Have you seen the recent Jillian Jacobs Diet Coke commercial? Check it out on You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEpuN7tRFRU).
“Look, Here’s the thing about Diet Coke. (She takes a drink) It’s delicious! It makes me feel good. Life is short. If you want to live in a yurt, yurt it up. If you want to run a marathon…I mean that sounds super hard, but OK. I mean, just do you. Whatever that is. And if you are in the mood for a Diet Coke…have a diet Coke. Diet Coke, because I can.”
Look you do you, right? Me? I will do me. Who am I to tell you to do me? I follow. It is fun, oozes hipster and freedom, confidence, positive, inclusivity and even hopeful—and it is about a Coke product. I get it. I really do. I would be lying if I told you that I don’t spend most of my day “doing me.” No judgment.
I thought about that commercial when Barna comes out with their latest study (https://www.barna.com/research/non-christians-faith-conversations/”) that says that seems to imply that Millennials won’t witness to non-Christians because it feels like judging them. This led to CT’s misleading Breaking News headline, Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize: Survey finds young believers want others to know about Jesus. They just don’t want to speak up about it. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/half-of-millennial-christians-wrong-to-evangelize-barna.html
Truth told, they are burying the real headline.
So Mills, I think that I have your collective backs here. What Barna actually says is that “Practicing Christian Millennials” (those 8-9 million young adults who say that they take their faith seriously and attend their church at least 1/month) are as missionally productive as any of the other church attending generation. 96% of PCMs agree that part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus (compared to 97% and 95% Practicing Christian Gen Xers and Practicing Christian Boomers respectfully). Zero statistical difference. Same could be said of the next question. 94% of PCMs (compared to 97% PC Gen X and 97% PC Boomers would agree with this statement. “The best thing that could even happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.” Very little distinguishable difference. 73% of PCMs, significantly more than PC Gen Xers (66%) and PC Boomers (59%) feel that they are actually gifted at sharing their faith.
The two questions that have created the hub bub are these. Do you agree with this statement?
“It is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” 47% of PCMs agreed, compared to 27% PCX and 19% PCBoomer. And “If someone disagrees with you, it means that they’re judging you.” (40% PCMs, 22% PCXers and 9% PCBoomer).
I believe that surveys are only as good as the questions and this appears to me to be a poorly thought out question. I am trying to reconcile these answers with the 94% PCMs who say that this is “The best thing that could even happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.”
Look I think that the young adults are weary and highly sensitive to anything that smells like racism, sexism, classism, shaming, bullying, etc. And should be. This sensitivity has been drilled into their heads since they were infants. They seem to really believe that all people, no matter what or who, deserve to be treated with honor and respect–whether they agree with me or not. Whether they are buying into Jesus and Christianity or not. It is their choice to believe that they believe. They should be honored because they are them. If they are harming others—well that’s a different matter. But if they are living their lives based upon what they believe in, then they are not to be despised or treated with contempt. So, this changes how we approach real people with the amazing news of Jesus Christ. It just does. Witnessing is less arguing, berating, crushing in cross examination, making your point about things even if it shames people, and more respectful open handed dialogue. We can be passionate and vocal, but not judgmental. That is above our paygrade, and truth told is not very effective in getting a dialogue going.
So the issue here, I believe, is not whether the PCMs will witness or not, the real question is how will they witness. That is the core issue. Can I witness in a way that does not look down at other people, make them feel judged, or small or ugly, or “wrong?” I am not suggesting that this is easy. Right is right and sin is sin, right? We must not water down the gospel and even imply that well you can just believe what you want to believe and God is OK with that. The Law judges us all.
But having said that, there is case after case where Jesus witnesses without crushing people, without condemning folk. Remember the Rich Young Ruler? The woman at the well. Zacheaus. Peter? The prostitute? 4I think that in this culture where shaming happens on such a regular basis and where more and more people are wildly hyper sensitive to it, it would make sense for us to learn how to witness in a way that does not feel like judgment to others.
One way that we can do this is to make sure that we offer Jesus to anyone and everyone equally. Heaven will be filled with redeemed gays and straights, Democrats and Republicans, American and Venezuelans, Catholics, Jews and Baptists, rich and poor, drug dealers, child molesters, politicians and priests. Hell will be filled with unredeemed folks from each of the very same category. The only difference is Jesus’ redemption. Period. Would any of those feel judged by what I just said? Come to Jesus as you are, not as you should be or could be. Receive the greatest gift in all the world—just because he wants to give it to you. Feel judgment?
I do not have all of the answers. Sin is sin after all. But I do think that we can ramp up Kingdom evangelism if we thought through this a bit more.
What do you think?