When Lisa and I were newly married we became a part of an adult group at church dedicated to our demographic. Each Sunday we gathered together with other couples under the age of thirty for conversation and fellowship. It was a remarkable group. It seemed almost everyone there had a passion for the Bible and knew it well. Several had degrees from Bible colleges and many had attended seminary. In this group my knowledge was unimpressive. I did not stand out at all.
In spite of the wealth of Bible knowledge and spiritual commitment there was something we lacked compared to young people today. None of us felt entitled to a voice in church leadership. No one talked about being an elder or leading a ministry and all of us accepted the fact that it was not yet our time. We knew we needed to grow and learn, that leadership positions were in our future, not our present. We were willingly taught each week by older men in their fifties and sixties, confident that they possessed wisdom and experience we lacked.
This is in stark contrast to the current young generation, many of whose members are quite antagonistic to mature church leadership. A friend of mine recently shared a post on why it is that Millenials are not going to church. Written by a Millenial, it unintentionally clarifies the arrogance of the current generation.
Here are some of the reasons given for young people turning away from the church-
- Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think.
- Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough. We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.
Throughout the post runs the theme that the current millennial generation has something special to offer, a special insight into the church and the culture that is being missed by the older generations. The author is confident in his assertions that older believers are driving younger believers away and believes himself to be offering effective solutions. He appears to be sadly blinded to the arrogance of his assertions.
When I was 24 the church didn’t care what I thought either. No one sought my input on anything. I didn’t mind because I recognized the truth- At the age of 24 my opinion wasn’t worth much. I lacked the experience and wisdom that comes with age. I understood that as a young person in church it was a time for me to hear and learn. The time for being heard and teaching would come later, if I was faithful. If I wanted a voice I could earn it through a life of service and godliness. Even though I was a bright young man at the time 30 years later I look back and see the foolishness of many of my young thoughts and opinions. Passion and commitment were not substitutes for wisdom and experience.
Millennials have grown up being taught that they are important and deserving of attention and praise. Parents and teachers have celebrated modest accomplishments. Christian youth have grown up in an "everyone gets a trophy" world that teaches them their youthful opinions matter, that they have something to say and deserve to be heard, and that they are enough "just the way they are." They have embraced this worldview without realizing that these are the teachings of the world and not the teachings of Scripture. Passages such as 1 Peter 5:5-6, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time", are a clear reminder of how God moves within the church.
Just as Millennials are struggling with where they fit into the church so is the church at large struggling with how to respond to them. To the church at large I offer this warning- Do not try to appeal to or appease wrong thinking. The brilliant Christian author Michael Horton, in his book Ordinary, says it well-
“It is nothing new when young people want churches to pander to them. What is new is the extent to which churches have obliged. In previous generations elders- both officers and simply older and wiser members- wouldn’t let that happen. They took young people under their wing and taught them by word and example what it meant to begin to accept the privileges and responsibilities of membership in Christ’s body.”
Horton then identifies the core reason young people are abandoning church-
“For the first time in the history of the church it is now possible to go from the nursery to children’s church to Sunday school to the youth group and college ministry without ever actually having experienced church membership. Shocking surveys abound reporting that many of our children are dropping out of church by their college years. But maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking if they were never actually involved in church to begin with.”
The generation that has been taught it is all about them desperately needs to be confronted with that lie. It is not about them. It is about God. It is about what God says, what God proclaims and what God commands. God’s commands, while never burdensome, challenge our comfort and disrupt our lives.
Thanks for reading and sharing. I can be followed on Twitter @bartbarrettmd, and many of my sermons can be watched on my vimeo page, www.vimeo.com/bartbarrett. In addition I am available as a guest speaker and can be reached through this website via the contact page.