Most surveys reveal that Millennials are looking for authenticity. Instead, most churches are striving to win them over by being relevant which often comes off as being unauthentic. Drew Dyck, Leadership Journal’s Managing Editor identifies the real point of connection for Millennials:
“Millennials have a dim view of church. They are highly skeptical of religion. Yet they are still thirsty
for transcendence, But when we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them (they have enough
friends). When we tell them that God will give them a better marriage and family, its white noise
(they’re delaying marriage and kids or foregoing them altogether). When we tell them they’re special,
we’re merely echoing what educators, coaches, and parents have told them their whole lives. But
when we present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God, it just might get their attention and
capture their hearts as well.”
There is no doubt the crisis is real. But what is needed is not churches trying to be cool. The problem goes deeper than that. What is needed is to help a new generation to understand, appreciate, and embrace God’s idea of church as contained in Holy Scripture. In other words, we must present to them a biblical understanding of what the Church is.
But that’s just the problem. As Millennials have allowed the authority of Scripture to wane, so also they have lost a biblical understanding of the Church. This came home to me powerfully a while back when I was talking to a young man who had dropped out of any connection with the organized church, claiming instead to enjoy deeper community since leaving. As we talked, I asked him a series of questions to see how he responded. The first was, ‘Did he have a group of elders or leaders that he looked to based on I Peter 5:1-3 and Hebrews 13:1 who were regularly watching over his soul? He just stared blindly, offering no answer to the question. Then, I followed it with the question, ‘How are you being equipped by the fivefold ministry since Ephesians 4:11-12 says that God equips the saints through their ministry?’ Again, he starred blindly, offering no answer.
The final question I asked him was based on our text in which the writer of Hebrews exhorts the believers to “not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I pointed out to him that the term ‘meet together’ is derived from a word meaning to formally gather (episunogoge). I asked him why then he felt no need to gather with a local church according to this Scripture. Again, he offered no answer.
It soon became apparent he didn’t have a church problem but a Scripture problem. He had decided to ignore what Scripture says about Church and created his own idea of what Church was. It is my read that an entire generation has followed suit.
To be fair, some of Millennials’ complaints about the local church have merit. We also have, at times, ignored aspects of what Scripture says the Church is. The absence of community or involvement in social justice issues or evidence of the supernatural in our midst are realities that the Church certainly must deal with. We must own what is ours. But we must insist that we aren’t free to invent our own ideas of what the Church is. We must help people to grasp the Scriptural description of the Church.
Many of those who have dropped out of the Church insist their beef is not with the Church (believers) but how we do Church. This has been used to justify disdain for the organized church. But they must tread carefully here. It is impossible to say we love the Lord while disdaining his bride, no matter what condition she’s in. Yes, we are free to criticize her for what she does. But let us never forget that she is the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. Let us criticize her carefully, with fear and trembling, remembering that the Lord does not take lightly those who treat her with disdain.