I just finished reading yet another article telling me and my generation of boomers how we have blown it when it comes making the church a place for millennials. According to the articles and books I have read, we are guilty of a multitude of sins. We are: too judgmental, too exclusive, too political, too old-fashioned and in general we are a bunch of haters. We hate sin, we hate sinners, and we hate those who are friends of sinners. We have it all figured out. We know right from wrong and if you disagree with us you are going to hell!
Did I get that about right?
Well, if you are a millennial reading this and you agree with those statements about us, then I want to tell you, I think you’re wrong. You see, most of those statements about the church people I know are not true. Oh sure, there are probably a few like that in every church, but not the vast majority. I spend my life visiting churches, it’s part of my job. Most of the people I encounter are far from the stereotype the media would have us believe. And here is the news flash: the people you are describing are your parents. I am the father of 3 millennials and I would be devastated if I felt my kids believed all those things about me.
As a parent I struggle, along with many in the church, to understand why so many of our children have abandoned the church. I don’t have the answers, but I can tell you if it is for the reasons stated above, for the most part I think you have it wrong. Let me address some of those points.
• Too Judgmental: While it is true that we grew up in a culture and in a time that had “all the answers,” we also live in the culture of today. Unless we have our head in the sand, we are aware of what is happening in the world around us. While we may have some strong opinions about right and wrong, we struggle along with everyone else to reconcile our our faith with the world in which we live. Some of us have faced the challenges and even changed our minds about previous assumptions. And most of the time when we listen to sermons, we are apt to be thinking about our own “log in the eye” and not about you. I don’t think many of us come to church to sit in judgment of the millennials outside the church.
• Too Exclusive: Obviously we are a body of believers united by our faith. But to set us up as a group of people who want nothing to do with people who are different from us is inaccurate and unfair. Most church people I know are concerned about others both inside the church as well as outside. I work for a charity that helps feed and care for the poor around the world. The people funding this work are church people. It’s church people that often offer free clinics, soup kitchens, and drives for school supplies for those who can’t afford them. And when it comes to politics, we are all over the board.
• A Bunch of Haters: Sure there are the few in our midst that would fall into that category, but they are a minority. A minority that is constantly reinforced in the media to make the rest of us look bad. The church at large is not Westboro Baptist Church–far from it. When you categorize us as haters, remember that millennials are our children! We don’t hate our children. Yes, we may have some strong ideas about sin and what needs to be done about our sin. But believing there is a right and wrong on a particular issue is not the same as hate. My experience is that most church people and church leaders are open to conversation about some of the things you think we hate. We may be on different sides of a cultural issue, but we don’t hate you because of it.
Most Christ followers I know are struggling just like everyone else to make their lives mean something in this world we live in. The church continues to be a place of community for us. It has it’s flaws, to be sure, for we are made up of humans who are flawed. As one pastor pointed out to me, the church the only institution that mattered to Christ. It is, or should be an institution of people known for their love, not their hate. I invite you to visit us with an open mind, talk to us. You might just be surprised at what you find.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 6 comments