A Millennial Writes an Open Letter to the Church. And He Nails It!
Church “experts” and analysts seem to be in a frenzy trying to figure out how to keep millennials from walking away from the church. There’s a panic to discover the strategic secret to making sure those younger generations stay connected, attending, and active in church.
The result has been a whole-sale failure on the part of the church.
Before anyone gets too mad at me, understand that I was part of the problem. I watched church trends and attended really cool conferences and seminars to learn new tips and tricks to bringing young families in and keeping them. What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how hard the church tries to keep millennials – they will eventually walk away IF they’ve never had a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
You see, the problem is not the church format, or ministries, or anything inside the church. The problem is what’s going on inside the people inside the church. Too many people inside the church have never encountered Jesus and been saved from their sin.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re still preaching topical sermons from a King James Bible after you sing every verse of 5 hymns from a dusty hymnal then your church has some problems. But those problems are just symptoms of a larger problem. The root cause can be found by looking into the hearts of the people and seeing that many that claim to be saved are in fact lost.
So trying to start new – really cool – ministries, or change the format is like putting a band aid over a gunshot wound; it simply won’t help.
I was encouraged by a recent article in which a young millennial encouraged the church to stop trying to be cool and simply preach the Gospel and address tough issues from a biblical perspective. There’s a novel idea.
In a recent article, Ashby Neterer writes that the church has been asking the wrong question:
“Call me audacious, but I would suggest that wondering how to keep the church interesting, for millennials or anyone else, is asking the wrong question entirely. The church is to be built upon a rock, not upon the changing times or cultural trends (see Matt 16:18). It is no more the Church’s job to appeal to the changing culture than it is Beyoncé’s job to preach.”
Therein lies the problem. The church has been trying to appeal to culture in order to attract people. The church reasons, if we can just think of something cool enough, people will come. We justify spending time and resources on these cool “outreach” events by saying that once we get people there we will share the Gospel with them. This entire strategy has been, for the most part, a failure.
Neterer goes on to explain that despite his solid upbringing in church and being very actively involved and engaged, he was unprepared to answer questions about issues such as marriage and abortion. The result? He made up positions he thought sounded good and passed them off as “Christian” or “biblical” to his friends.
“Despite my upbringing, however, I remember feeling great confusion and frustration when asked about what my faith said about topics like marriage and abortion. The truth was, I did not know. I had never heard a church leader comment on these topics. Taking matters into my own hands, I developed a perverse idea of “love” that meant anyone could “marry” anyone and men should give women their “reproductive choice.” I shared this idea with many of my friends as a “Christian” one.”
Hmm, sounds familiar. Sounds like what many self-titled Christians are doing in our culture. Even though any definition of marriage outside one man one woman heterosexual marriage is explicitly prohibited by Scripture, many Christians are seeking to use theological gymnastics to make the Bible say what they want. And though abortion is a violation of many clearly stated commands in Scripture, some would like us to believe that murder is actually acceptable.
But notice why Neterer had to develop these positions: because his pastor and church leaders did not teach the biblical positions on these subjects!
A good point is made in this article. When someone says “I’m pro-life, abortion is wrong,” it’s a political statement. Such statements in church are often a turn off for many people. But, when a pastor explains, biblically, using Scripture, why abortion is murder it becomes a proper application of theology to a moral problem facing our culture. Such biblical teaching should not just be encouraged, it should be a priority in our churches.
If pastors and church leaders won’t address the issues from a biblical perspective we can expect more Christians to be confused and espouse clearly unbiblical and anti-biblical positions. Take Dan Wilkinson for example. Wilkinson, a self-proclaimed Christian says that he will continue supporting Planned Parenthood and that God doesn’t directly address abortion so he supports a woman’s right to abortion. He wrote:
“I realize that in most Christian circles anything less than complete opposition to abortion is anathema. But given the theological, philosophical and scientific ambiguities surrounding the issue, I find such absolutism untenable. I don’t want anyone to ever be in the position where they’re considering abortion, but I also don’t want to deny them that option. I’m not God and, despite what many Christians claim, God doesn’t seem to have said anything that’s directly relevant to this topic.”
I guess that whole “thou shalt not kill” thing is too theologically deep for Wilkinson to understand. We’ll work on it.
The bottom line is that churches need to be addressing these very important biblical, moral issues. It’s not enough to say “Christians should be pro-life and oppose same-sex marriage.” The issues need careful, intentional teaching from a place of love and theological stewardship. If churches refuse this desperate need I’m afraid we will see a generation come behind us that supports far more than just abortion and same-sex “marriage.”