The Millennial generation needs good news. Here’s why. let’s start with a quick overview of the Millennial Generation. According to the linked video, Millennials are teens and young adults born between the 1980s and the early years of the 21st century. This description agrees with the classic definition of the Millennial Generation as young adults between 18 and 35 years of age. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with cell phones and the Internet. They also grew up during times of economic recession. Some have described Millennials as the most dissatisfied generation in American history. They are also the least religious generation in American history.
Problems of the Millennial Generation
Among the problems Millennials must deal with are heavy student loan debt, unemployment and underemployment, and the frustration of older people at their apparent addiction to social media. If they marry at all, they tend to marry at significantly older ages than previous generations. Millennials also tend to be pessimistic about the future–both about the future of our society and about their own personal future. They tend to have a casual view of sex, drug use, and gender identity. Millennials tend to be overwhelmingly liberal in their political views, but often don’t vote or take part in the political process.
The outlook for the future
So, within the next 10-20 years, the Millennial Generation will have assumed power in all sectors of society from government to business. Their views and values will dramatically shape our world. When it comes to Christian faith, few Millennials identify themselves as followers of Jesus. Next time you are in church, look around at who is there. If you see a healthy group of young adults in attendance, your church is among the few who are reaching this largely unreached generation. Most churches count very few Millennials in their congregation. This is the single most important issue that the Christian Church must solve in the next 10 years. If we don’t reach out to these people with some good news, Christianity in North America will look very different in the future.
I found an excellent video discussing what’s wrong with Millennials. The video by Alexis Bloomer entitled “Dear Elders, I’m sorry” went viral on YouTube. A Millennial herself, Alexis believes her generation is entitled, disrespectful, unproductive, and lazy — to name just a few of the problems she says are common among young people aged 18-35.
A call to action
Of course, it is wrong to label an entire group of people with any description because there is always variation in any group. Even so, many people have felt that Alexis Bloomer’s analysis of her own generation has some validity. Most importantly, at the core of her video, Alexis makes a strong call to action for her generation to show kind, respectful, and productive behavior. Thanks for your timely and sincere words, Alexis.
The missing motivation
The issue Alexis doesn’t go into is how this behavior can become a part of a person’s life. Alexis seems to have been blessed with good parenting. It is true that good upbringing can account for some good behavior for those who experienced it. However, learned behaviors only go so far without the personal peace, security, and a desire to do right that comes from deep within a person. Many people of all generations can speak of the inner change that came into their lives through embracing the good news of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus. Perhaps Alexis didn’t have the time to include this key inner motivation. Even so, I personally find this call to action refreshing and inspiring. What do you think?
This 100-point advanced Bible quiz is designed to measure your knowledge of the key people and facts in Bible’s storyline and motivate you to dig deeper into the Bible itself.
The Old Testament contains (1) ______ books. The New Testament contains (2) ____ books. Together they form the entire canon of Christian scripture. The Old Testament was written primarily in the (3) ________________ language; the New Testament was written in the common (4) ______________ language of the First Century.
The Old Testament
Genesis begins with God creating the earth in a complete cycle of (5) ____ days. The first man and woman (6) _________ and (7) ________ lived in the Garden of (8) ___________, but chose to turn away from trusting in God and embrace the wisdom of the (9) ________________. For this, they were banished from the garden and forbidden to eat from the (10) __________ of Life. Their first two sons, (11) ___________ the firstborn and (12) __________, quarreled and the elder murdered the younger. A third son, (13) ________, was born afterward to continue the godly line.
The following generations saw humanity sink deeper into sin and degradation. God planned to send a (14) ___________ to judge the human race. He chose a man described as “righteous in his generation” to survive this disaster by building an (15) ________ and saving his family as well as pairs of all types of (16) _______________. This man’s name was (17) ____________. His three sons, (18) __________, (19) __________ and (20) ______________ are the ancestors of the current nations of the earth.
After the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the (21) ___________ of Babel, God chose (22) _______________ to begin a new line of faith. This man’s son (23) _______________ was born when his mother, (24) _________ was too elderly to bear children naturally. God blessed this child of faith and his wife, whose name was (25) ________________ with twins, Esau and (26)__________. God later changed this man’s name to (27) _____________. He became the father of (28) _____ sons and a daughter, primarily through (29) ___________ his beloved wife and (30) ___________, her sister. These sons were the founders of the tribes of Israel. Among this sons, the one with the greatest faith was named (31) _____________. He was sold as a slave by his brothers and sent to the land of (32) ___________ but later saved them from a devastating (33) _______________, which afflicted the entire region.
The story of Israel’s escape from slavery is told in the book of (34) __________. After their escape, Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Their leader, (35) ____________, met with God on Mount (36) _____________ and received the law binding Israel in covenant with God. (37) ___________ is the book which recounts Israel’s conquest of Canaan. To defeat foreign enemies and rescue his people, God later gave them a succession of leaders called (38) ______________. At the end of this period, in response to the people’s demands, God gave them kings through a man named (39) _______________.
The three kings who ruled over all Israel were: (40) ________, (41) ____________, and (42) _________________. The second of these kings is famous for loving God deeply. His killing of a mighty Philistine warrior named (43) _______________ earned him the reputation as a hero of faith. However, his affair with (44) _________________, the wife of a trusted soldier, brought lasting shame and disgrace. The third king over a united Israel was renowned for his great (45) _____________: so much so that the Queen of (46) ___________ traveled a great distance to learn from him. During the reign of the fourth king, the kingdom split in two. The northern kingdom was known as Ephraim or (47) _____________, while the southern kingdom was called (48) ____________.
Ministering in the north were prophets whose role was to call the nation back to faith in God. One of these people who spoke for God, a fiery prophet named (49) ___________, met with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and demonstrated through his faith that the LORD was the true God. His successor, (50)___________, is sometimes called the helpful prophet. Due to their unfaithfulness to God, the northern kingdom was eventually conquered and scattered by the (51) ________________ Empire.
Just over a hundred years after this, the southern kingdom was exiled to the land of (52) _______________. The two prophets who ministered in this land were the priest, (53) _______________ and (54) _______________, a member of the nobility. The fact that many of the Jews in exile were able to return to the Promised Land after (55) _______ years is recorded in the books of (56) __________ in which proper worship was restored and (57) _________________, in which the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.
(58) ________________ is the book that served as the hymnal of ancient Israel. This book is followed by two books of wisdom: (59) ________________, a collection of practical truths for daily living and (60) ______________________, which explores the meaning of life. Included in this wisdom and poetic collection is a love song, entitled (61) ____________________________. It expresses the devotion of a king for his lovely bride. Also in this collection, the book of (62) ______ deals with the issue of suffering which seems to be undeserved.
The prophetic books of the Old Testament are divided into two groups: the (63) ____________ prophets and the (64) ___________ prophets, which are distinguished purely on the basis of length, not importance. The prophet whose book contains the most messianic prophecy is (65) _____________. Jerusalem’s destruction was witnessed and described most fully by the prophet (66) ________________. The prophet (67) _____________ attempted to run away from God’s calling, but repented after he was swallowed by a fish and ended up fulfilling his task. Another prophet, (68) _____________ was told to marry a wayward woman to demonstrate God’s commitment to his unfaithful people.
The group of books, not accepted in Protestant versions of the Bible, but which is included in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the scripture is called the (69) ____________________.
The New Testament
The period between Malachi in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament era lasted roughly (70) _______ centuries. The New Testament begins with the record of Jesus’ life and ministry by the gospel writers: (71) _________________, (72) __________, (73) ___________ and (74) ____________. In the first verses of the fourth gospel, Jesus is described as the eternal (75) __________ which was with God and was God, and through whom all things were created. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (76) ____________ and born in the city of (77) ______________________. He was later raised to maturity in the northern region of (78) __________________. Jesus taught truths about the Kingdom of God through a kind of story or illustration called (79) ______________. He spent the approximately three years of his earthly ministry focusing on the training of his (80) _____________ disciples. He also performed many (81) __________________ to validate his claims of being the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. Jesus was put to death by the Roman governor, (82) __________ ___________, during the Jewish festival of (83) __________________, but afterward rose from the dead on the (84) _________ day.
The book of (85) _____________ is the inspired history of the early church. The majority of the letters of the New Testament letters were written by one man: the Apostle (86) ____________. Next to him the most New Testament books were written by the Apostle (87) _____________, who wrote a total of (88) ______. Two short, but powerful letters, found near the end of the Bible were written by the disciple who once denied Christ. His name is (89) ___________. The theme of the letter to the (90) _________________ is that, though everyone is guilty before God, anyone may be saved through faith in Jesus. It is often thought to be the most systematic explanation of the gospel in the New Testament.
(91) ___________________ is the book which encourages Jewish followers of Jesus that Christ is greater than Moses or even angels. The letter whose key word, “joy” is found throughout its four chapters is (92) _________________. Two letters were written to a church known for its immaturity and worldly living. This church was located in the ancient city of (93) _________________. (94) __________________ is written to a man whose escaped slave had become a Christian and was now returning home.
The letter stating most fully that we are saved by faith apart from the Law is (95) ___________________. However, the letter of (96) ______________ makes it clear that faith without works is dead. Three books were directed to two young church leaders named (97) ________________ (98) and ____________. The pair of letters, which most emphasize the “man of sin” and Christ’s return were addressed to the church in (99) ______________________. The book of (100) __________________ fittingly climaxes the New Testament, closing with Christ’s second coming and kingdom.
How did you do? I know this was a challenging test. Even some Christian leaders might struggle on parts of it. A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!
Its true: 21st Century people are different. If you are over 40, you have certainly noticed that life in the 21st Century is very different in many ways from how you grew up. Somewhere in the 1990s our culture experienced a major shift. We now live in a world of computers, Internet, cell phones, 30-second sound bites, and social networking. We over 40s are not natives to this culture.
The under 40s, and especially the under 30s, are at home in this digital, and socially revolutionized world. I call these younger folks (and older folks who think like they do) 21st Century people. Some of these 21st Century people go to church, but, truth be told, not that many. Our youth groups are making an effort to reach some of them. A few of them are even solid members of gospel-centered churches, but again, not that many.
All of us are related to 21st Century people. We depend on them for many goods and services in our daily lives. We often don’t understand them. Sometimes we are afraid of them. We are puzzled by the fact that 21st Century people often don’t seem to respond to the gospel. They seem to shrug off the good news that God loves them and sent Jesus his son to redeem them and make them new from the inside out. We wonder why they aren’t captivated by our neat gospel packages and stunned into silence by our expert handling of scriptural truth.
Why is this? According the Barna Survey group, among young people who were raised in some kind of church, around 60% will walk away from active faith when they reach the age of 18. Some will return eventually after some life-experiences, like the military, marriage, or gaining some life experience. Many however, show no signs of coming back. Why not? Well first we need to understand a little bit about what makes 21st Century people tick. 21st Century people place a high value on:
21st Century people have listened to advertising and sales pitches all of their lives. They are naturally suspicious of claims that promise more than they can deliver. They see celebrities living fake lives. They hear fake news. They have been hurt by broken promises and broken relationships. They are starved for reality that is wholesome and fulfilling.
People of the 21st Century tend to make decisions on whether something seems to work or be useful, rather than whether something is morally right. In other words, asking whether something is moral or whether it pleases God, is not their first question. While some of this functional morality is just a convenient way to escape hard decisions, they actually do believe in morality. 21st Century morality focuses on whether something appears to be unkind or unfair rather than whether it satisfies the teaching of the Bible.
21st Century people have been raised to believe that a bottom-line virtue is to accept others’ beliefs, lifestyle choices, and culture. They are concerned that people not be excluded or judged. On the other hand, they are themselves often very intolerant of anything that seems to go against tolerance. And they are apparently blind to how inconsistent their viewpoint is.
Facebook, call-screening, texting, and Twitter are forms of communication that allow relationships within a tightly controlled circle. for 21st Century people, friends are often more involved in their lives than even close family members. This is especially true when so much of family life is dysfunctional in our times.
Its almost like 21st Century people can’t bring themselves to believe wholeheartedly in any kind of future or relationship that is positive. My view is that they are so used to being disappointed, so used to being promised things that never happen, that they are afraid to believe in anything good. So when Christians offer forgiveness and eternal life they are skeptical. When we say that they can have joy in the midst of strife, or fulfillment through faithfulness because God will never let them down, they just can’t bring themselves to believe it.
People have called me overly optimistic, and I may be. If I am, its because I believe in a God who loves me and has never forsaken me and who has promised to fulfill his purpose in my life. I also believe that God’s promises are for my blessing. So grieve for those in our times who lack that kind of hope.
Bringing Good News to 21st Century People
I consider myself one of those people who is a bridge between the two cultures. Like most of you who are my age and older, I was born and spent my childhood solidly in the 20th Century. Right was right and wrong was wrong. The truth was, well, the truth. But I have spent many years since those days trying to understand 21st Century people and communicate the gospel to them.
It wasn’t until I started teaching community college students in the early 1990s that I began to realize that we can’t reach many younger people with the gospel of Christ using 20th Century approaches and methods. They just don’t get a lot of it. What we need to understand is that 21st Century people don’t particularly want to be 20th Century Christians. But here’s the hopeful part: they can be reached with the gospel, which is eternal and trans-cultural. There’s a catch, though: the good news has to be given in a way that meets the needs of 21st Century people. Its the same good news, just packaged for a different group in a different time.
Let me be clear about what I am driving at:
I am not talking about compromising what the Bible teaches or solid Christian doctrine.
Neither am I suggesting that we get rid of the wonderful heritage we have in our churches or disrespect the generations that have gone before.
What I am saying is that we re-think the way we go about evangelism and ministry. I am hoping that we won’t just take for granted that the way we have done things in the past is the way we should continue to do things.
I will leave you right here because what I have to say on this subject is too long for one blog. I will pick up my discussion in the sequel to this most important subject for the future of American Christianity.
One of the reasons I founded Aspect Ministries in 2013 was to help people understand why so many Millennials are leaving organized Christianity. According to experts on this generation, Millennials are young people born in the 1990s and later. Helping people understand and reach Millennials wasn’t the only reason I started this ministry, but it was one of the key reasons why I did. Of course, there are a number of factors why Millennials reject Christian faith. One factor that comes up frequently is some sort of bad experience with Evangelical Christians.
I know that being treated badly by Christians is sometimes is just an excuse for rejecting Jesus. I know that sometimes it turns out that the Christians may not have done anything unkind at all. That said, it is undeniable that Christians have said and done things at times to hurt people and to give them an excuse for rejecting Christian faith.
Before I go any further, I need to say that I myself am an Evangelical Christian. I chose a life of following Jesus in my second year of university in 1972 during the height of the Jesus Movement. Since then, I have earned a master’s degree from a theological seminary and am finishing up a doctorate. In the last 40 years, I have been a campus minister, a pastor and a trainer of Christian leaders. I have also taught college part time for the last 25 years. During my ministry, I have met and worked with many kind, intelligent and amazing people. On the other hand, certain negative experiences during my ministry have caused me to step back a pace or two in recent years in order to see Evangelical Christianity more objectively. So, I bring both of these perspectives—- the positive and the not-so-positive—to whatever insights I may have on this subject.
Who are these Evangelicals?
So, who are these Evangelicals and why do some people react so strongly against them and their faith? Despite what outsiders may assume, Evangelicals are not uniform in their backgrounds, beliefs or personal views. Many Evangelicals come from families that have practiced Christian faith for generations. Others came into Evangelical Christianity at some point later in life, embracing its beliefs, attitudes and culture. As with any group, Evangelical Christianity includes warm, gracious people and mean-spirited people; broad-minded people and narrow-minded people; generous folks and self-centered individuals.
While Evangelicals do share a common core of biblical beliefs, they differ widely in terms of important issues, such as how Christian faith applies to contemporary life. For instance, some are more isolationist, while others are much more socially engaged. They sometimes disagree on how far the presentation of the Christian message should accommodate current culture in order to be relevant and accessible. They may also disagree about how much things like status, power and wealth should be sought and used to further the gospel and enhance personal life.
Along with these differences, Evangelicals may disagree on various secondary points of Christian doctrine, spiritual practices and on specific political and social issues. For instance, White middle-class American Evangelicals are well-known as favoring the Republican Party on many issues. On the other hand, equally committed African American Evangelicals have tended to sympathize with the Democratic Party on many, though not all of its core positions. Because of these differences, it is difficult for anyone to speak about what Evangelicals believe or why the do what they do. Any attempt to do so will probably be a an oversimplification.
What to do when Millennials are Hurt by Christians
So what can people do about Millennials and others who reject Christian faith because of real or perceived offenses by Evangelical Christians? Here is what I suggest:
If you have offended someone and given reason to reject Christian faith, you need to sincerely apologize. Then do what you can to make it right. If you really don’t think you were wrong, then do what you can to restore the relationship. In other words, you need to make the move on your end to heal the relationship if possible.
If you weren’t personally involved in the offense, then acknowledge their pain, admit that sometimes Christians don’t represent Jesus very well, and gently remind them that Jesus never hurt them. Make it clear that Jesus is the real point of Christian faith, not Christians or their behavior.
Disillusioned and bitter Millennials who reject Christianity need to hear some truly good news. The good news is that Jesus deeply loves them and is committed to making them the best and most fulfilled people they can be. Let’s be clear: in no way does God condone or accept sinful attitudes and lifestyles—either in unbelievers or in believers. But according to Romans 8:28 he is for anyone who is willing to love him and trust him. If Millennials will consider Jesus for who he is, and are willing to trust him, he has promised to be for them and to make them new from the inside out. That really is good news!