Millennials–A Chosen Generation
–A New Breed
You Talkin' to Me?
It’s early in the morning, and I’ve got millennials on my mind. You know who you are – you are those folks born somewhere between 1982 and 2002 - young adults who are currently in their 20’s and early 30’s. You are my kids and my kid’s friends. I see you all around me. You are some of the smartest, most gifted and most passionate people I know. You provoke me, you challenge me, you ask me tough questions – and you expect direct answers. You despise hypocrisy, half-truths and fake people. You are raw, transparent and fun to be with (well, ok....most of the time). It’s also true that there are those among you who can be exasperating, impatient, moody and yes...intolerant!
Most importantly, you are some of the most spiritually sensitive, spiritually aware, and spiritually gifted people I have ever met. You have God-given gifts and abilities that many of you don’t even recognize or understand. Many of you may feel like you are “different” somehow, that you just don’t fit in with the world around you. You know there is something more – something bigger – but you haven’t figured out where to go to have your hard questions answered.
Perhaps you believe that no one wants to hear you – or that no one will understand. Many of you have experienced supernatural encounters from a young age. Experiences you’ve never spoken about – but would like to – if you could just find someone who would listen without mocking or dismissing you. I know this because I’ve talked to many of you in my office, at my kitchen table, at the mall, and by email.
So why did I wake up with you on my mind? Well, to be honest, it was the Holy Spirit who woke me up and stirred my spirit on your behalf. (Okay – don’t stop reading right now because I used the term Holy Spirit – this is precisely the point of this article.)
As a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, grace-filled, truth-telling, Spirit-led Christian I am confused as to how I’m supposed to communicate with you about issues of faith. I know how many questions you have. You and I seem to have no problem talking about your life, your anxiety, your abuse, your addictions, your sexuality, your family issues, your future, and even your spirituality – so why is there such a disconnect when I try to talk to you about Jesus and the Bible? I could use some help.
I can see how the Church has failed your generation. The last command that Jesus gave His followers was to “go and make disciples... baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit - teaching these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT) He also said, “these signs will accompany all those who believe in Me – they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; and if they should drink any poison, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17-18) Pretty cool, huh? Wouldn’t you like to be part of some supernatural activity like that? It is possible for those who believe...
I’ve been told that millennials, while often identifying themselves as Christian, don’t want to hear “religious” talk – that too many millennials, the word “Christian” carries negative connotations. It’s been suggested that I avoid terms such as “prayer,” “salvation,” and “worship” (along with a myriad of other “Christian-Eze” terms) in my attempts to connect with you. It has been recommended that I find terms that are more acceptable - more “palatable” - to this generation of young adults. But I have yet to find someone who can define what those “more acceptable” terms might be.
I’m struggling with that.
This is my dilemma – if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck; then it’s probably a duck. Take prayer for example. Prayer is prayer the world over. It is an ancient spiritual discipline that defines a spiritual conversation between a believer and God – it is an interactive process that involves your mind, heart, and spirit. For a Christian, it is a reflection of our love and relationship with our Lord Jesus. Any healthy relationship requires that we communicate with other people. If I am to have a relationship with someone, it will require that I talk with them and listen to them on a regular basis – it requires a “give-and-take” dialogue between both parties. It’s pretty simple to me. So what am I missing? If I sent out an invitation to join me for a “conversation with God” would that draw a millennial crowd any quicker than an invitation to join me in prayer? Maybe I’m missing something.
I’ve been beating myself up thinking that I need to come up with a whole new language to reach and teach your generation about Jesus. But how do I do that? Where do I start?
I’m willing to stretch, to try new things, and to let go of what doesn’t work. What I’m not willing to do is to compromise the gospel of Jesus or His Word (the Bible) to make it more “tolerable,” “palatable” or “less offensive” to others.
This morning I believe the Holy Spirit gave me my answer. He showed me that if I want to invite someone for a steak dinner, I’m not going to tell them that I’m serving hummus. It’s a steak. Call it what it is. When we say what we mean, and mean what we say, we take the confusion away. For a generation who desires truth, this can be my only response.
If you and I really want to call ourselves Christians, shouldn’t we understand what that means? I can sleep in a garage, but it doesn’t make me a car. Neither does saying a prayer or sitting in a church service make me a Christian. Followers of Jesus have a responsibility to understand who He is, what He did, what He said, and what He wants.
This is what else the Holy Spirit showed me this morning. . . .
Please go back and take a look at my first three paragraphs. Those descriptions and character traits could have been applied to any generation of young adults – from the “greatest generation that ever lived” (those born up to 1946), to the “baby boomers” (those born between 1946-1964), to “generation X” (those born between 1965-1984), to the “millennials” (those born between 1982-2004).
Could it be that the problem is not a language barrier, but something else?
How is it that a North American Christian can sense the tangible presence of God on an African missionary who can speak only with help from an interpreter?
How is it that a 21st century Christian can weep at the lyrics of a hymn written in the language of an 18th century Christian?
How is it that a wealthy 65-year-old Christian woman from a rural town in Kansas can relate to an impoverished 18-year-old teen from the streets of New York?
What makes those inter-personal connections possible? What is it that allows them to be impacted by each other’s words and experiences - despite the differences in their culture, gender, language, age, socio-economic status, and country of origin?
What if the answer to my dilemma with millennials has nothing to do with language, but everything to do with the condition of the heart?
What if people (not just millennials) really don’t want a relationship with Jesus? What if people really don’t want to surrender their life and their will to God? What if people really don’t want to admit they’ve made mistakes, hurt other people, and basically messed things up on their own? Could it be that the issue is really a matter of rebellion and an unwillingness to confess to God that we’ve messed up? Hmmmm. . . . I think I’m on to something here. . . .
There are many people who say they love Jesus. There are many people sitting in Church pews every week who believe they are Christians. But what if they were misinformed? What if many people have been fed a lie? What if there was a major spiritual deception taking place that has caused people to become complacent, apathetic, and hopeless? What if people are “missing the boat” when it comes to really understanding who Jesus is and what He asks of His believers?
Wouldn’t you, as a millennial, be pissed off if you discovered that someone had been withholding vital information concerning your life? What if they withheld it because they didn’t want to upset you or make you mad? What if they withheld it in order to control you, to judge you, to condemn you?
Do you really want to know what’s out there in the big bold world of the supernatural? Do you really want to know who Jesus is? Do you really want to know what being a Christian looks like? Do you really want to pay the cost to be counted as a follower of Jesus? In the words of Morpheus to Neo (from the movie The Matrix): “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” You can stay where you are and maintain the status quo. Or you can take a risk. Find a truth-telling Christian who loves you and who walks in the realm of the supernatural. Ask the tough questions, listen to honest answers, and then prepare for the ride of your life. It’s totally up to you.
You’ll know a genuine Christian when you meet him or her.
He is a person who is passionate, honest, forthright, and transparent – he says what he means and means what he says.
He won’t be scared by your stories of supernatural encounters – but will be able to help you understand them according to God’s Word.
She is a person who is bold and courageous for the Gospel of Jesus. She is not ashamed of her Lord or what the Scriptures have to say.
She has a deep appreciation for every individual and helps you to identify your unique spiritual gifts and God-given abilities - she will do whatever she can to help you succeed.
He seeks to build meaningful relationships with you and will invest himself in your spiritual development.
She is a person who is not afraid to speak tough truths, but always from a heart filled with love and from a place of relationship.
He is not afraid of your intensity or jealous because of your spiritual gifts and authority - He takes joy in seeing you fulfill the destiny God has for you.
She knows who her God is, she is intimately acquainted with His Word and she is passionately in love with Jesus.
A true Christian believes in the supernatural presence of a living God and searches the Scriptures to make sure every spiritual encounter lines up with God’s Word.
· Do you know many people like this? (Didn’t think so. . . . . )
Talk is cheap. The Bible says we will recognize a true follower of Jesus by the “fruit” of their lives. And yes, we are called to judge fruit. All those people who are out there spouting, “we are not supposed to judge others,” have obviously not read the Bible. The Bible is pretty clear – if you are not a Christian (a follower of Jesus) – no one is supposed to judge you – that is God’s job. However, if you call yourself a Christian, the Bible instructs other Christians to judge your words and actions. If I have a loving relationship with you, and if you call yourself a Christian, and if the fruit of your life does not line up with Biblical principles, then I have a God-given responsibility to confront you out of love and concern. And you have a responsibility to do the same for me. This is how we keep each other spiritually “safe” – it is a very loving and caring thing to do for another believer. In bringing words of rebuke and correction, the Bible tells believers to be gentle and loving – and to keep our words grounded in Scripture, not personal opinion.
I recently saw the movie Tomorrowland. I thought the movie itself was mediocre (my millennial daughter loved it!)– But it was hugely significant from a spiritual perspective. It was the story of a special group of people who had the ability to see and move in another dimension – a supernatural group of people. These people had the capacity to transform their world – but it would require that they commit to something bigger than themselves and to follow through with what they had committed to. The lives of many people depended on their individual choices and actions.
So, if you are a millennial who wants a safe place to ask some tough questions regarding life - and life with Jesus – let me know. I don’t have all the answers, but He has given me His Word, His Spirit, and His heart. I promise to listen, and we can wrestle it out together. All I ask is that you listen as well – even when I don’t use the right words. In the days ahead we are all going to need to learn how to hear each other’s hearts – not just our words. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is really screwed up right now. We can’t let style or language get in the way of what God wants to do in our lives – there’s too much at stake. Just as with Frank and Casey in the movie Tomorrowland, baby-boomers need the millennials to stretch and challenge them, and millennials need to draw on the experience and wisdom of the boomers! God has placed you on my heart for a reason today – I’ll look forward to hearing from some of you.