Are you wondering if you’re a millennial? If you were born between 1980-2000 then yes, you are indeed a millennial.
Did you know that over 50% of our generation, the millennial generation, who grew up churched have dropped out at some point? According to this Barna study, millennials view the church as irrelevant and unimportant, and even more disheartening is the fact that more than one-third of previously “churched” millennials take an anti-church stance.
These numbers are steep and discouraging to say the least. But these numbers are no secret. There’s been plenty of hype about how the church can reach millennials, many articles written and podcasts recorded and many, many strategies employed to do so.
I’m concerned about my generation along with all those from my generation or otherwise who’ve voiced their concerns and ideas about the way forward. However, based on most of what I’ve read, especially from my generation, I think we’re focusing on the wrong stuff.
Because of this, I feel compelled to invite my generation back to the real reasons we should be crazy about the church–even if the church isn’t listening to us, focusing on the priorities we think they should, being as adaptive or as relevant as they should, or meeting our needs in the ways we think are important.
So at the risk of being disowned from my tribe, here are my metaphorical 95 theses (aka 7 reasons why we millennials should be crazy about the church). With love, humility and a tone of kindness from one millennial to another, here I go!
7 Reasons Why Millennials Should be Crazy About the Church
1) Jesus Loves the Church and so Should We
“I love Jesus, but I hate the church narrative has become commonplace within the Christian culture today.”
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”1 The reality that Jesus loves the church is not a once and done idea in Scripture. It’s a common theme throughout the New Testament writings.
What kind of commitment and devotion did Christ have to His people (the church)? Enough to shed His blood and give up His life for it. Jesus sacrificed for His church, served His church, nourished and cherished His church and continues to do so through the His Spirit today.
How can we hate something that Jesus loves? How can we despise something that Jesus died for?
The truth is, Jesus loves the church and so should we! We cannot fully and rightly love Jesus without fully and rightly loving His people, His body, His family – the church.
2) When a Christian Says Yes to Jesus, They are Also Saying Yes to His Body
The church is called the body of Christ and you are called a member of it.2 There is no such thing as “Me and Jesus” Christianity. There’s no version of Christianity that doesn’t include the context of the gathered people of God. His family. Just me and Jesus Christianity is like trying to have a relationship with my spirit apart from my body.
Just like you can’t have a relationship with someone’s spirit apart from their body so you cannot have a relationship with Jesus’ Spirit apart from His body.
The truth is, “When a Christian says yes to Jesus, they are also saying yes to His body.”
In all its immaturity and imperfection, Jesus loves the church and pursues His people constantly. He has created it to work in such a way that we cannot fully and rightly love Jesus without fully and rightly loving His people, the church.
Think about the life of Paul as an illustration.
Paul hated Jesus and he hated the church. He persecuted Christians and wanted to stomp out their religion. However, when Paul was saved by Jesus, he radically changed in his relationship to Christ which also radically changed his relationship toward the church.
When his relationship to Christ changed, his relationship to the church changed.
The greatest testimony of Paul’s life was laying his life down for the church. Yes, it was for Christ, but just as Christ laid down His life for the church, so did Paul.
“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (the church).”
1 John 3:16 ESV
Jesus gave Himself and continually gives Himself for His church.
The Apostles gave themselves up for the church.
Many men and women throughout history have given themselves up for Jesus and His church.
Now, do you love and follow Jesus? If so, in what ways are you giving yourself up for the church? Loving Jesus is about loving Jesus’ people.
3) This is Family
The church is not a building, a denomination, a sect, an individual, a thing or a place; rather, the church is a people.
God’s relationship with believers is described in many ways in Scripture:
- We are a new race, a set-apart nation who belong to God Himself (1 Peter 2:9).
- We are the body of Christ of which Christ is Head and we are members (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22-23).
- We are a spiritual building in which Christ is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) and we are stones or bricks (1 Peter 2).
- We are the Bride of Christ in which Christ is the Groom, the pursuer, and we are the Bride, the pursued (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24; Revelation 19:7–9; 21:1-2).
But probably the most used and most precious is that the church is described as a family. We are the household of God3 in which we are children of God.4 As a result, God is our Father5, Jesus is our elder brother with whom we are joint heirs in the heavenly inheritance6, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ (too many times to reference).
“We are family…” I think there’s a song about that. 😀
You can’t just walk out on family! In general, unless a church is committing ongoing serious sin or spiritual abuse (aka isn’t actually a biblical church) then there is no reason to walk out on family.
4) Jesus Takes it Personally
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
John 13:34 ESV
When it comes to what matters to Jesus, there is one primary rule – love – and especially love for the family (the church). The Scripture says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”7
Nearly all of Jesus’s commandments are dependent on living in and thriving with His people. They are extremely outward focused and community-based. The Bible teaches us that love for God is mostly expressed by loving the people around us, especially those who belong to the household of faith.
It teaches this so clearly that Jesus says what you do to my brothers (the church) you do to me. Don’t believe me, check out Matthew 25:40 (vs. 31-46 to get the whole story). Matthew 25 records a parable about the final judgment. It’s about two kinds of people in the church: true believers who are described as sheep and false “believers” who are described as goats. The contrast between the two groups? Those who did unto Jesus and those who did not.
Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.” After addressing the sin of the goats He says, “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’”
The key point I want to make here is that Jesus so identifies here with His people that He says what is done to His people is done to Him.
Jesus takes all our actions toward His family, the church, very personally.
If your love for Jesus is tangibly expressed through your love for His family, the church, then how are you doing? How are we doing as a generation?
5) Jesus Doesn’t Like it When We Disrespect His Wife
The church is called the “Bride of Christ.” As such, when you talk badly about the church, you’re talking badly about Jesus’ wife. Let’s just say, Jesus doesn’t like that. If somebody wants to be great friends with me but says they don’t like my wife and talks disrespectfully about her, guess what? That relationship isn’t going to go very well. Sorry, bro, we can’t be friends. If you want to be friends with me, that includes respecting my wife.
It’s similar to how it works with Jesus. You can’t be all buddy-buddy with Jesus while dissing His bride. You can’t really love and respect Jesus while disrespecting and hating His wife. Doesn’t work out, folks.
6) We Are the Church
It’s hard not to be critical of the church because in many ways the church has failed us. But if the church has failed, that means we have failed.
You are the church. You can’t escape that. So it’s not a matter of being in the church or out of the church. If you are a Jesus follower, then you are the church. It’s just a matter of whether or not you will obey Jesus and act like you are. You, as a Jesus follower, are already a member of Christ’s body. The key is, will you obey Jesus and participate, invest and be involved with His people?
Ask yourself, can I obey the “one another” passages in Scripture without being committed, invested and accountable to a local community of Jesus followers (the church)?
As a quick teaser here are a few examples.
- “Encourage one another daily…” (Hebrews 3:13)
- “Gathering regularly to spur one another on to good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)
- “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
- “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
- Receive needed direction and correction for my own safety and good by both leaders and fellow family members (Hebrews 12:6; Matthew 18:15-17)
- Obey godly authority and leaders in my life? “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)
- Take a look at Romans chapter 12 and ask, “Can I live in obedience to these verses and not be a part of a local community of Jesus followers?”
Jesus said, “Those who love Me keep My commandments,” and “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”8
The truth is, much of obedience to Jesus happens in the context of His church.
Can we obey Jesus’ commandments to love “one another” expressed in the various forms mentioned above or elsewhere in the Scripture without being committed to and involved with His people on a regular basis?
7) Jesus Uses the Church to Change the World
Do you want to change the world? Well, I know a guy who’s been doing it for thousands of years. In fact, it’s the only way that true lasting change will happen in the world. The church is the only organization that Jesus started and is leading. All other Christian organizations are run by men and women, but the church is run by Jesus. There are amazing Christian organizations that are doing amazing things, but they will come and go whereas the church will be alive and well until the end of the age.9
Is it full of imperfect people? Yes, and you and I are among them. Jesus isn’t as concerned about having a perfect church as having a church that’s being perfected. We don’t need everybody to be perfect in order for us to be committed. We just need to trust the One who is leading it and is perfect: Jesus Himself.
No matter how far short we believe the church is falling, we can still love them, serve them and bring the change we want to see take place.
If you want to change the world, jump on board with the One who has changed it and will continue to do so long after you and I are gone.
I’m sure we’ve all read plenty of articles about why the church is failing millennials: 10 reasons why millennials are done with the church, and 5 ways the church must change if they want to reach millennials, etc, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, all these messages aren’t wrong or even totally off base. However, here’s the rub: it’s our fault that we are leaving the church.
Nobody can make us leave the church, be done with the church, or be angry and bitter with the church. It’s 100% our fault if we get bitter and ditch the church.
Does this mean that the church is perfect? No! Does this mean that your hurt caused by people in the church wasn’t real? No! Does this mean that we never bring up issues we observe in the church? No! Does this mean that people’s sin in the church or lack of care for the millennial generation is excused? No! But sin against you never excuses or causes sin in you. We only sin because of our free choice to do so. Nobody can force us to sin.
My Challenge for us Millennials is this:
- Let’s not first look to correct where we feel wronged but rather humbly look at ourselves and remove the beam from own eye before seeking to remove the speck out of our neighbor’s (even if we think it’s more than a speck! :))
- Let’s focus on serving rather than being served. Let’s seek first to understand rather than to be understood.
- And let’s not give too much credence to our feelings of being left out, not listened to or misunderstood, and instead sacrificially love the church (Jesus’ family) just like He does. Counting other’s needs as more significant than our own.
I promise you, we can’t go wrong by doing these things.
***Note, all these points are based on the criteria for a true church. If you’re part of a church that isn’t really a biblical church or is spiritually abusive according to biblical standards then that’s a different discussion.
- Ephesians 5:25 ESV
- 1 Corinthians 12
- Ephesians 2:19 ESV
- 1 Timothy 3:15
- 1 John 3:1-2
- Romans 8:17
- Galatians 6:10 ESV
- John 14:21; John 14:15 ESV
- Matthew 16:17-19; Matthew 28:18-20