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Millennials Are OVER Church

Empty Church

Millennials, those people aged from their late teens to their mid thirties, are “the least likely to be religious“. Furthermore, a United Kingdom poll is probably typical in finding ‘41% thought religion was “the cause of evil” in the world more often than good.’

A recent blog post by Sam Eaton gave 12 Reasons Millennials Are OVER Church.

Hard hitting, for me, was the Millennials’ weariness with mission and vision statements, the endless groups, the ineffectiveness of preaching, and the lack of actually doing stuff for the last, the lost, and the least.

Jesus has given us a mission statement and a vision statement. We don’t need to have more endless meetings and processes to create yet another (particular) community mission statement. We need to get out and DO it!

We don’t need yet another meeting, yet another programme, yet another study group. Time is precious – and we have inherited a pre-TV, pre-digital way of being church where church was our social experience and our source of news. Well the social-media generation won’t play that game.

Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents… We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our fingertips. For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history. Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. … We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants)? (point 7)

Jesus’ mission would have us be the hands, feet, eyes, and mouth of caring for the lost, the last, the least – oh, and caring for the environment, the planet. Are we actually doing that? Or are people outside the church often actually doing this better? (point 3)

[Those who use the Daily Eucharistic Readings (they are in the Chapel) will have read yesterday (or for some that’s still today) Matt 21:28-32 about those who say they will do God’s will and don’t, and those who say they are not interested in doing God’s will and yet actually go and do what God wants.]

This is where I part company with the introduction to Sam Eaton’s post (clearly this introduction is written by somebody else):

Only 4 percent of the Millennial Generation are Bible-Based Believers. This means that 96 percent of Millennials likely don’t live out the teachings of the Bible, value the morals of Christianity…

Let’s leave the discussion about “Bible-Based Believers” (what are “nonBible-Based Believers”?) – but I’m going to strongly disagree that 96% of Millenials “don’t live out the teachings of the Bible”. In my experience, they often live out these teachings at least as well if not better than church-goers (the blog post editor’s “Bible-Based Believers”). And, to suggest that 96% of Millenials “don’t value the morals of Christianity” is prejudicial arrogance, just the sort of prejudices and arrogance that (rightly?) keeps Millenials from coming to church.

Two last points:

There is no mention of worship style. OK – preaching is mentioned, and it’s clear that preaching is overrated. But other than that, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that Millenials seek authentic worship – not just a show (and the hollow show-likeness can happen in every part of the Christian spectrum).

There was also no mention of a church’s online presence. Again, I’m going to stick my neck out – I think that is just taken for granted. Online is where Millenials live. They grew up with computers in their homes. “Millennials use social networking sites, such as Facebook, to create a different sense of belonging, make acquaintances, and to remain connected with friends.”

[ps. as a concrete example of the church’s lack of interest in being present in the world Millennials take for granted, and further to last week’s Online Mission and Ministry post, yesterday I was on the website of one of the most important churches in NZ Anglicanism. On this site, they give the date not of the event, but of when the information is loaded onto their website!!! So that, as just one example, it says: “Wednesday, 30 November 2016 Nine Lessons and carols” when the actual carol service is on Sunday 18th December!]

What do you think?

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10 Responses to Millennials Are OVER Church

  1. Hi Bosco. Given your roll with Millennials (I’d only just worked out the one c two s rule for necessary when this word turned up) I think you speak with some authority on this subject. Seeing how you’ve stuck your neck out, I add my chins. Young people (in my experience) despite their love of innovation tend toward regular rhythm in worship. Freeing themselves from the need to guess what is coming next gives them space. I recently re-read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, a usual stocktake pedagogical guide at the end of a busy school year. Whilst the post you have here refers to Millennials, this has quite clearly been an issue for some time.Young people need something more concrete or ‘Opaque’. They can be entertained by entertainers far superior to best the preacher, or worship leader with a drumkit and amp, and yearn for regularity, routine, and a sense of the numinous.One need only look to the educational ideology being adopted here and elsewhere to see ‘mindfulness’ shaping lessons and teaching and learning programmes. I think by and large the church is epically failing in it’s MO to the young. Positive psychology is stealing a march (it’s a lay down misere at this point) on traditional Christian spirituality in schools, and it is using a regular and ritualistic pattern (a liturgy of sorts) to do so. Why are we surrendering our liturgy to secularism in an attempt to appeal to the parts it has itself freely jettisoned? Is this what Lewis meant by secularism’s “strategic withdrawal”?

    • Amen, Cameron. Let me add to that: I think that church regularly has old people thinking what they would want if they were young people now (which is different to what young people now actually want) and young-people-who-go-to-church thinking what young people want (which is more of what those particular young people want, rather than what young-people-who-don’t-go-to-church want). Christians have a tradition of mindfulness (I bang on about that enough on this site) – but it is the Buddhist version that is known. We have a tradition of regular, authentic worship. And we have a foundation of intelligent spirituality (again less known than the anti-scientific, anti-historical nonsense that most young people encounter). Advent blessings.

  2. An older priest friend of mine is the chaplain at a thriving liberal arts college, with a very “high” Anglo-Catholic worship tradition, but very few “Bible-Based Believers” among the staff and students. The chapel, however, fascinates and draws in a number of the “secular” students. This goes to your point about “authenticity,” Bosco.

    The chaplain explained to me that these secular students sense that there’s an emptiness and disorder in the world they’ve been sold. They want to have deep friendships, to live with integrity, to make the hard choices that bring meaning in life, and to make a difference in the world. They are (my summary) righteous pagans, the sort that might have sought out a Socrates.

    Every Saturday, a group of them meets in the chaplain’s house to read an academic paper by a recently deceased leading light of the college and discuss its philosophical implications. A couple of students are in fact “Bible-Based Believers,” and the chaplain tells me that he has been accused by them of failing ever to mention the name “Jesus” or to say that faith in him is necessary for salvation.

    The chaplain admits he is guilty as charged. As he put it to me (I may not get the exact words right), “These students are like Dante ascending Mount Purgatory guided by Virgil, who represents the wisdom of the pagan philosophers who discerned that their true home should have been the earthly Paradise. The students are trying to rebuild it here and now. The pagan philosophers also knew that human beings were made for friendship with God, and that this was the truest happiness. But they discovered that friendship with God seemed impossible in this world, which is why in their mythology the souls of the dead drank the waters of Lethe, which made them forget their past lives and the final futility of their quest. What the pagans knew instinctively they had need of, but could not hope for or even describe, was grace, to restore and perfect nature. That’s why Virgil can’t stay with Dante in the earthly Paradise, and why Dante can’t ascend still further without a different guide (Beatrice). These students won’t be ready to hear about Jesus until they’ve discovered the need for grace in a world corrupted by sin. Until then, he’ll be the answer to a question they haven’t asked yet.”

    Sounds about right to me. And that’s from a grey-haired, long-bearded, not-long-to-retirement priest. He must be paying attention to the Millennials.

  3. The congregation where I worship is nearly all millennials and at 60 I’m usually second oldest (and by quite some margin). The racial cross section is quite a bit wider than I’m used to with various Asian groups, Africans, Australians and Indians among others represented. The high level of professional qualification is also notable with engineers, theologians, teachers, medical professionals, scientists in both industrial and research fields sprinkled about. Expository preaching, which I like, seems to be working for the congregation.
    All quite encouraging.

    • That, as you say, Terry, is very encouraging in one way – but the question, then, might be asked: why are there no old people? A Pentecostal pastor friend of mine had a very large, thriving church, but came to me when he had called in some external analysis. He discovered that on average people stayed 18 months – and, again on average, once people left his church, they did not then join any other one. Our hope, obviously, is that church be for all ages, all stages, all races, all cultures. Advent blessings.

  4. This talk of Bible-based believers reminds me of one of the sayings of that great Kabalist, Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford, in his Chicken Qabalah. Talking about the prophets and wise men who wrote the Jewish scriptures, with their encoded spiritual messages, and particularly aimed at the later Christians who think they understand slavish (and often very poor) English translations, he said:

    “These sages were full-time holy guys. They wrote this stuff for other full-time holy guys, and the tiny segment of every generation who would be equipped with the intelligence, the spiritual drive (and leisure time) necessary to embark upon a lifelong quest for enlightenment. I assure you, these ancient mystics would have produced a radically different body of work had they in their wildest nightmares imagined that in some future dark age their secret coded scriptures would be seized by half-witted and sadistic European cannibals and interpreted literally, like some grotesque and racist history book.”

    If you’ve never encountered Chicken Qabalah before, you should make amends. You’ll find a hugely funny book, that contains painful and withering truths!

  5. Bosco, I think you’ll appreciate the irreverent, but deep, learning.

    We’re now into the final week of Advent, and my favourite time: the Great O Antiphons. Great stuff.

    I’ll leave you with one more thought from Chicken Qabalah, in the commentary on the letter ש, whose sound ShYN in Kabbalah has the number 360, the same sum as the letters making up ‘Ruch Alhim’, which means the breath of God, the Holy Spirit:

    “When the letter Shin is introduced into the middle of the word יהוה (YHVH) Jehovah, it becomes יהשוה (YHShVH) Jeshuah, Jesus.”

    • Thanks, David. My understanding is that Yeshua is יֵשׁוּעַ and Yehoshuah (Joshua) is יְהוֹשֻׁעַ – both are quite different to the point you are making – nice though it is (and connected though it would be). Advent blessings.

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