth group” (and of course it’s the youth group/youth pastor’s fault, not the student who left).

My youth pastors were all pretty good, but a lot of them (and a lot of how youth ministry is done these days) are knuckleheads who eschew real fellowship and replace it with weekly “chubby bunny” and “cinnamon challenge” nights. This must be mocked and ridiculed until it changes. Youth ministry is not day-care+abstinence training for teenagers.

I’m hoping I’m blowing all this out of proportion. I’m hoping I read Reid wrong. Like I said, I’ve loved everything else I’ve read of his. But I think we need to listen closer to the criticisms of millennials. They know this culture better than many of us do. They speak the language. If we fail to listen to them, the world may continue to ignore us.

That’s something they can’t afford to do.

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