A Response to “12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church”

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A young friend of mine sent me an article yesterday and asked me what I thought about it. She sensed its unbiblical tone and wanted confirmation. Since I have seen it on my Facebook wall since then, I am assuming that it must be making its rounds on the internet. I felt it deserves a response.

The article is by a millennial who is sick of church. To their credit, they recognize that there is a real problem with keeping their age group in the church. I couldn’t agree more. Where we do not agree is what to do about it.

First, let me state that I am not a millennial and haven’t been for quite some time. However, I am a parent to four of them, from the ages of 17-26. Three of them are out of our home and married. All three couples attend and serve at a local church regularly. I tell you this so you know this dissatisfaction is not inevitable. Some millennials still love church!

So back to this article. The beginning of the article states their dissatisfaction and then we move into what they believe to be the reasons that millennials have abandoned church. I’d like to respond to each one.

1. “Nobody’s Listening to Us.” My response to this is–of course they aren’t. When I was twenty-something no one listened to me, either. That’s because I didn’t know anything. Somewhere in my mid-twenties I started to grasp the fact that I didn’t know anything and started being teachable. I began to respect those who had gained wisdom from life experience and desired to learn from them. I find, nowadays, that this has turned on its head and no one is listening to those who are more mature in the Lord.

In fact, if anyone is not being listened to, it is generally those who are older, whose desires for a more traditional simple service with hymns and expositing God’s Word have been thrown out completely. And this was so millennials would come to church. But you claim we aren’t listening to you. Hmmm.

2. “We are sick of hearing about values and mission statements.” The author goes on to give their {very incomplete} definition of the Gospel. It is clear that the author does not consider the Word of God to be authoritative, as we most certainly must teach and preach about values–for it’s in the Bible. Which is why church exists–to preach the Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 4:2; Romans 10:14)

3. “Helping the poor isn’t a priority.” Yep, that’s true. Because it isn’t supposed to be a priority. But I bet that church this author is talking about is doing a great job ministering to the sick and needy within its own congregation, which is exactly what the church is supposed to be doing. Social Justice–the buzz word that many connect to the church–is not from the Bible. It’s from communism. Read your Bible and you will find out that there is no mention of social justice anywhere. The church’s job is to feed the sheep spiritual food (Acts 2:42). Now, lest I be misunderstood, I am not against helping the poor. But we can see when we read the New Testament that this should never be the first priority of any solid, biblical church.

4. “We’re tired of you blaming the culture.” The author goes on to say that the church is blaming the culture for all that is bad in the church. I can see some validity to this. While I don’t think we blame the culture, I do think we talk about it too much sometimes. The world has changed so fast that those of us who didn’t grow up in this culture–well, our heads are spinning. We are quite dismayed and sometimes we may talk about that too much. Interestingly enough, the author’s solution to this is: Explicitly teach us how our lives should differ from the culture. But my question would be this– how do we do that without teaching you values from scripture?? (see #2)

5. “You ‘can’t sit with us’ effect” This has to do with how we treat those who walk into the church doors. While I agree that this can be a huge problem, I also understand that there are two sides of this story. Getting plugged in to a new church can be difficult and if we aren’t careful we can really put the burden on the people to make us feel like we belong. But–from my own personal experience–I have learned that I won’t feel like I belong until I roll my sleeves up and start working side by side with those serving there. So many people only show up for an hour on a Sunday morning and then wonder why they always feel on the outside. I know because I have been there.

6. “Distrust and Misallocation of Resources” I agree with this author that there should be transparency in a church budget. The church’s members should know the breakdown of everything and secrecy isn’t good.

But the author goes on to say this–“Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?”

While I am certainly not in favor of unnecessary building projects, I believe that once again this author has a grave misunderstanding of ecclesiology (the study of the church) according to the Bible. The church’s purpose is not to take care of the poor. It is to grow believers.

I also find it interesting that there is zero mention of the Gospel by this author. They seemed to only be concerned with meeting temporal, material needs of the poor. And yet, we know that without Christ, any material need met is only helping for a moment.

7. “We want to be mentored not preached at” I am not sure when life became about what we want instead of what we need, but the Bible tells us clearly that preaching is to be part of a Christian’s life (I Timothy 4:13; I Corinthians 15:1). It is the godly pastor who will feed and encourage us in our walk. There is no precedence set for dialogue that I can see. What this author wants to see completely changes the definition of “church” and turns it into some kind of group conversation. Interestingly enough, I see this happening in churches all across America, where preaching has taken a back seat and dialogue and subjectivism is reigning supreme. If this is a prerequisite for a church for this author, I am sure they could find one in their neighborhood somewhere.

8. “We want to feel valued” I agree with this author that it is nice to receive a thank you. But sometimes you don’t get one. All church people of all ages feel under-valued sometimes. Life is very much about perspective and when we focus on whether or not we are valued, we will always come up short. Part of growing up (something we can learn from our elders) is doing what needs to be done just because it is the right thing to do and stop worrying about if anyone appreciates us or not.

9. “We want you to talk to us about controversial issues.” Now, from my own personal perspective, I would love to talk to anyone about these issues. Let’s talk about sex, homosexuality, entertainment. But can we do so without all of the relativism? Can we show you the answers from the Bible? Because–again–how do we have these important discussions without teaching values (#2)?? (Hebrews 4:12)

10. “The public perception” This author seems to think we need to change the public’s perception about church. But I heartily disagree because the church doesn’t exist for the community, it exists for believers. And the bottom line is that if we choose to have a biblical church in the way scripture commands, the world will find us distasteful (I Corinthians 1:23; John 15:18-19). We need to be more concerned about growing strong and courageous believers than we are about how the public perceives us.

11. “Stop talking about us (unless you are going to do something)” The fact is that many people are trying to do something about this, they just don’t like what is being done. They don’t want to be told that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. They don’t want to be taught there are absolute values. Their focus is on their experiences and their feelings rather than on the Word of God and what is absolute truth.

I would like to add here that our church has a wonderful group of millennials who are nothing like this author. They are plugged in and serve with joy. They are teachable and ask questions about how they can grow as a Christian. This article is not representative of all millennials by a long shot.

12. “You’re failing to adapt” The author uses three quotes for this point–all from secular sources. To me, this is very telling. This author–I have no idea if they are saved or not–is focusing only on worldly values. They used one Bible verse in the whole article. Is the church supposed to “adapt”? And, honestly, I am shocked that this is an accusation, because from my perspective the church most certainly is adapting. In fact, I would say the church has become mostly ineffective at sharing the true gospel because it has become so effective at adapting. But the true church should never adapt. Oh, we can use technology or change a few things here and there, but we never change our message. And we never change our mission.

So do we listen to what this author has to say? I would say, overall, the answer to that is a resounding NO. There is no biblical basis for any of it. And, yet, I see churches all across this country–perhaps across the world–scrambling to make these changes to appeal to this generation. Let’s stop. Just stop. And let’s get back to preaching the Word of God without apology. Let’s feed good, solid spiritual food to the parents and the grandparents of the next generation so we don’t repeat what just happened. And let’s stop thinking that we need to do something to draw people to church and start praying that God would do a mighty work in the hearts of this generation. For only God can change the heart.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “A Response to “12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church”

  1. I truly believe that the world is changing, but we as believers have to stay true to our faith.We are to be in the world but not of the world. I like all you have said. Amen.

  2. Leslie, I am so blessed that you are a true sister in Christ to me! I am so blessed to be an active member in a true biblical church in Toronto, Ontario. Writing is really your gift! You are such a gifted writer defending the Word of God until the end! Amazing! Wholeheartedly in accord with you now! like always… :) Big Amen! Love you in Christ, Cristina

    • Thank you, Cristina. Your words are such an encouragement to me. What I write is generally unpopular with the world (and even with most Christians) so when I hear kind words from Christians sisters and brothers who desire to live according to the Word, it is especially meaningful. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

  3. We are seeing even good churches waver on clearly defining their purpose. For example, quite often these days, you will see good churches, eager to win the lost, will focus so much on how to attract new members that they neglect the nurturing and mentoring of the ones they have. As a result, we see youth leaving not only the church, but the faith. We are reaping a generation of church members who do not know what the Bible says, do not care to know it, and even if they know some of it, they don’t have a clue what to do with it. These are sobering times and it is so imperative that we focus on maintaining a biblical perspective on these issues–no matter what the world urges us to do. Discerning Christians need to be alert to the wiles of the devil. Look how the Boy Scout organization was infiltrated and brought down by ungodly people working the devil’s agenda. The church is experiencing the same thing.

  4. Hi Leslie!

    I am so glad you’ve decided to join this conversation. I think we have a lot in common—we both love God’s word and we both desire to see church be a beautiful place where believers can grow to be more like Jesus. That being said, I feel that you jumped to a lot of conclusions about me as a follower of Christ.

    I hope we can become friends, supporting each other in our similar goal to spread Gods truth throughout this broken world.I felt prompted to respond to you as someone who clearly has such a huge influence on her community. The truth is I think we have a lot of common ground and we have misunderstood each other. I’ve responded to your points as you have mine.

    1.) To say, “of course no one’s listening to you… you don’t know anything.” is actually the attitude I was talking about.

    To say that Millennials have no respect for the older generation is exactly opposite of what I wrote in this post. I wrote we desire to be mentored, to walk with faithful people much older than us who can show us how to live a Godly life.

    We don’t know everything, you’re right. But we know our generation, we know what people who are our age are thinking and feeling. And we love Jesus. Invite us into the conversation and let us learn from you rather than simply writing us off. Help us find our voice in the church so we can pass it on to the next generation as you are.

    “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy – 4:12 .

    2.) “it is clear the author does not consider the word of God to be authoritative.” This is where you started be hurtful— this is a quick assumption about a person you’ve never met. I love the word of God and consider it to be everything you said including the ultimate source of truth. I think if you read other posts on my blog this would be abundantly clear.

    Reason #2 was specifically meant to drive us BACK to the bible, hence why I quoted scripture. I think the Church exists not simply to preach the word of God but live it out. I think there needs to be a balance of preaching and action as described in James 2:14-26

    “14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[a] works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works.”

    You’re probably right my mission statement is overly concise, but I was trying to make a point about the length of many mission statements (six and seven page documents in some instances). I would love to hear what you would add to my view of the gospel.

    3.) Just so we are clear communism is a type of government—helping the poor is what Jesus asked of his followers. Again, perhaps we have differing views of what a church should look like. I think it God’s people should model, not just speak the word of God. Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    I of course think church should be preaching truth from the Bible. I wouldn’t consider an organization a church if they weren’t. I also think we often get much too focused on the theoretical and neglect helping the starving and broken people around us. Faith & Works together is what I believe in.

    4.) So glad we found some common ground here. I am TOTALLY asking for you to speak truth from the bible. I think we can agree there are many in my generation who don’t want to hear that, which is why we need it even more from a trusted, loving source who demonstrates they care about us. (Which was why I wrote #9, asking to be mentored)

    5.) I completely agree. It’s harder for shy people to get connected and it’s certainly not the churches fault. I personally think we should keep trying and trying new methods to help those people.

    6.) So glad we found more common ground. I think the church’s purpose is to train believers to follow Jesus’ example, and take action healing and helping as he did. I think an essential component of growing believers, especially in our country, is to teach them to be generous and help people.

    7.) I think we are misunderstanding each other here. Nowhere in this point does it say to do away with preaching. It says, “the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.” I LOVE good preaching. However, with Youtube, Podcasts, (even Netflix has sermons now) the church building isn’t as important in receiving good preaching as it once was. Millennials care about preaching, but we equally care about relationships. I’m not saying our need for relationship is right or wrong, I am just sharing my experience. Please don’t stop preaching for goodness sake. That’s just silly.

    8.) I agree with you here. This one came out of my personal story of spending over a thousand hours serving in a church building the last five years and ultimately burning out. I think I needed some more boundaries in my own life. Thanks for calling me out on this one.

    9.) Another moment of misunderstanding. #2 was not about biblical values. It was about church language. Very Christian words rather than the clear cut words of the bible. I am so glad you’ll talk to us. Yay! The question is will you actually listen or just tell us we’re young and naive? Will you give us space to have our own questions about our faith? Are we allowed to sit and ask God about the tough stuff we don’t understand?

    10.) This one we might have to agree to disagree. I think Christians have a terrible reputation in our culture. I agree priority #1 is growing believers, amen to that. I also love the verse you quote from John 15. However, I don’t think this verse is a license to simply say, “oh well the world should hate us because we’re God’s people.” I think we should live in such a way that people want what we have—the peace, the love, the generosity, strong relationships, good family values.

    I would back that up with Phillippians 1:27 “Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not.”

    11.) This is again where your response gets hurtful “I would like to add here that our church has a wonderful group of millennials who are nothing like this author.” I feel sad you would make a quick judgement of me and be so quick to attack me. Did you know I’ve been a missionary in Zimbabwe? Did you know I spent time in Haiti evangelizing and feeding the poor? Did you know I started a suicide prevention ministry to help the 42,773 people in the U.S. last year who committed suicide?

    I would ask you to be careful with the words you write and the cutting remarks you make on the internet. I am a real person, a person you are attacking despite the fact that you don’t know me from Adam.

    12.) Again, we may have to simply disagree on this one. I would say with church attendance decreasing every year for the past 10 years, we need to look at what is happening and why people are leaving. I think it’s worth asking and talking about rather than just throwing our hands up and saying the church should never adapt its methods. The church has constantly been evolving and I pray it continues to in order to grow and train believers.

    Again, thank you Leslie for your ministry and your love of God’s word. I would love to continue talking about my words and yours at anytime. eatonsp@gmail.com or recklesslyalive.com

    I hope you can read my words with love and good intentions in keeping this conversation going. Bless you and all that you do.
    -Sam
    (Author of the article you say no one should listen to…)

    • Hi, Sam. I appreciate your response very much and agree that we have more in common than I thought we would, given the tone of your post. First let me say that, you are right! I definitely owe you an apology. It was not my intention to be unkind, but I can see now that I wrote some things in a hurtful tone. For that I am humbly and deeply sorry. I will be much more careful from here on out. Quite honestly, my blog has a very small audience. I didn’t really expect much of a response from my post at all. The fact that so many people did respond helps us to understand that I wasn’t the only one who misunderstood you. The tone of your post came across…hmmm…how shall I say it…? A bit arrogant–like those who have gone on before you have done everything wrong. Like we need to change everything in order for you to come back to church. In reading your comment to this post, I don’t think this is how you meant it to sound. I also wonder if you have considered that perhaps you and some of your generation have grabbed hold of a worldview that, instead of having biblical roots, is based on post-modern thought? And that you are viewing the church through those lenses? Let me add here something very important–I LOVE your age group. I love your enthusiasm and fresh ideas and we need you in our churches! When I implied that no one was listening to you, I didn’t mean it the way it sounded (I should really have worded that differently!). But, in recent years, I have clearly seen our culture worship youth and marginalize the elderly. And this is having a devastating effect on the church. It is this perspective from which I was speaking. Since I consider myself to be pretty much between the two age groups, I think I am viewing it pretty objectively ;) This divide is one of the main reasons I hate to hear of churches holding traditional and contemporary services–because it divides two age groups that really need each other! It sounds like we agree on this.

      Another thing to consider is how little of the Bible was used in your very important post. Because if we both believe the Bible is the inerrant and authoritative Word of God, then it matters little what your opinion is or what my opinion is. All conclusions should be based on the Word of God. Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible cannot be interpreted however anyone wants it to be. With this in mind, it is important always to see what scripture has to say and let that reign, no matter what the opinion of anyone else (including myself!)

      As for true faith being backed up by works–amen and amen! I couldn’t agree with you more. It is one of the reasons I write here. My biggest burden by far is for people who call themselves Christians and have no fruit or actions to back up those words–many whom are inside the church. I agree with you 100%.

      And, I guess one final thought I have is this: Whenever we start thinking that man has to “do” something in order to bring people into the church doors or to get them saved, it leads us to have a low opinion of God. It is God who draws man to Himself (John 6:44). It is a privilege and a blessing if He uses us, but we aren’t necessary. Therefore, we must remain true to the faith and God’s Word without compromise. We are told in the last days we will be persecuted and hated. I believe this is what we are experiencing now. Of course, we don’t purposely strive as a church to be hated by the world but if we follow hard after Jesus Christ we will not be popular. The way is narrow and few there are that find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

      Again, Sam, I am beyond sorry if I was hurtful in my post. It was not my intention but I have learned a good lesson and I am very thankful you called me out. If you would like to continue this conversation, let’s do so by e-mail– Leslie@growing4life.net. It is important that you know that I do not like conflict or internet debates. I generally stay far, far away from the battles that rage online. For me to even respond to your post is a highly unusual thing for me to do, which also demonstrates how important I thought it was to do so. Thanks again for clearing up a few things. Glad to hear we have more in common than I would have first thought :)

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