Millennials could be the greatest thing that happens to the Church.
Maybe that’s an over exaggeration, because there are a lot of pretty great things that happened to the Church. The conversion of the Apostle Paul, for one. DC Talk, for another. (Okay, I jest.)
I’m tired of all of the blogs and articles which talk about what millennials are doing wrong and why they’re leaving the Church. One recently trending (which had some good points) referred to the possible “death of Christianity.” Death of Christianity? “On this rock I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Poorly run youth groups do not mean the demise of Christ-followers.
Millennials are leaving the church. I have seen this to be true among my peers and the younger millennials I know. In many churches, there are not fellowship groups for young adults when they get to college, or less still right after they graduate. We are a part of an entitled generation and culture that believes we should be consumers rather than contributors in our local congregations. We are a part of a generation and culture that seeks community on social media rather than dealing with the conflicts that arise by life-on-life fellowship. We are a part of a generation and culture that worships comfort. If my current fellowship doesn’t meet my needs or makes me uncomfortable, I can join a new one. Or I can leave this one. We are a part of a generation and culture that does not know how to suffer.
But there is a remnant. We see this pattern over and over again in Israel’s story; God keeps for Himself a remnant. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah speaks to God about his generation: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword.” God responds with instructions for His servant and a promise, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal.”
In a challenge to a stadium full of Christian millennials at Liberty University, Johnnie Moore said last year, “God has equipped your generation with the desire to serve the poor and share the Gospel.” It’s true, I’ve seen it.
At the 2012 Urbana conference, I was a mission agency representative. Students came by our booth to talk about going overseas, giving their lives to spread the name of Jesus, to love people as God loves them. They’re passionate, they’re willing; they’re not satisfied with only sitting in the pew because they desire to embrace the technology of this generation by going. I asked some of these millennials what their dreams are: working with refugee communities, getting women out of the sex trade, going to the parts of the world where the name of Jesus Christ has not even been heard.
There is a remnant. There is a remnant that is willing to learn to suffer, to be uncomfortable, and to contribute to the needs of the Body. There is a remnant that God is raising up who know that the reason there are places in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ is because the least reached is the hardest to reach. There is a remnant that is bold enough to act, to go, and to serve.
But millennials, some of what they say about us is true. We need humility and grace within the church. We need to bring our desire to serve the poor and to share the Gospel into submission to Christ and other believers on a daily basis. We cannot run off and do it on our own. “For just as the body is one and has many members, all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free [millennials, boomers, or those in between] – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). We cannot succeed without the body, but maybe we are the shot of adrenaline the Body needs to keep its heart beating.
This post was developed out of a conversation with my friend Carrie Givens. Some of the ideas and phrases in here are hers. She was awesome enough to let me use them.