I recently came across an article sent to me by a friend from church from Christianity Today. You can read it here. The gist of the article is this: That the seeker sensitive model of church has driven away the Millennial generation. The Millennial generation (also sometimes referred to Generation Y) are those now in their early college years to early 30’s. They are sometimes referred to as young adults (a term I shutter at since to me if you’re over 18 you’re an adult but that’s a whole ‘nother post I think).
According to the article, Millennials are leaving in droves due to the fact that the seeker sensitive movement went the “happy/clappy” direction. Pastors went from the model of being shepherds to the model of being businessmen. The church itself has become a business rather than an organic body of Jesus. And because of this, people of the Millennial generation have left in droves. According to the article roughly 8 million Millennials have left the church and Christianity all together.
So what should we do? The article suggests we meet the hunger of the Millennials. There is a hunger for authenticity. There’s a hunger for having something to fight for. Jesus himself didn’t try to be seeker sensitive. In fact, he was abrasive and really ticked off the establishment. The Gospels tells us to do things that go against our human nature like loving our enemy and not seeking revenge (a Klingon would have a real hard time with that).
Jesus preached a radical love. But he also preached a radical commitment. It was him or nothing. He preached a justice that spoke to those who were on the fringes. He spoke of helping the disenfranchised, the hurting and the hungry. He spoke of so many things that went against what the religious leaders spoke about and did. And that didn’t bode well with them.
So what should we do? There is a hunger out there that isn’t just what the Millennials hunger for. Being an Xer myself, I know many who in my generation are also hungry. Who also are put aback by the seeker sensitive model. A model that emphasizes a non-confrontational effort to help those who are seeking to come in and not feel pressure to believe or attend.
The article states that we’ve become co-dependent on each other. A co-dependance on pastor and congregation. A desire to keep people in and so not teach the extraordinarily difficult passages. Instead a desire to placate others.
So how can we be “missional” about this. The word missional is used in so many ways today. It means not to be mission minded but to be mission oriented. To be a missionary in your own back yard. To help others know the coming kingdom of God and the knowledge of Jesus as not only savior but lord and friend. A mentality to live as the church in a world where the church isn’t central anymore.
Author Wilbert Shenk says that we’re a post-Christian world. A world where church and Jesus is no longer central. And that is so seen with a mass exodus of not only Millennials but also Xers and boomers. Even the older generations are leaving the church because they are set off by what’s happened. In some ways, we’ve done it to ourselves. We’ve tried so hard to be sensitive that we became co-dependent with congregations and pastors.
How can we missionally meet Millennials and others? By stepping outside our comfort zones as Jesus has called us to do so. To step out and not just feed others the Gospel message but teach them how to be fed by Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. We meet them where they are at–tattooed, pierced, hurting, hungry, and maimed by the problems of this world.
There are so many hurting people out there. There are so many people hungry for authenticity. An authenticity found in Jesus that we, as the church, as a missional church, need to reflect and live.
But why should we just reach out to the Millennials? One person stated that the squeaky wheel gets cleaned. They are leaving in droves and are loud about it. It’s scary. It’s frightening the Baby Boomers who I think paved the way for the seeker sensitive movement. Not just that, but the Millennials are the children of the Baby Boomers (so are Xers, but that’s again another post I think by someone else) and the Boomers are feeling that they’ve failed their children.
I think we need to not only missionally meet Millennials but Xers and Boomers and others. We need to reach out and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Reach out with an authenticity, an honesty, a transparency, showing that Jesus is the way. And the only way we can do this is to go back to what worked for centuries–proclaiming the coming kingdom of God by word and deed.
Xers and Millennials need to know that the church is doing something. Boomers need to show that the church is doing something not just talking about it. So do something. Get off your frakin duff and do something. Be Jesus. Be Jesus to those who need him most.
In Jesus there is no Jew or Greek, no Xer or Millennial but all are the same in Jesus Christ. We need to remember this as we misionally meet Millennials and others.