Recent CT article headline “Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize”.
Bombshell right? But honestly, I think that the author buried the lead. Or better, this lead, though explosive, just might cause readers to draw the wrong conclusions. Listen to other very interesting findings in the article that may prove to be more helpful.
“Millennials who identify as born-again were the most likely age group to share their faith—and that their evangelism habits were growing while other generations’ were dropping. In 2013, two-thirds of millennials said they had presented the gospel to someone within the past year, compared to half of born-again Christians in general. Additionally, practicing Christian millennials have the strongest beliefs in the Bible and read it more than any other generation: 87 percent do so multiple times a week, according to a 2016 Barna survey on behalf of the American Bible Society (ABS).”
So, they ARE witnessing. They ARE enthusiastically practicing their faith as compared to other generations. So, what’s Mill’s beef with evangelizing?
The finding that struck me the most was the following Barna survey statement. “If someone disagrees with you, it means that they’re judging you.” Elders, Boomers and Gen X answered 11%, 9% and 22% respectively. Mills? A whopping 40% were sensing that witnessing and judging were more or less synonymous. Per Barna’s Kinnaman, “Cultivating deep, steady, resilient Christian conviction is difficult in a world of ‘you do you’ and ‘don’t criticize anyone’s life choices’ and emotivism, the feelings-first priority that our culture makes a way of life.”
What is happening in the emotions of our young adults? Probably many things. Yet there appears to be a disconnect between, “Yeah, I really believe this stuff about Jesus and Heaven and the possibility transforming life beginning now”, and “Well, I don’t want to offend others or make them feel criticized or judged.”
A couple of thoughts. Barna is right. This generation has been pummeled by media of all sorts that the best thing that you can do today is to “be you”. “You do you”. And when you do you, you should not be judged for that, or made to feel shame for your choices. Your “doing you” is valid and honorable. So, Mills are hypersensitive to any one group, or class, or sex, or religion looking down at another. They are particularly sensitive that the church, in their opinion, has a long history of shaming and despising those outside her walls (“You do me, or you go to hell”). By the way, they may be right. I for one am willing to confess guilt in that arena.
But I also think that this is
clear evidence of just how deeply shame has influenced this generation. No
judgment. Me too. Shame says
“Who am I to tell you what you should believe, or should be doing? I am not perfect. I am not a good spokesperson for doing the right things. The best thing that I can do is shut up and keep my head down and work even harder to become a worthy Jesus-Follower and a worthy spokesperson …eventually…hopefully. Until then, people will see through my obvious hypocrisy.”
My generation, Boomers, appear to be largely unaware of our vast hypocrisy. Our generational denial doesn’t hinder or soften our gospel presentation too much. All too often we tell people what they SHOULD be doing, blissfully unaware that our records are very spotty. No judgment. Me too.
What to do? Well my Boomer tendency is to say, “This is what we, and they, SHOULD be doing.” That’s the fix for my generation. “Choose to stop sinning and go and love God, self and others.”
Confession time? I have come to see, that I do not have that muscle group. Rather, what I am learning is that the remedy for my shame is the Simple Uncluttered Gospel. Listen again. Nothing new, and yet, it alone has the power to cause me to believe today (Rom 1:16). Believe what? A lot of things, but in particular that God loves me as I am, right now, not as I should be.
“Jesus-Follower, strictly because of what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago, God “has” to love you, He does love you with all of His heart, as much as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. He can’t love you any more or any less than He does right now. He loves you as you are, not as you should be or could be. You can’t add to this love, or take away from it. Now I get it, it often feels like you’ve messed it up, or need to do something so that God would like you better. Not so. How do you experience it more now? Simple! Good news, there is something that you can do, and are invited to do. You can take daily baby-steps to ask the Spirit inside of you to make you know, experience, and feel, just how much God loves you right now. Just ask. Ask again later today. Ask tomorrow. Make it a spiritual habit.”
(Eph 3:14-21, Rom 5:6-8, 1 Cor 13:4-8, John 13:34-35, Titus 2:11-13)
My shame, our shame, even our deeply entrenched hidden shame has a real enemy this side of Heaven. John tells us that there is a “perfect love” that casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18). Shame is ultimately a function of fear. So the more I am experiencing such a perfect love, the less places are available for shame to hide. Remember, shame tells me that
“I am a hypocritical failure, not worthy of speaking into the lives of others—certainly not telling them what a good Christian should be doing. What can I say? I wonder if God is disappointed in me today—or worse. Truth told, I really need that person’s approval and respect today. It is a matter of survival that others like me—don’t reject me—that hurts too much. It unleashes an emotional turmoil in my brain. So, you do you. I’m not judging them. Honestly, I am spending too much time judging myself as a spiritual failure. If I were honest, I can’t believe that God likes me at all.”
I believe that this is the core first-message to Millennial Christians. “Hey, God loves you, adores you, is so proud of you, not due to anything that you have done, or not done. All because of what Jesus has done on your behalf 2000 years ago. If you want to experience more of that right now, just ask the Holy Spirit in you to make you get it. Calvin argues that this is the wheelhouse of the Spirit, His passion, His secret working. Our role is to ask, ask often and always. I see a younger generation of Christians who want a gospel that actually changes lives and relationships right now. Not perfectly, that’s Heaven. But noticeably. I also see a younger generations of adults (Christians and non-Christians) who are also looking for the real deal, a relational power that really makes a difference in our identities, purpose, hope, relationships, and sexuality. They stand ready to change the church and the world. Instead of telling Christians what to do, first, we invite them to ask the Spirit, to access God’s love for them (Eph 3:14-21), purchased by Jesus, right now. Keep doing that until your shame cries “Uncle!” Then repeat. You will notice a change in motivation to love God and others more. You may even notice a new motivation to love yourself.