The Millennial Church: The Future of Christianity (Pt.2)

In his new book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman expresses that Millennials want a Church that is not shallow. I think my generation is tired of seeing shallow debate over homosexuality (especially when institutional marriage is so broken). When job security is at an all time low, when the poverty of the world has been so blatantly advertised for us, I think we grew tired of the prosperity (name it/claim it, God wants to make you rich) gospel. I think my generation no longer wants the corporate fluff that it has been handed by the Church, I think it wants substance (which I find ironic because we are so infatuated with Jersey Shore).

For most of us who grew up in Christian circles (or even just saw it on TV), we watched churches refurbish sports stadiums into their new cathedrals. We were entertained by worship services that mimicked a Bon Jovi concert. We heard too much noise about not swearing, smoking, drinking, or going to second base with your girlfriend or boyfriend. At the end of the day, we know that largely this is all performance and the performance doesn’t connect us with God. (It connects us with religion). While the numbers of Christians in my generation are decreasing, for those of us who remain, I think we want God; we’re tired with the performance of religion.

I think what we long for is substance. The millennials are the first to step out of Christendom. We don’t want the institution that has so long dominated the generations before us, we want movement. We don’t want the Church to be about maintenance, we want it to be about mission. We don’t want to be known for appeasing the masses, we want to be about the minority. I don’t think they want to hear sermons about a God who has a plan for your life (the very fact that all human beings crave meaning ought to indicate that we know that life was meant to be lived and lived well). I think my generation wants substance that not moves us not only into an abundant life, but calls that abundant life into a social restoration. The performance did a great job of building a container for the institution, we want to know what is inside that container.

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11 thoughts on “The Millennial Church: The Future of Christianity (Pt.2)

  1. Tim says:

    It makes me curious to know if the same people who are attracted to “performance” churches would attend a more bland service but where Jesus is preached well. Is there a balance? Some say the lights and the music and video and sound is all about giving God our best, not just a 90 year old woman on the organ and some hymns that are centuries old. What is church supposed to look like?

    • Adrienne says:

      Church is a hospital for the broken, not a showcase for the so-called righteous. The term “Church” is centuries old, and when Jesus spoke of the “Church,” He was talking about the people inside the building, not the building itself. God doesn’t care if we’re flashy with worship – He cares whether or not we’re doing what Jesus taught us through His own ministry. He cares if we’re helping the broken, the lost, the sick, the poor. Jesus didn’t hang out with people who had everything in check – He stayed with the tax collectors, whores, leppers…the poor, the sick, and the broken.

      Seriously, what good am I doing myself or others if all I do is go sit in a church service once a week? I feel the church of today has taught us we can do what we want as long as we repent. I’m stamping that one FALSE. So, I can go out and kill someone – no big deal as long as I ask for forgiveness? While, yes, God forgives, and He makes it as though our sins have never happened, I can’t live my whole life as if God doesn’t exist, then use my final breaths to praise His name. That is NOT what God has called us to do. He’s called us to go into this world and do something about the sick, the poor, and the broken, not sit around watching it all happen saying, “I know where I’m going, so it doesn’t matter.” Rebuttal: Jesus knew He was going to die on the cross, yet He preached and gave to others as if He wouldn’t. He gave Himself fully for God, and in the end, fully for us.

      And I think that’s what God wants for us – to give ourselves fully to Him, and in doing so, we will give ourselves fully to others. So, you’re asking what church is supposed to look like? A hospital. But what does the Church look like? It looks like us getting off our butts and going out into this world and making a difference for God. It looks like us spending time and helping those that others may deem as “undesirables” or “unworthy.” It looks like us discipling and showing God to “the least of these.” I don’t know about you, but for me, the Church isn’t a place, a building, a thing. For me, the Church is us, and through the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we shall see the Kingdom of God.

  2. Pat Pope says:

    Good post and there are others of us much older than millenials that want the same. We’re tired of the games, empty rituals and hoops that people are forced to jump through.

  3. You’re speaking my language mate! Totally agree. I think Millennials are also sick of hierarchical leadership structures, sunday-morning oriented ‘church,’ and the inherent dualism that is rampant throughout christendom.

  4. lamehousewife says:

    Thank you for this post…it is very illuminating. Did you ever think about Mother Teresa’s Church–she was all about depth and mission. God bless!

  5. Morgan Guyton says:

    I wish this were the majority perspective because then more people would come to our struggling but genuine and beautiful congregation. Most millennials want to be in a church with a large enough young adult program that they can find a future spouse. Hence megachurches continue to be megachurches while millennials blog about wanting for things to be different.

  6. Good post, Mike. I gotta say ‘amen’ to the desire to live out authentic faith of substance and not living empty religion. The one thing that cracked me up, though? When you say “the millennials are the first to step out of Christendom”, I have to chuckle a little.

    Back when I was your age (ie, a few years before you were born), I was coming out of college, part of a church that was born out of the “Jesus Freak” movement of the 70’s (the actual movement, not the DC Talk song) and had similar thoughts about the old “dead” church vs. the new, vibrant, live church that me and my generation were a part of. To say that the milennials are the first to step out is ignoring a bit of history, you know? Churches that originally met on the beach eventually moved to buildings, fed the homeless on Sunday morning before church (when the church met at a movie theatre in a mall a block from that beach), etc.

    The point I hope to make here is that, yes, it’s good that you and your generation don’t want to accept the status quo, that you want authentic faith that’s not tied to buildings and programs, but you should realize that many if not most of the programs and traditions of the church started from a genuine move of the Spirit calling the church to something new… just like the Spirit is calling you to something new now.

    A good friend of mine that was an english/religious studies major wrote a paper (again, before you were born) that looked at this phenomenom — church movements that are living and vibrant begin to age and start to harden, much like a snail might grow a shell; eventually, this thing that was full of life becomes a deadened framework, relying on traditions and “religion”, and eventually, for true life to occur, there has to be an offshoot that leaves the shell behind and starts anew. And then, this vibrant new life that ventures out on its own to change the world grows… and its shell begins to harden…. the cycle continues. In her paper, this friend pointed out that some day, the new churches that were being born and were full of life at that time (Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, etc.) would do the same thing as organizations before, and someday, the “life” would have to move out of the shell to bring new life.

    What started out as young Christians writing simple love songs to God that they could sing on the beach has grown into church worship teams that “mimic Bon Jovi concerts.” When those groups that used to meet on the beach and preach Jesus got too big, they ended up moving to bigger facilities, sometimes even to sports stadiums… and now, that which was originally full of life and bringing glory to God becomes “tradition” and “ritual” and is torn down as not being authentic.

    Keep following hard after God. Do the real stuff — love people, be “missional”. But realize, when you’re my age, your kids might be telling you that “being missional” is a catch phrase for what has become an empty religious shell. And they might be right, just like you are right now. Yours isn’t the first generation that’s been called to break with the traditions of the church you grew up in, and yours won’t be the last.

    By the way, 30 years ago, I had a similar viewpoint to yours… my generation was going to finally do things right. And then this friend of mine let me read a paper she wrote, which helped me put my idealism into a slightly bigger framework…..

    Good post, Mike. Don’t settle. Keep your heart pliable. Continue to let God live in and through you…. and someday, when your kids say “dad, how can you settle for these traditions and empty ‘religion’ ?”, maybe you’ll shake your head and chuckle and have a good conversation.

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  8. […] posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part […]

  9. Heather says:

    Hi Mike, stumbled upon this blog. I’m a sister in Christ and ’85 so I’m a couple years ahead of you 😉 There are many points I agree with you on here, but I gotta be honest and say that not only in your post but in the comments I picked up on a spirit of rebellion, and not the “godly” type people say Jesus had. One commentor said “God doesn’t care if we’re flashy with worship” that is absolutely not true. Read the Old Testament? About the Tabernacle? The Temple? Notice how crazy particular God is about doing things HIS way? Well, this was Jesus’ way, too (read John 1:1). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8.

    If you think I’m saying God is just as “strict” with us today as He was in the OT, I’m not. We know we are under grace now and not under the law (Rom 6:14), but His character has never changed. It is ONLY because of what His Son did that He now gives us grace. Point is, the entire New Testament was written as a “guideline” for the Church and for the individual Christian. We can’t lose sight of this. He is still particular about how the Church is to conduct herself, especially in worship Joh 4:24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” and when He says “spirit” He is bespeaking of your human spirit where you are to deny your soul and walk by your spirit so the Holy Spirit can lead you in worship. I’m not trying to go into the pariculars of worship, but what I noticed is an attitude that if we make ourselves all about Jesus, everything else doesn’t matter. Really? YES make yourself all about Jesus! The more you truly do this you’ll be stripped of your opinions of how to conduct this Church and cling to His precious words He cares about and told us to follow in HIS Word.

    Guys, I am soooooo excited about the potential of our generation in the Church! BUT we are going to WANDER if we don’t ground ourselves in the Word of God, and this has been my prayer I have grieved over for almost two years now for our generation. We MUST learn to not walk by our emotions, but by the Word of God guys, and the only way we can truly walk by the Word of God is by faith. It isn’t easy. It takes SELF denial (Mt 16:24) regardless of all the mumbo jumbo going around out there that says to love yourself, believe yourself and trust in yourself. We must deny ourselves, follow Him, and walk by faith not by sight, if we truly desire to offer ourselves to Him for His good work. It’s ONLY because of Him that we live, and if we recognize that and love Him for that, let’s desire with ALL our hearts to do HIS work HIS way, not the way our young hearts wants to do it now. Root yourself in Him. Ground yourself in Him. Wait on Him. And let HIM do the work – we’re just an unworthy vessel doing what we’re commanded to do by the Spirit in the quietness of our room, on our knees.

    “being rooted and grounded in love” “God is love” Eph 3:17, 1 John 4:8

    Be rooted and grounded in God. Tip: study the Trinity!!! Contrary to what people say, it’s NOT a mystery! Get to know who God truly is and let it be your absolute center. SOOO exciting, eye opening, stunning, humiliating…humbling, utterly and completely humbling. Let’s get there together brothers and sisters.

  10. chris says:

    hi, my names chris. Im from australia.
    I would also like to comment.
    walking into a new century is exciting but at the same time we are slowly walking away from what the bible teaches to be tru. In the world of freedom and love and where we can vote in anything as long as the masses agree is a dangerous place to be growing up.
    Freedom and love without godliness will only put us back to the times before the flood. In a world we are now free and have the right to do what ever and is legally to be voted in, is starting to encourage walking away from what the bible teaches us to do. If we ignore everything else that the bible asks us to do and just love people then we fall from grace. True we have come a long way with rights and freedom but without the bible to guide us and say enough is enough we are making our own rules mixed in with love.
    the bible has been put there to protect us from our selves and state how god wants us to live.
    Paul cleary saids homosexuality is a sin, but today we say times are changing. If we walk away from the bible and make our own rules and create our own Jesus then we will eventually eat from our own labour.

    The bible mentions a few times in history when we walked away from Gods way and went our own way. The first was the flood, the second was in the times of sodom and gomorah, the 3rd was when Moses went up the mountain to get the 10 commandments and they didnt think he was going to come back down and they made their own gods.
    Today many people say the bible is to religius and we know longer follow its suggested practices as we have evolved and times are changing. Evey little part of evolvement that eventually walks away from what the bible suggests we live like leads to our destruction as a church. If we start offering ground to the enemy just becuase thats the sort of society we live in doesnt mean the values we now support are right. It just means its taken satan generations to lead the church against itself. And now becuase of technology that can be done very quickly. Regardless of how old and religous the bible may seem in what it sets out to be sin and immorality and just to old of a cultral difference that we dont understand it nor believe in a lot of its ways….dont be decieved…..its us walking away and not the bible walking away from us..chris

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