Over the last past month, I have had a number of conversations with Millennial Christians, it turns out they do exist! I only know they exist because I am one.
The common theme to our conversations has been varying levels of frustration and disgust for the practices of the Church in our culture. I have heard frustrations for the fact that our Christian culture sucks at loving anyone who looks or acts different than us. The fact that our Church refuses to engage difficult topics and instead allows society to dictate the narrative on them. Frustration for not allowing people who are different to participate. Frustration for keeping people away from the love of Christ. Frustration for treating people poorly when they don’t think like we do.
If I am being honest I share in almost all these frustrations.
In my short time filling in as a bi-vocational pastor I have seen some really broken behaviors that Christians have. I have been “called out” as a pastor for everything from not wanting to kick Girl Scouts out of the church to not going to the Church on my Sunday off. Typically, someone in the church approaches me and says something somewhat passive aggressive like “I expected more from my Pastor”.
Normally this would infuriate me because I hate bullies. I hate it when people use positions of power and influence to bully other people. However, for some reason with these people in church I have a different response. I think it is partly due to the fact that their frustration is directed at me and partly because I know the source is a deep hurt.
I think in all honesty it’s a complete God moment that I don’t walk away hurt from their comments. I am not saying this to brag because if I am being completely honest I have been frustrated with the church for plenty of things. I am a broken man who thinks I am right before I ever think to see issues from other’s perspectives. I am more broken than people will ever know. So, I am not trying to seem like I have this all figured out because I don’t, trust me.
The reason I bring up these hurts from my congregation is because it’s the nightmare of all Millennial Christians. Us Millennial Christians desire inclusive services that seek first to unite instead of divide. We don’t want to be part of churches that don’t have open arms or open viewpoints. Rather we desire deep down to leave the door too far open. We desire to allow too many people to experience God’s love rather than exclude even one. So, when Christians create false dichotomies, division or any other barriers to entry for people Millennials let out an audible groan.
The problem here isn’t the frustration felt by Millennials but rather their response to that frustration. They leave.
Millennial Christians who want to attend weekly Sunday services have three options.
- Be conservative
- Be quiet
Typically, in the Christian Church voices from the margins are ignored for centuries. This hasn’t been a pressing problem for the Church because it just ignores them and thus the Church had no need to change. Realistically the Church for millennia has had unmatched power over peoples lives and thus anytime a voice from the margin arose it could simply quench it. The problem the Church faces now is it can no longer chose to ignore them. Largely this is due to the boom in technological advances that make viewpoints from the margins much more accessible to the masses.
Truthfully the Church should always be seeking to empower voices from the margins instead of hiding from them. The church’s number one goal is to seek to bring as many people to Christ as possible and the only way to do that is through open, honest and inclusive dialogue. If the Church wants to continue to reach the masses, it needs to change its approach.
But this blog post isn’t about how the Church can solve its problem, it’s what Millennial Christians can do.
This is where the challenge becomes real, because my challenge is this; stay.
The only way churches will have difficult conversations with topics of human sexuality, gender identity, gender politics or equality in general is if people who believe in that equality stay and fight for it. I understand that what I am asking for is difficult. I don’t understand what it must be like to be a Christian that is told by the Church that because of your sexual identity that you aren’t allowed to fully participate. I will never understand the hurt that you feel, but if you leave no one else in the church will either.
I am not trying to oversimplify a complicated issue like homosexuality in the Church. Truthfully, I am not even advocating for or against it. What I am advocating for is that Millennial Christians stay. I am advocating for people who disagree to stay. I am advocating for continued dialogue and discussion. I am advocating for a complete body of believers that not only represents different races, but also different ages, political beliefs, and theologies.
If everyone who disagrees leaves who will stand and fight?
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.