Here’s the original article I shared: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2015/05/13/dear-church-an-open-letter-from-one-of-those-millennials-you-cant-figure-out/
I originally posted this article with no comment, but I was asked to better explain why I shared this article, even if I am not entirely in agreement with everything said.
So here I go:
First, as far as being a Millennial, I’m still not entirely sure of what that means. I may be one because I’m in the early to mid-twenties stage of life that seems to be the crux of adulthood now. So, for now, I’ll say I’m one.
When I see someone from my age group, unless I see them in church, I generally assume that they don’t go to church. Call me cynical or pessimistic, or judgmental. Maybe I am, but I have heard more often from my age group how they were hurt, ostracized, or bored by the church at large and why they’re seeking other communities to identify with. And there’s the key, really.
The key is that my age group is looking for genuine community. We are constantly on the lookout for people who refuse to put up fronts, even if they disagree with us. We are looking for those people who can be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. We’re constantly looking for a place where we can be ourselves, be loved, and be accepted while feeling safe enough to grow into who God created us to be, as messy as that process might be.
I heard Timothy Keller speak (podcast, working with kids on Sunday means I don’t hear many sermons live) about an Inside Out faith. No, not based on the new Disney/Pixar masterpiece. He said that religion focuses on exteriors, while Christianity focuses on the interior.
He made the point that religion sets out a list of dos and don’ts to check off before death in order to earn honor, love, and a place in a wonderful afterlife. It relies on making sure the I and me are taken care of in the long run. Ultimately, it’s a selfish endeavor that tends to leave people peevish, judgmental, divisive, and alienating.
Jesus, on the other hand, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) uses the opportunity to talk about how he desires heart change, not just behavior change. Because actions can change, even though the heart hasn’t. Try telling a child to apologize to another – behavior changes, heart doesn’t always change along with it. So Jesus says throughout his teaching there “you have heard it said” that such and so a behavior is bad. Then he takes it deeper by adding, “but I tell you” that if your heart and attitude change, the behavior will be out of the question. And when we act out of the fact that we are already loved and are forgiven, our hearts are more welcoming, forgiving, and accepting.
In other words, a good number of these young adults have found themselves at the mercy of the Christian religion when they desired Jesus. And while the flashing lights and fog machines work for a little while, what people are looking for in a church is a home, a family. And they don’t always want a home like they have at their house. They need a safe, secure place to live in community where they can heal, grow and flourish in their gifts and callings.
I will also say that many my age, myself included, are frustrated when the church doesn’t live up to expectations, but the people of God have been dealing with not living up to the mark since the time of Abraham. That doesn’t give us an excuse, but instead reminds us that God is still doing work in us to change the world around us.
Think through your child’s experience of church. Do they see genuine community, or do they see external religion? Do they feel safe talking about their weaknesses and struggles at church and at home, or are they in fear of judgment or condemnation?