Justin Kim serves as the Assistant Director of Sabbath School/Personal Ministries and Editor of the Collegiate Quarterly. More of his editorials can be read at beforethink.org.

Taking Millennials in Vain

Millennials used to use apps for everything, now they don’t. Millennials used to have an online solution for all their problems, customize “life” to their own settings, and hack their way through difficult situations. They did what they were passionate about. Now they don’t. Well, some still do…

Other generations view the same Millennials as lazy, self-entitled, not knowing the value of a dollar, and manipulative. Some of them really are. And some aren’t.

Viewed as a force to be reckoned with, they are larger than their former title-holders, the Boomers, and they are a market driving force for economics. Corporations are finding their input to be indispensable. Organizations are needing their tech-savviness. Economies need their creativity, drive, entrepreneurship, and innovation. They know they are needed and think they do not need to go through the traditional pecking order and loops and hoops like previous young-ins used to. Some of them, that is.

They are much more savvy when it comes to money. Generation specialists state that Millennials desire to create societies, build up infrastructure, volunteer their time, seek value and quality. They are important and integrated; that is, until it comes to the church. Again, this applies to some of them.

In the church in North America, they—some, maybe more than just some—are leaving. The reasons are multi-factorial and if not careful, whoever is making the case may impose their presuppositions to explain why they are not attending worship services.

One group says they are looking for authenticity and genuineness, while the other says they are looking for community and relationships. One says they are looking for a novel innovative experience, while the other says they are looking back to the ancient spiritual practices.

Perhaps the multiplicity of genres and customization to meet the needs and wants of every individual that the internet brought into society has entered into the mind of the current generation, making them (a few of them) not answer in generalizations or corporate answers, but completely random conclusions.

Whatever the case may be, one thing that is common for Millennials is that as a generation, they are being used, especially when it comes to the church.

In the name of keeping the Millennials in the church, all sorts of drastic measures are being proposed. For fear that one Millennial may be offended; doctrines are proposed to be changed; portions of Scripture are denied their infallibility; absolutes are interpreted as culturally-conditioned observations. Under the cloak of parental sensitivity, pastoral sensitivity, or evangelistic sensitivity, the church, whether in belief, in policy, in practice, or in structure is proposed to change for the Millennial.

“Otherwise, the Millennials will leave,” they say. When did the Millennial hijack the church? And who is the Millennial's spokesperson? Was there not another Millennial who countered it?

The reality is that yes, there may be those that hold those opinions. But it is not a Millennial opinion. It is merely an opinion, found in every generation, in every statistical group. Frankly, there are converted and unconverted opinions in every generation. And under the rubric of “keeping our youth in the church” there are many seeking to use unconverted positions to keep the next generation churched.

The proposed church for the Millennial generation looks like this: open sexuality, various sacramental worship and music practices, dissolution of all standards and Biblical absolutes, the focus of grace at the expense of grace, pluralism and relativity, emphasis of Jesus by deemphasizing His life, teachings, and death, adoption of the culture by emasculating the church’s ability to change and hold the world accountable, destructuralization of anything organized, and the elimination of proselytization and mission.

When did church decide to bow itself to the supposed needs of one people group? When did biblical truth become customizable to keep one group in the church? What if we sacrificed our denominational identity on the basis of statistics to appease one racial group? What if we did this for the sake of one gender? What if we did this for one geographic group? Are we prepared to toss unity out for the sake of uniformity?

“The Asians are leaving the church. I think it is because we keep our shoes on and that offends them. I propose that we add a fundamental belief about taking shoes off in church and eliminating the tyranny of footwear! I’m sure Jesus was barefoot at some point in His life. We need to be like Jesus. After all, didn’t the disciples take the shoes off their feet to be washed? Wasn’t Adam shoeless when He was created? Footwear is a sign of sin! If shoeless-ness is the pre-fall model, we should embrace shoeless-ness post-fall in the post-cross Christ-redeemed era. If we don’t embrace this, it is absolutely assured that all Asians will leave the church. Our statistics prove this! And how can we survive into the next century without reaching all of Asia?”

The greatest insult is when previous generations use the name of Millennial in vain to justify their own positions. The sad reality is that there aren’t enough Millennials in the church today to justify and to respond with their own position. Even if there were, there would be a variety of perspectives. One of which being this one.

Millennials are not a block caucus. Yes, there are Millennials that will disagree with me and agree with previous generations. The greater insult is underestimating the maturity of the Millennial to understand the complexities of church governance, the beauty of doctrine and its spiritual practice, and the role of the church in mission, history, policy, membership, and discipline.

In other words, just because you can’t stomach it, don’t impose it onto the next generation. Rather, these things must patiently be explained, modeled, and discipled; the repercussions of these complex issues thought out, and the underlying biblical principles and presuppositions teased out and clearly articulated. We need the defending, articulating, and proactive teaching and preaching of these principles.

I, as a Millennial, am offended when the Millennial name is taken in vain at the expense of the name of Jesus.