Pastor Tim Lucas doesn’t buy into the idea that millennials and Generation Z are the least Christian generations to date.
“There’s the popular thought where Millennials are leaving the church in droves. That’s true; there’s a record rise of the religious ‘nones,’ but I see it more like a rise of the religious ‘dones,’” the pastor of Liquid Church in Parsippany, New Jersey, told The Christian Post.
“There’s a generation growing up who are done with traditional church and the way we know it from the last 50 years. However, they are probably some of the most spiritually open and curious generations we’ve ever seen."
According to Lucas, the problem isn’t with young people; it’s with the way the message of the Gospel has traditionally been presented by the church.
"I think the hand-wringing approach to millenials and Gen Z is an invitation for a wholesale reinvention of the methods by which we present Jesus to a new generation," he said.
“There’s a cultural shift underway, where young people are extremely experientially oriented. They want to know, ‘What’s the social good in this before I buy it? So the church’s traditional message of evangelism was propositional truth: Here’s why Christianity is valid and a superior belief system. The Good News was proclaimed and explained.”
However, when Jesus shared the “Gospel of grace with truly hell-bent pagans,” He adopted a “double approach,” Lucas argued.
“There was a demonstration of grace: Be healed, serve the poor. And then there’s the proclamation of the Gospel: Your sins are forgiven,” he said. “Up and coming generations are concerned with biblical justice; how the church tangibly helps the poor and needy. It’s a reverse discipleship process. The church must reclaim its birthright of saying, ‘The message of the Gospel is good for both the soul and body.’”
Lucas knows a thing or two about reaching rising generations and the unchurched for Christ.
In 2007, he and a handful of his 20-something friends founded Liquid Church in a post-Christian region of the northeast where the words “dry, boring, stale, and irrelevant” are seen as synonymous with “church.”
“In the gospel of John, Jesus promises living water to spiritually thirsty people and we believe church should be refreshing,” Lucas explained. “We launched Liquid Church in a very dry region of our country. We have a God-given vision to saturate our state with the gospel of Jesus Christ without watering down the Gospel.”
Fast forward to 2020 and Liquid Church is a thriving, multi-campus church with over 5,000 members of all ages and demographics.
“We have five generations all sitting in the pews at the same time,” he noted. “Boomers, Gen X, Millenials, Gen Z — there is an unprecedented moment of generational transfer that’s happening. We’re seeing older generations and millennials partnering together to revitalize churches.”
Liquid Church, Lucas said, seeks to “saturate the state of New Jersey with the Gospel through two hands, one open, and one closed.”
“We’re close-handed about the message, meaning the Gospel never changes, yet we’re open about the methods because they always need to change to reach the hearts and minds for the next generation.
"The liquid metaphor is appropriate because we need to take a fluid approach to ministry. We’re not changing the message but our methods need to change. The Gospel of grace is timeless, but the methods need to look different to reach the next generation for Christ.”
An estimated 3,500 churches in North America will close their doors this year, Lucas stressed. “Something needs to change. It’s an absolute tragedy.”
In his new book, Liquid Church: 6 Powerful Currents to Saturate Your City for Christ, the pastor pairs up with award-winning researcher and author Dr. Warren Bird to share the ministry currents that are resonating with rising generations and attracting thousands to the cause of Christ.
His goal, he told CP, is to inspire church leaders wanting to broaden their reach, whether they serve a new church plant, a fast-growing congregation, or an aging ministry.
“I want to help pastors identify when their church is ready for rebirth,” he said. “When you wake up and realize you’re preaching to the choir or already converted every Sunday, your church needs a rebirth. At that point, you’re in the 'movement-to museum stage.’ You find you’re burying more people than you’re baptizing.”
“It’s difficult to get a church when it’s in that decline. Another indication your church is ready for rebirth is when the cost of maintenance starts outpacing the impact of the ministry.”
Two Liquid Church campuses are “rebirth campuses,” he said. “One church was down to 27 seniors when they called us. They were going to close their doors. They said, ‘We hate your music, but you’re baptizing our grandchildren.’”
“These senior saints admitted they had confused the message with the methods. In 30 days, they voted unanimously to donate their entire church building property, assets, parsonage to Liquid. They took an incredible risk to be reborn into a new era of ministry.”
For the next 18 months, tattooed millennials partnered with senior saints to remodel the church, replacing stained glass with hi-definition screens. On opening day, the church had over 1,000 visitors.
“It became Liquid’s fastest-growing campus in the church’s history at that time," the pastor said. "You have an older church that has assets, a spiritual legacy, but typically few people, no vision, not much momentum. They’re joining hands with younger churches that have momentum and vision and reaching new converts, and together, they’re reaching a lost world with the Gospel.”
Today, those 27 seniors still attend Liquid Church. Many of them have become mentors to those in the next generation.
“They still cry when they talk about our ministry merger,” he said. “They say, ‘This is what we always dreamed of. And as a young church, we are so blessed to have these spiritually mature mothers and fathers alongside us.”
The world, Lucas emphasized, is “desperate” to see generations come together and do something great for God.
“When God brings generations together, it’s a win-win for the Kingdom,” he said. “There's a palpable hunger today for multigenerational ministry that unites young and old millennials, boomers, seniors, all generations around the person of Jesus.
“Christians humbly crossing generational lines is vital for churches to not only survive but thrive in today's fluid culture.”