Millennials And Christianity!

Megan Haleh is one of the most spiritual young women I know. She loves the Lord with an insatiable passion. She attends a small church in the Bible Belt. I consider myself to be an enormously blessed father to have a daughter who spends hours talking to me about the Lord. A few days ago, we had one of those interesting conversations.

We were talking about what it would take for her generation to become followers of Christ. Today, there are ample studies on Christian “nones” and “dones.” Study after study talks about what’s wrong with the church, why Christians are leaving her, and what needs to be done to bring them back, but there’s almost nothing about replacing those who’ve migrated with new blood through evangelism.

I established the first Iranian Christian church in the US purely through evangelism. Working with Muslims, I didn’t have the privilege of simply coming up with better programs to attract them to our gatherings. As I’ve always said, “Muslims don’t wake up Sunday mornings saying, ‘Honey, where would you like to go to church this fine morning?’” We had to go find them and win them to Christ. So, for me, evangelism has always been the only means of church growth. Consequently, I’m very interested in how to introduce Millennials to Christ, who for the most part like Muslims will not on their own go out of their way to come to our churches.

Subsequent to our conversation, Megan sent me the following email, which is a personal assessment of her own generation.

My generation is running around and searching every corner for the next big thing—the next distraction. We love shiny new objects, but they only hold our attention for a minute and then we lose interest. We burn out easily. The majority of our day-to-day experience is very shallow (this bar, that date, this new job, twitter this, instagram that, etc.). This is why I think my generation would thrive on a real God-encounter. Something substantial. Something lasting. Something that isn’t dulling the senses for a moment holding our attention until time passes, but a REAL encounter that quenches the thirst of our desperate souls, and leaves us longing for more.

My generation does not want the God that we saw our parents worship. I am sure that stems from much deeper generational issues than I could uncover. But we don’t want legalism, and a checklist-Christianity

But in the midst of this tension, we have the mega churches in the South doing very well. They draw in a large demographic of unchurched young adults who would have never been caught in a church otherwise. The church services are short (50 minutes), they appeal to our shiny object attention span with loud music and flashing lights.

The pastors are polished and preach good and easy messages that aren’t “churchy”, but easy to listen to and digest. They’re Bible-based messages with just one or two scriptures teaching us how to be better people, but they’re never deep. No, once you scratch past the surface, you have to probably find a new church to find out what is beneath that surface.

These types of churches are full of an amazing void. They are bringing the unchurched to Christ, but then what? They make it to church on Sunday. God peels back the layers of their heart to the extent that they are exposed to in 50 minutes, and…then what?

Is their community going to be better, or even different because Mary and John went to a 50-minute service on Sunday? Quite Possibly

But are they going to be world changers? Are they going to seek out real God encounters? Maybe, but I don’t think so. In my personal journey, the biggest changes have happened when I have had life changing encounters with God. And going back to my initial statement, this is what I think my generation is longing for—depth, tangible encounters, and relationship—though we may be pacified with 50-minute snippets of a dim reflection of glory.

Along with thousands of ex-Muslims, I am a good example of someone who has had that REAL encounter Megan talks about. The majority of us became followers of Christ not because of a profound message an evangelist preached to us, but because we had a tangible experience with our Savior. My own experience was very much like that of Paul’s. I met God face to face and then believed. This is something that the Millennials need to experience before accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.

What do you think will draw people to God?

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22 thoughts on “Millennials And Christianity!

  1. … In the end, it’s one’s experience of Jesus why is it so few at times, can a 60ish year old take hold of an experience when he/she was a teenager?

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    1. Eric, at least in my life, I use my conversion experience as a landmark, but I believe I need to have fresh and new encounters with the living God in regular basis throughout my life. So, the “60ish year old” person you’re referring to (ME) needs to have a renewing encounters with God throughout his life.

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  2. I think pastors who walk around and know their people are instrumental in helping them have deeper personal relationships with Christ. Business has found a benefit in “management by walking around” and I thought of that when I read Pastor Eugene Peterson’s book “the Pastor” in which he noted the very things mentioned by the young lady quoted in the article. It isn’t a new problem, and pastoring by walking around helps provide a solution, in my humble opinion. They want relationship and more depth. They don’t get it from marketing glitz and excellently delivered sermons.

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    1. Fair points, but in the end when we talk a lot about relationships, loving people but the greatest stumbling block is it’s the hardest work ever, time, consistency but most of all choice. I think also the fear of being “used.”

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    2. Barry, I completely agree. BUT, they get people in the seats. And they get mega-churches. I don’t think the people of my generation even know that they want depth because they have never sought it out–never experienced it.

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  3. I don’t know if I’m qualified as a millennial, I was was told as a teen I was part of Gen X… But I digress. I agree with Megan completely. People are searching, and are incredibly distracted with what is new and shiney. But along with that are searching for something authentic- they can smell phony a mile away; but also something honestly relevant. They don’t want legalism to constrict meaningful relationships, control and become the focus of their lives. They are searching for the freedom from shackles that have been placed maybe by parents, themselves, society. A lot don’t feel accepted and are looking for that freedom to be who God intended them to be without abandon. My prayer and hope is that they encounter that life changing love and freedom that comes from a authentic experience with God the father.

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  4. Upon further investigation, I know that I am not a Millennial (per an article I was reading as I was not sure, the cutoff is 1982), but I am pretty close (1980). Now what caught me was the initial God experience where in a moment I knew my extreme need for Him (think Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, but dumbed down and edited for easier consumption version) and His presence. What kept me was being needed and not marginalized due to my age. I was given real responsibilities (which may or not have been wise) and was relied upon. If the local church where I finally connected to God had asked me to stack chairs (as I have heard many people describe their early ministry started, and have seen others model after) I would not have stayed. I jumped in with both feet and connected with real ministry working with those around me to help others. That is what kept me with the local church and with the Church as a whole even to this day.

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      1. Correct, it wasn’t my point, but a good question none the less. Let me say, I have stacked and straightened a good number of chairs. I believe that it SHOULD be part of multiple ministries, and not (unless someone enjoys / wants / feels called to) someone’s complete ministry. As someone who has moved churches (I did not grow up in the church, so I do not have a home church where I have years of relationships, and inroads to ministry opportunities) I have had “chair ministry” suggested as a way that I could serve. Yes humility in service is a good thing, but valuing someone by their ability to simply stack chairs, not so sure …

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  5. One way might be like this: 1st step is investing quality time in one life, establishing a caring relationship and explaining the Gospel. Once the person decides to follow Christ as Lord, disciple the individual to maturity to the point that s/he can repeat the process. Have groups of no more than 12-13. Maintaining Fullness of the Holy Spirit is essential for c/Church survival and growth.

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    1. I completely agree. That is how I developed my relationship with God. But what do you do with a group that does not feel the need for a relationship with Christ outside of “I said the sinners prayer.”? Or a group that does not have the attention span to grow deep relationships? THAT is the generation we are dealing with.

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      1. That is the reason I wrote “investing quality time”. It would take a while to get your generation decouple from the fleeting, however, since there is the innate hunger, and you have the bread, sooner or later the connection will be made for deeper hunger. The Holy Spirit is at work too. A lot of prayers/fasting (part of the time investment) has to go into this type of service for it to be fruitful.

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  6. You and your daughter are so blessed. If Millenials had her passion, wisdom and depth, the world and the future would be brighter, indeed. I think the distinction should be made, of a genuine encounter with Jesus, as you both stated vs. the current trend of “experiential” among many believers, young and old, new & “seasoned” whereupon the experience is more important than actual, Scriptural interaction. I am referring to the Emerging Church & its idealogy (The Bible is outdated, let’s make a new paradigm) Contemplative Prayer, “Christian yoga”, meditation outside of discernment and even more extreme pursuits (“grave sucking” is a new craze: I can’t make this stuff up! It’s out there and it’s not scriptural) The Church is rapidly descending into an amalgamation of New Age pudding (quick sand?) that appeals to the five senses, not Biblical doctrine. The Truth is sharper than any two-edged sword and that makes for true conversions thus true believers that change the world.

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    1. Carolyn, I have never heard of those things but they sound terrible. And it might be more out West. Here in the Bible Belt we are pretty straight-laced. They are afraid of regular yoga, so I don’t think grave sucking will ever make its way into Christianity.

      However, I disagree with your inclusion of contemplative prayer. The Desert Fathers and Mothers, the mystics, and even modern day Mother Teresa would all adhere to the use of contemplative prayer. I would not connect this with the Emerging Church.

      Now there are modern movements that are growing among this generation (ie, Bethel churches and Houses of Prayer) that are young, and modern, and less conservative in their style that very strongly uphold the idea of contemplative prayer. These are not New Age churches, but rather groups that are seeking a deeper relationship with their Creator.

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    2. Thank you Carolyn for always making comments on my posts! I’m truly honored.

      Yes, I’m very blessed to have such a God loving daughter.

      One of the greatest mistakes we, the Protestants, made was throwing the baby out with bathwater. Out of the fear of anything that sounded Catholic, we stopped using what’s for the last 2000 years known as Spiritual Disciplines, which among other disciplines, includes contemplation/meditation. Please look up godly Protestant men like Foster and Dallas Willard.

      I’m sure Saul who knew his OT Scriptures as well as anyone else would not have become a follower of Christ if he didn’t have his Damascus Road experience. I wonder how many of his old Pharisee friends mocked him for believing an “experience” rather than reading his OT.

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