“Don’t believe anyone over thirty”

There is an article making its way across social media entitled “Six Reasons Millennials are Leaving Your Church.” It seems that multitudes of Millennials are offering this article as something that speaks for them. There are aspects of this article that hit me wrong: “Your” church? I neither owned nor asked to own a church (Acts 20:28).

Neither do I like the dismissive tone the title sets. Lying within is more than a whiff of extortion: “If you don’t change the church into our image, we’re out the door.” I don’t take kindly to those who extort the church for which Christ died.

There is an element of truth in many of the article’s points, however, and those of us who are now in some control of what the church looks like (preachers, elders and so on) need to take note.

I took a moment to ask a Millennial to articulate some of that generation’s frustrations. These remarks are enlightening and helpful. I should let you know that this is a Millennial who has not left the church. He/she has taken responsibility for a congregation and become involved with its activities. In my view that lends credibility to what this Millennial says. “Not all of ‘us,’ have left the church.” That’s good to know. Perhaps the article mentioned above does not speak for every Millennial on the planet. Here is what troubles this Millennial:

* Immaturity: Older church members demonstrate poor Bible knowledge. Whereas they should by now be teaching, they still need the milk of the word (Hebrews 5:11-14). “They have lost sight of the vision of creating a church like that in the first century. They don’t even know why or that we should.” The frustration seems to be that Millennials hope for, and do not generally get, a level of spiritual maturity from those who should be demonstrating it.

* Failure to reach out: “They have lost the love for the spiritually broken and shipwrecked and don’t share compassion on those who are without Christ.” “People from my generation haven’t been taught” how to live the Christian life. Rather than berate young people whose parents let them down spiritually, teach them. “Please see beyond the brokenness and the messiness, the tattoos or the clothes.” See, this Millennial adds tellingly, “the soul that needs saving.”

* Our Millennial balances these observations with some comments about his/her own generation: “My generation expects a fast food service, and not a church. They expect to see so much from the church,” but “are not always willing to be the change that [they] wish to see.” Rather than abandoning it, Millennials should play their part in making it the church that it should be.

* Finally our Millennial adds: “It’s not a ‘them or us’ issue.” All generations need to go back to the Bible and allow the “sharp and piercing sword change our hearts, our attitudes, until we return to the plan God had always intended.”

Millennials can legitimately call for spiritual maturity, genuinness and zeal on the part of their elders because that’s what God calls on us to be, too.

By the way, you do know who said the words that are the title of this article, don’t you? It wasn’t our Millennials; it was the Baby Boom generation, callow, prideful, and dismissive of their elders. Some things never change because human nature never changes.

“A generations comes, and a generation goes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4, ESV).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan began preaching in 1976, and worked in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He served as preacher with the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He was Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He was married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He authored five books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs; Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song; Equipping the Saints for Ministry; and Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation. Stan passed away 19 Feb. 2019.

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