Paul in Corinth felt alone and afraid when God encouraged that he had many people in that city (Acts 18:10). Elijah had a similar experience, bemoaning how he was alone yet God revealed to him that a remnant was preserved. Despite Elijah’s feeling he was alone in staying faithful to God, God lets him know he has seven thousand loyal followers Elijah doesn’t even know about (1 Kings 19:18). All this to say, God has people in every era, in every place, in every generation.
In fact, it’s better than that. God has raised leaders in every era, place, and generation. Churches that aren’t looking for what leaders God is raising among Millennials are positioning themselves to miss out on the next wave of blessings and the next wave of solutions to the unique challenges of our time that God will use Millennials to discover.
This isn’t some blind faith in “Millennials will save the world” rubbish. Boomers didn’t save the world, Xers didn’t save the world and Millennials won’t save the world either. Christ will save the world and partners with all of us to that end, a task far beyond any one generation. Boomers made their impact on the faith. As did Xers. So it’s not vain nor naïve nor prideful to recognize that Millennials are also working hard in the Lord’s service and will leave their own unique mark on the Kingdom.
It is our hope that more Millennials will rise to the challenge. Just as any generation, Millennials bring a lot of positives to the table. The technologies Gen Xers learned in midlife are the bread and butter of Millennial life. Their tech savvy nature goes hand in hand with resourcefulness, a generation that can learn from YouTube videos, can gain instant advice with a few clicks of the keyboard and can instantly look up answers to questions other generations had to search a library or call a professional to solve.
Millennials love to do things independent of micromanaging authorities yet also love to do things collaboratively with peers. Despite their reputation of being yet another “me” generation, they are uniquely diverse, welcoming of differences and geared for teamwork. The ability to share ideas instantly creates an innovative atmosphere where they can bypass endless meetings of committees and brainstorming and instead jump right into creative solutions. They learn through collective discussion instead of one way teaching, which can create incredible new dynamics in discipleship.
And they are connected. Despite a reputation for being disconnected from the relationships at hand, at no time in history did the average person have the ability to influence so many others so quickly. Millennials thrive on community. Other generations only look down on them because it isn’t community in the same way they are used to. Relationships look very different, but they remain just as vital and valuable to Millennials.
Millennials are a passionate group with boundless energy, an optimism even their elders can’t dampen. As a whole, they possess more free time than most generations as they wait longer to pick up time consuming obligations such as steady careers, marriages and families. Millennials also bring a fresh perspective. Often we can’t see the rut we are in, it takes someone with a fresh eye to point it out. Millennials can challenge churches to reform; and where reform is refused, Millennials can strike out as leaders in their own right and challenge other Millennials to stay faithful to Christ as well. Christ has given them that power and authority, just as all Believers of all time have inherited it.
It is important to recognize: Millennials bailing on churches isn’t the crisis. Millennials bail on churches because of the crisis. The crisis is that our churches rarely represent God well in our modern American church context. (See our first two layers, Reformation and Repentance, for more on this crisis!) Millennials will help find solutions to the crisis, not because Millennials are special but because our place in history is special. Like Jesus calling for reform in minds and hearts and practice due to the corruption Temple worship had become; like Luther calling for reform in minds and hearts and practice due to the corruption of 16th century Catholicism; Millennials will take their place in history as reformers because reform is necessary in their day, not because Millennials are any better than other generations.
It is our hope: for Millennials, that they will bring reform and renewal to churches and re-envision what the Church universal should look like to meet the needs of a suffering world and best represent God’s heart and values. Tired of growing up in a culture that constantly looks to pass the buck and blame to others, we hope more Millennials will take a stand and own the problems and solutions Christendom so badly needs.
It is our hope: to see more Christians appreciating what is unique about the rising generation and more Christians willing to mentor Millennials to best use their gifts for the Kingdom. Could churches hone the generational assets Millennials bring to the table? Of course they could. And as Millennials have rough edges and flaws, it’s the moral obligation of older Christians and churches to guide them to full maturity in this as well.
It is our hope: to find more churches interested in reform and open to hearing from Millennials in their midst. “No church is perfect” is a dismissive phrase that too easily allows churches to accept their problems and not care about finding solutions. We hope more churches will find inspiration to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) – especially in giving grace and compassion to those outside their walls, for “if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?” (Matthew 5:47)
Hope is the third layer of our foundation, because we believe without a doubt that God is powerfully at work in the world today. We believe God is at work in Millennials and we believe God is at work in churches. We believe it is never too late for a Millennial to step up to own their faith and it is never too late for a church to seek reform. And we hope God uses our efforts to help in each of those areas.
(Photo credit: Jeanne Renfro – Daffodils of hope – nature reclaiming fire damaged areas in Gatlinburg, TN)