The Exodus of Millennials From the Church
There is an exodus of millennials from the Church. The question is, why?
Waywardness is a choice; it's a thought out decision, it's not impulsive.
With millennials, elders are acting as sheepdogs, rather than shepherds, trying to keep their fold together.
It would be unwise to claim to know the root of the issue, but I think there are some common denominators we can look at to give us clues.
To find some of the answers, we need to examine the church culture millennials grew up in. During this period Christian marketing exploded. DC Talk was pumping through mainstream radio stations, Jesus Freak topped the charts. Millennial church kids decked themselves out in W.W.J.D. bracelets and wore shirts displaying a Jesus fish. If you were a super Christian you might have burned your secular music, this was more if you were becoming a postulant.
If you desired to be a Christian first you must do your ABC's, admit, believe, confess. Once you became a Christian the next steps were to throw away any secular music, books, or clothing. If you knew anyone who drank alcohol, they were put on the top of the prayer list. Also, don't forget to remove your baseball cap in the sanctuary.
The point I'm trying to get at is we, the Church, indoctrinated millennials with an, "us versus the world" attitude. I'm not undermining the importance of holiness and refraining from worldly influences, but the Church created a legalistic culture when millennials were growing up.
Point in case, I worked with a girl who grew up attending "speed readers conventions." The goal was to memorize books of the Bible; judges would quote bible verses and the "speed readers" would race to find the scripture. She was a top finalist in the state of Texas. I even tested her, and she knew the Bible better than me, at least in finding scripture. However, now she's in her twenties and renounced her faith and is into new age philosophy.
When you speak with a millennial who used to be in the Church, you will hear a similar story. They know the Bible, they've heard the message, but ultimately they were turned off by the church.
One thing to look at is the way the gospel was presented in this period. When I went church, I was encouraged to say the sinner's prayer every time. There was always an emphasis on asking Jesus into my heart so I could escape eternal damnation.
What it did to me was make me think salvation was a one-time transactional deal. If this, in fact, was preaching tactic used by leaders across the nation, then this indeed was part of the issue.
When you present Christ as a ticket to heaven through a one-time prayer, you cheapen the gospel. Most churches now shy away from presenting an altar call or reciting the sinner's prayer. David Platt repeatedly emphasizes in his sermons the importance of a sold-out life for Christ, not a one-time commitment.
However, this was how the gospel was presented to millennials in their youth. Couple that with a legalistic, "us versus the world" mentality, it plants shallow roots.
Let's fast forward to modern day. The next two underlying issues go hand and hand. The divinity of scripture and social issues.
I want to mention real quick, of the millennials who left the Chruch, a handful of them still want the aspect of God in their life. This mentality has created the Progressive Christian; I use the word Christian lightly. In short, progressives shape the Bible to the culture.
Those who walked away from the Church or who now go to a progressive church most likely do not believe the in the divinity of scripture. They read it as if they were reading a self-help book, not a holy book. So when they come to passages that don't fit the mold they like, they can discard it and move on. It's like an a' la carte version of Christianity.
With the advancement of liberal values, the social issues of gay marriage, abortion, and gender come into the spotlight. Matt Walsh wrote a book on the topic, The Unholy Trinity. It's on my to-read-list in the near future. I highlight the book because these three issues are what is driving millennials from the Church.
Progressives see biblical values as counter-cultural. Christians are portrayed as villains, and it's difficult to be a young professional who holds biblical values. What makes matters worse is conservative Christians don't always voice their beliefs peacefully.
I often drive home to visit my parents who live in Oklahoma. Along the drive, there's a billboard, which has a man symbol, a plus sign, followed by the symbol for a woman; it reads, "Please I need your help with this ~ God."
I'm not against the value the message supports; I'm against the way it's voiced.
This billboard only hurts the image of the Church. I say this because the people the message desires to reach, does not believe in the divinity of scripture. So when you shove biblical trues into a billboard in a sarcastic tone, it accomplishes little to nothing.
It further affirms the image of the Church they remember from their childhood of an, "us versus the world" ideology.
Overall, if we combine the way millennials experienced church in their childhood, their social values, and their stance against the divinity of scripture, it's the perfect storm. In their minds, being a Christian means following rules and holding outdated values.
Although millennials are leaving the church, there is hope; many are still searching for God.
How can we draw those who are seeking, back to the Truth?
The answer is found in the words of Jesus. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
When the body of Christ functions in large as one unit, we will shine brightly in our culture. We need to let down the walls of our denominations and work together. Who wants to be apart of a family who is constantly bickering with one another?
We need to approach social issues with wisdom.
The word of God instructs us to speak in a loving manner, Colossians 4:6. In Corinthians, we find one of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness. Multiple times throughout Proverbs it instructs us how to communicate with wisdom.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 25:11
"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
"The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil." Proverbs 15:28
When we attempt to beat the truth into our culture, it only drives them further away. In no way should we delude the truth, we need to uphold it, but we need to be wise in how we address cultural issues.
Lastly, share our story of God's amazing grace.
Your testimony is the most powerful weapon you have in your arsenal. Someone can challenge the divinity of scripture, but they can not challenge what God has done in your life.
Many Millineals may have never truly known the love of God. When one understands the beautiful redemptive story of a Christ, it shows the values of the world as they truly are.
God's grace is powerful, and his love is unrelenting. If we, his people, can mirror his grace and love to the world. It will break the chains of bondage on Generation Y.