The future of the Christian church is in trouble, and here’s why: Millennials.
You know the generation of 20- to 30-somethings that won’t attend a church where traditional liturgy is used or where they perceive worship as “unauthentic.”
So come on old people, let’s keep them happy! They are the key to the church’s future.
Let’s form a committee to study the complicated relationship of Millennials to the church. Follow that with a new special outreach, maybe a conference aimed at the finicky generation. Then, maybe they’ll think our church is “relevant” enough to visit. Of course, we’ll have to get that mobile app finished and the coffee bar up and running by then.
We can analyze the patterns of decline as reported in Christian publications, and perhaps reverse the trend of nonattendance with a new branding campaign. An understated logo and clever catchphrase … that’ll do the trick, right?
OK, sorry for the sarcasm. But aren’t we overdoing it a bit in our concern to attract Millennials, as if they required something from churches that earlier generations did not? Let me say clearly that in my opinion, they do not.
If the 21st century church has anything to learn from the life and ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (more here and here), it is this: Every generation is hungry for what Jesus alone provides. Our attempts to enhance the gospel through catering to the desires of any one age or interest group, in fact, detract from it.
In churches where the gospel is proclaimed with biblical accuracy and the Holy Spirit is at work, people of all ages are being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus.
Here are four observations why I believe Christians can – in good conscience – end the hand-wringing about Millennials.
1. Among young couples, I see some of the best parents I’ve ever known. Perfect? Of course not, but is any generation? What I see and commend is a distinctively Christian view of parenting in which the glory of the gospel and the beauty of Christ is preeminent, and is not confused with being a good boy or girl. In part, I may have missed that during my parenting years.
2. Among Millennials are men and women who display maturity in Christ beyond their years. During a recent family crisis, a young mother in my church walked alongside our family daily, guiding us through some very difficult decisions. Numerous other young Christians sent encouraging messages, came by to offer prayer and comfort, provide meals, and well-timed hugs.
Another young couple I know in their mid-20s are models in ministering to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others. Their willingness to rearrange their own lives and get their hands messy with the problems of others is remarkable.
3. I know many young adults who love Christ and the church. Their lives orbit around the Word taught, preached, and lived out in their families, communities, workplaces and local churches.
Are these young men and women exceptions? Of course they are, because those who have truly been changed by Christ have always been – and will always be – exceptions.
4. Finally, Christ’s church will endure because that is His plan, and He is more than able to fulfill it.
One way the Bible describes the church is “the bride of Christ.” Revelation 19:7 (ESV) describes a scene at the end of time at the marriage supper of the Lamb when Christ claims His Bride: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. …”
Our love for Christ’s church may wax and wane, but His love for His Bride does not. And that is the real reason that we have nothing to fear from Millennials, Boomers, Gen Xers or any other generation.