New Parenthesis (Millennials In The Church)

Slider New Parenthesis

I’m tired. I’m tired of a lot of things. These days I’m mostly tired cause my infant keeps waking us up at 3 AM. But that’s a different blog… 

What I am really tired of is constantly having to defend my generation. And more so, I am tired of defending my generation’s approach to faith. Yes I am a millennial. A millennial Christian to be exact… Not to be confused with an amellinnial Christian… Also a different blog.

Anyways, lately the millennial Christians have not had a great reputation. Articles like this one are painting us in a pretty poor light: “How The New Christian Left Is Twisting The Gospel

And of course the Pew Polls are showing that we aren’t even going to church anymore either, so that’s not helping our case…

So what is the misunderstanding when it comes to millennial Christians? Essentially the idea is that, we millennials are giving up parts of our faith and convictions to accommodate the culture around us. That we are watering down the Gospel and Scripture so that we don’t have to stand firm in our faith and morals. Sadly this is a very skewed understanding of what is actually happening in the Church with us “self absorbed, confused, entitled, and misguided” little millennials. What is actually happening is that we are ready for a different conversation than the one that has been going on in the church for decades…

You see, Millennial Christians aren’t foregoing morals to placate to a culture that accepts “unbiblical practices”. We aren’t leaving church pews and communion behind for bar stools and debauchery. And certainly not so we can blend in with culture better. It’s just that we are frustrated with the narrative of the church. We are tired of the “do this; don’t do that; that’s wrong; this is right; don’t talk to that person; vote for this candidate; support this proposition; boycott Disney and Starbucks” mentality. For too long the church has played the judge. The funny thing about that is, the church taught us well enough to know that we aren’t the judge, God is. (James 4:12, Luke 6:37). Yet, what we were taught and what we saw practiced were two different things.

You see, there seems to be an invisible parenthesis around many things the church taught us. We were told to love our neighbor, (unless they are a liberal), to give to the needy (unless you think they’ll buy booze with it), to volunteer your time (unless it’s outside of the church walls), to be in the world but not of it (but really only surround yourself with other Christians). We were told to be the hands and feet of God. But what they really meant is: be the hand that holds the gavel and the foot that kicks sinners to the ground.

The next generation of believers wants new parenthesis… Love your neighbor (even if you disagree with them), give to the needy (even if they don’t seem to deserve it), volunteer your time (especially outside of the church where you can be a positive influence in your community), be in the world but not of it (this means actually hanging out with “sinners”), be the hands and feet of God (Ya know, like the ones that were pierced for the sins of everyone?… “Let your life be a living sacrifice”? Ringing any bells?).

If there’s anything millennial Christians feel entitled to, it’s a chance to change the narrative. << Tweet this!

You likely won’t find many millennial Christians picketing an abortion clinic. Don’t worry, most of us still think abortion is wrong. But we’d rather be the listening ear for a young woman considering abortion, helping her through the pain and uncertainty. We likely won’t be rallying behind places like Chick-Fil-A for their stance on gay marriage. (Though we will still eat their delicious nuggets… mmmm…). No, we’d rather have lunch and maybe build a bridge with an LGBTQ friend who has issues with the Church; show them they are loved and have worth in God’s eyes. It’s probably a toss up on who we will vote for, cause to us, Patriotism and Christianity aren’t synonymous. Sorry, but Jesus never promised us the American Dream and the republicans aren’t God’s political party anymore… In fact, they never were. So we distance ourselves from politics in favor of real social actions that reflect what Jesus taught us to be and do in the world. In other words, we won’t be getting on pedestals to fight the “culture war.” We’d rather be putting our hand to the plow, sowing the seeds of the Kingdom.

In general, we won’t be very vocal about our stance on divisive issues at all, cause well… They’re divisive! And they only serve to destroy any chance we have to engage in a real conversation about Jesus. It’s not that we don’t hold very real values. It’s not that we have forsaken Scripture. It’s not that we don’t want to stand for what we believe in. It’s just that we don’t want our stances on these issues to kill any chance at a relationship with people who need to hear about and see Jesus… Ya know, the people he told us to love and make disciples? How do we do that if no one even wants to talk to us for fear of being judged? Why do we think it is okay to hold people to a standard they don’t believe in before we even bother to share the earth shattering, life changing Gospel of Jesus with them? I believe millennial Christians are tired of this backwards approach.

So, we will go to secular concerts, drink Starbucks coffee (or craft beer), shop at the trendy stores, have lesbians over for dinner and even go to the occasional nightclub. You know why? Cause those are the places where people who need Jesus are. To some, we won’t look much different than our non-Christian friends. But not because we are two-faced Christians who only engage with our faith on Sunday. Quite the opposite in fact. We believe that our faith is a daily endeavor. And in order to live more and more like Jesus, we need to go to the places church people aren’t supposed to go to and associate with people who we aren’t supposed to associate with. Because sharing our faith means having real relationships with non-believers. Living life with them. Not expecting them to come to us on Sundays and Wednesdays, but rather going TO them the way Jesus came to us. 

And maybe one day, we will change the narrative. And the culture will begin to know us as those crazy people who love everyone (Especially the ones we aren’t supposed to)… 

9 Replies to “New Parenthesis (Millennials In The Church)”

  1. Well said. Thanks for your perspective. Every generation has its challenges and opportunities. It encouraging to see how the millennials are working out their faith. Thanks for being a great example.

    1. Thanks Marty,
      I hope this can be an encouragement for everyone who reads it to focus on living and loving like Jesus did. 🙂

  2. Cody, I AGREE WITH YOU COMPLETELY!!!! You young people like Ryan and Dawn, and you and Luke and all the younger people, I apploud you, sometimes I wonder why you are still in our church with all the rules, and ‘policies’. I am grateful for you all, and we older folk need to pray for you and encourage you and how you Worship. Not be negative and require you Worship the way we did – who is to say that is only right way????
    I feel God loves you and appreciates your Worship and your participation in church, however – He sees into your heart – NOT US OLD FOLK. Shame on us!! I love and pray for you all = the church of tomorrow Thank God.

    1. Hi! Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate your perspective. I would hope that this post wouldn’t be shaming the generations before us, however. The generations before millennials worked hard to bring about the great things that make the church what it is today. So it is not my intent to discredit previous generations. Simply point out that there is something that has been growing and unchecked in the church today. And that is a heightened sense of politicalized christianity and moral superiority. I see hope in the upcoming generation that we seem to want to do away with this approach. That doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater and do away with everything the generations before us did for the church. So, it’s not shame on the older folks, it’s shame on the body of Christ (including my generation) for allowing ourselves to lose focus on our first love, Jesus.

  3. Cody, great perspective! I have been working through this topic to share for orientation with faculty this year. I would love to have you share in a session. Jon

    1. Wow, thanks for the offer! I am certainly open to doing that. We should connect so I can get a better sense of what you are trying to accomplish. I am not much of a speaker though… so there’s that…

  4. Thanks for your comment! I so appreciate and agree with the truth that younger generations need to be in community with older generations so as to glean wisdom and be mentored. I believe it’s crucial to seek and follow the wisdom of those who have gone before us. But I would add a caveat to what you’re saying. It is true that Millennial Christians may not feel the sense of obligation that older generations did to attend a local church. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t part of a faith community. Rest assured, most Millennial Christians I know are a part of a faith community in some capacity. One of the things the Church is facing now is a paradigm shift away from the institutional model and a return to the community centric ways of the early Church. While, I do attend a worship service on Sunday (a great one!), I also break bread, pray, laugh, cry, and engage in fellowship with other believers throughout the week. That is just as much “church” (and maybe more so) as attending a one hour worship service on Sunday and a mid-week Bible study. We will see in the years to come how the body of Christ is expressed in so many more ways than that. Now, let me be clear that I believe worship services and Bible studies are good things. But living a life fully for Jesus and engaging in a faith community is so much more than a two hour a week endeavor. I have high hopes that the millennial and younger generations will bring about a new normal where we will see many different expressions of “church” so that more people can find their place in true Godly community.

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