So I’m reading yet another article about why millennials have dropped out of church.
How many have a read in the past year?
More than the numbers of stars in the skies. And what do I hear?
A whole bunch of whining.
Once again, I’m reading about how it’s all “our fault” – “our” meaning either the church, pastors, or Christians in the church. And just what are our egregious sins?
According to this article, no one is listening to what “their needs” are. Oh, they do throw in a few self-righteous things like we “don’t help the needy enough”, even though church ministries and Christians make up the overwhelming majority of benevolent ministries nationwide.
And never mind the article is written by a guy who has little connection to the local church at all. So I guess he would know, right?
Basically, he says we’ve not catered to them enough. We’re simply not good enough for them, I guess. In the words of Wayne, “We’re not worthy!”
Dear millennials, let me say this with all the love in my heart:
“Shut up, quit the whining, and go back to the couch to watch your Netflix. I know you, and I’m not buying any of it.”
This is the generation that wants to be seen as socially conscious. So they protest, they post memes on Facebook, they complain. They’ve been taught that politically correct thinking and opinions are the moral equivalent of “right action”.
So they do everything but actually pick up a shovel and start digging the world out of the mess we’re in. And they really believe that by “raising consciousness”, they’ve done something of value.
Most of their protests are just talk masquerading as actions.
Their lives are drowning in symbolic gestures. They look at a starving child on the news, say “How sad”, and think that makes them a caring person. They give the homeless guy on the off-ramp a $10 and feel like Mother Theresa, not stopping to think he’s just taking that $10 straight to the liquor store. But they’d never think of actually volunteering to teach a class for the homeless or train them in job skills.
Many of their lives at this juncture are best described by Shakespeare in Macbeth:
“It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I’ve done my share of trying to get Millennials into church. They usually last a couple of weeks, and then get bored. Their boredom’s not because our service is old school, because we’re definitely not. We meet in a nightclub with contemporary music and easy-to-understand sermons. And we’re involved in the community, actively helping foster children, abused women, and many other at-risk people.
The real reason they’re bored is because our church is not focused enough on entertaining them. Frankly, I just can’t compete with their PlayStations and iPhones. It’s even funny sometimes watching them not able to stay off Facebook or text messages for one single hour.
Oh yes, they boldly announce their approval of our ministries into the community, they just have no desire to participate. That’s something “someone (else) really ought to be helping with”, they say quite righteously. Those words are usually where their involvement ends.
But unfortunately I know their lives, which don’t match all their “self-righteous talk” about the church not doing enough, and their “victim-mentality talk” about how much some church has hurt them.
Please. Give it a rest, already.
DISCLAIMER: I do in fact know some awesome Millennials. My daughter, for instance. She just quit her job to take care of her sister-in-laws kids. Their mother is struggling with substance abuse and the kids have been removed from her care by the police. Now my daughter’s spending her days raising someone else’s kids. She is sacrificing her own life for their safety, and she is my hero.
But for those now whining and molding a couch to fit their own behinds, this kindly old pastor is about to go off on you. So pull up your big boy pants for a minute and hold on tight…
Please stop telling me how the church isn’t doing enough when you aren’t doing anything but talking. “The church ought to do this! The church ought to do that!”
Well, sister, the little bit we’re doing is a whole lot more than the big fat nothing you’re doing.
And stop telling me that because one person or pastor in one church hurt you that you’ve now run crying from the room like a spanked toddler. Listen, I know people who have horrible tales of abuse and are still in the church. Someone hurt them badly, but they had the brains and commitment to know that one person didn’t represent the entire population of Christendom.
Amazingly, these people did something you’ve never thought of when they were damaged in church: they simply got up one Sunday AND WENT TO A DIFFERENT ONE!
It’s like you had a bad experience with a clerk at the supermarket, so you decided to swear off food forever. Really?
There are many people who see the obvious shortcomings in the church, but are still there. They are realists and know any institution made up of humans will undoubtably be imperfect. These people aren’t just looking for any excuse to rationalize their lack of love for God or others.
And at its heart, that’s what abandoning the church is: selfish and unloving.
And here’s the epiphany many of my millennial friends need to grasp: church was never just supposed to be about you! It was supposed to be about you being there for others, not just them being there for you! But you are so immersed in a consumer mentality, you think any service that didn’t inspire or encourage you personally was a waste of your time…
What about the people sitting next to you? Did you ever stop to think God might have designed that service especially for their needs, not yours?
Did you ever stop to consider that the universe doesn’t necessarily revolve around the axis of “Planet You”? That there are other people who breathe and take up space here?
My own epiphany came after reading some of the comments accompanying that article on Millennials. Many chiming in to agree where actually not millennials, but boomers – their parents. They testified about how they’d stopped going to church too, using many of the same excuses the article offered. Their excuses betrayed much of the same “consumer mindset” as that of their kids.
Of course, when I interjected how the Bible commands us as Christians to attend church, I was labeled a legalist and accused of “being unloving”. But even though these people claimed to believe the Bible, it’s amazing how “unloving” their book also is on the subject:
“You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other. Do this even more as you see the day coming” – Hebrews 10:25
This was written to Jewish Christians who were avoiding church attendance because of very real persecution. They were suffering for their faith by being lumped in with Christians, so they were starting to stay home.
I wonder what that early church would have thought of us today, who stay home simply because of the wimpy excuses listed in that Millennial article. I can only imagine their blank stares and amazement at such trivial complaints when they had lost jobs and even the lives of their own family members.
As I continued to read the article’s comments, my epiphany came clearly into view. Perhaps Millennials are just doing the logical thing, in light of what they’ve been taught by their parents. From the comments of those parents, it’s clear they’ve made the same selfish excuses about not attending church. They also bought the lie that church was “just about them and their needs”, ignoring all the good God has called us to do in the world as His Body.
Sure, they pretend they still do those things, but really don’t. The pesky thing about going to church is that people can tell when all you’re doing is warming a pew. Attending makes you feel uncomfortable when everyone else is helping and you’re not.
It’s so much easier to sit home and hide, where no one can see the evidence of your inaction.
In truth, Millennials are just copying the flaccid faith of their parents. They heard all the talk about “Jesus” growing up, but never saw it make a difference in the way their parents lived. All they saw was attendance in hundreds of service that never changed how they lived their daily lives.
Why in the world would they want to keep doing something that pointless?
Last night after a rehearsal, a church member who I’d had the pleasure of baptizing as a new Christian confided in me about her day. Someone had asked her to do something on Sunday, but she mentioned she couldn’t because she had church that morning. The friend responded with a snide insult about her being a Christian now. I could see the obvious hurt and amazement on my friend’s face at being put down simply because of her priorities.
She’s amazed at the amount of anger simple church attendance brought toward her and other friends who’ve come to Christ. How family and friends treat them like fanatics, simply because they want to worship once a week with other believers. But I reminded her that by quietly living her life, she was convicting her friends of the emptiness in their own. Her commitment cuts through all their excuses and exposes their selfishness.
It’s amazing how just a little light hurts the eyes of those who are so used to the darkness.
As I thought of my friend, I remembered those in other countries today who are being jailed and even killed for daring to worship together each week. They meet in secret and sing their worship songs in hushed tones, fearing discovery by the police.
I can’t help wondering what they would think about that article on Millennials. I imagine they’d read it but eventually conclude the writer must be talking about a different Jesus than they one they’s sacrifice so much to worship. Surely no one who’d met the real Jesus could ever resist worshipping Him together with other believers, no matter what the cost.
And I think they’d be right. It truly must not be the same Jesus after all.