How Many Millennials Do You Think Have Experienced God?

One of the best times in my life was when I taught at a Bible college. I taught from 2001 to 2006. I loved it! I spent many hours with about 400-500 young men and women. To some, I became more than just an adjunct professor; I was a caring pastor, who had them to his house at least once a week. Since then, via social media, I’ve kept my relationship with a number of them.

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Reading some of their posts on Facebook over the past several years I realized that since graduation a percentage of my students have either left the church, do not consider themselves Christians, have become agnostic, or even atheists. I was deeply surprised and wanted to know why, so I began to ask questions. This is what I found out.

Some of them left the church because they were disappointed with the metanarrative style of teaching that has distilled Christianity down to a formula. You plug in the right numbers, and the outcome was a life of success, void of disappointments and pain. But these young people painfully asked, “How come my ministry, my marriage, or my business failed? I did all the right things according to what my mentors taught me.”

Some left because of the hypocrisy they saw in their leaders. They desired a level of transparency that was non-existent in their churches. Others left due to a crisis of faith. Once their beliefs were challenged in the real world—outside of their Christian bubble—they weren’t able to rise to the challenge, so they packed up and left. And finally, some left because as Apostle John says, “They did not really belong to us…”

I asked these students, “What made you believe you were a Christian, to begin with?” Some of their answers were: “Well, my parents were Christians.” “I raised my hand at an alter call.” “I went forward when I was 12.” “I said the Sinner’s Prayer when I was in high school.” “I got baptized when I was 8.” “My dad was a pastor and that’s why I went to Bible College.” “I wanted to please my Christian family.”

Almost all of these young men and women have one thing in common, they never experienced God.

Coming into the Kingdom from a Muslim background, I didn’t have a Christian upbringing. I’d never read the Bible. I never went to Church. I didn’t believe in Christ being divine, Son of God, or having died on the Cross. And I definitely never repeated the sinner’s prayer. So, it wasn’t my adequate knowledge of Christ, my moral values, or even the Bible that saved me. It was my “LA Road” experience of Jesus that saved my soul.

It was November 26, 1971. I was riding my motorcycle from Lancaster to Los Angeles, and I simply said, “Jesus if you’re really who these people (my Christian friends) tell me you are, I’ll accept you if…” I didn’t have a light or angels appear to me, but I experienced a presence, a peace that surpasses all understanding, an awareness of a hope that said, “Everything is going tobe OK.” As a result, I felt a sense of purpose for my life. No one can take this away from me. This is something, to my estimation, the above students haven’t experienced.

I realize many Christians believe the word “experience” is an anathema. They say, “Experience cannot be relied upon. After all, even heathens have experiences with the supernatural. What if your experience is from the devil?”

Is it fair to say that with all his knowledge, it was the Burning-Bush experience that brought Moses face to face with YHVH and changed his life forever? Is it correct to say that with all his theological knowledge, Saul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, would have never become Paul the Apostle if he’d not been knocked off his ass on his ass on the road to Damascus? I don’t see any place in the Bible where Paul’s experience was questioned by other Apostles as being suspect.And finally, I remember reading somewhere in my Bible where Jesus said,

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

Do you honestly believe God lets Satan step in when men or women sincerely ask the Lord to reveal himself because God is not into experiences? Is your god that weak and heartless?

Even after all these years, I will not be shaken because no one can ever take my experience away from me, or prove it wrong. Someone could shred the Bible in front of me and prove every word is a lie. They can question my faith and show me all the places in my life where God did not live up to his supposed promises. But it will mean nothing because I know I’ve been touched by someone transcendent, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I am convinced with all my heart what this generation of Millennials needs is to experience the Creator, or as they like to call him, the Divine. Are we, the followers of Christ, equipped to create an environment where these young people can experience the living God? If you know the answer, please share it with us. And if you don’t, would you like to know how?

 

 

 

 

 

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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?