Every culture possesses true treasure. Gems of wisdom and truth that are worthy of affirmation. This is the “indigenizing” principle of Christian missionary work which affirms that the gospel is at home in every culture and every culture is at home with the gospel. Just as with every culture, the gospel is at home with Millenials. What are the specific redemptive windows of Millenial culture? Let’s explore a handful of those windows.
1. We must embrace the Millenial faith crisis as an opportunity, instead of fearing it as a danger.
David Bosch quotes Kraemer: “Strictly speaking, one ought to say that the church is always in a state of crisis and that its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it… [the church] has always needed apparent failure and suffering in order to become fully alive to its real nature and mission.”1
As we, the Western church, acknowledge our failure to proclaim and embody an emotionally, culturally, and rationally coherent gospel, it allows us the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit’s power into this unique moment of history. Up until now, the activity of many local churches has revolved around modern ministry methodologies and “best practices”. We have tended to plug and play rather than innovate and pray. But where we are travelling now, there are no roads.
Hand wringing about “losing this generation” accomplishes nothing to engage them. Lamenting the “hard-hearted, rebellious youth” will do nothing to instigate meaningful change. Rather than these fear-based attitudes, the Spirit invites us into a prayerful conversation of creativity about our present opportunities to participate in the Kingdom of God.
2. We can celebrate Millenials intolerance for superficial and overly simplistic reality frameworks.
We have already discussed Millenials disgust for know-it-alls, their frustration with canned answers, and their refusal to avoid life’s big questions. Young adults have recognized that life is more complex than it’s been made out to be. The arrogance of modernity’s assumed omniscience has been swept away and what seems to remain is a general attitude of teachability, humility, and curiosity. Of course, the extreme dark side of post-modern thought can bring unrelenting doubt, apathy towards truth, and agnosticism. But on the whole, these words do not seem to describe Millenials.
3. We can graciously engage a generation that is eager for honest dialogue.
Millenials aren’t looking for another sales pitch. They want an open conversation and thanks to social media and blogging, many are more used to self-sharing than many past generations. This kind of transparency can be redeemed to for the sake of conversations that really matter.
4. We can feed Millenial’s longing for exploration, experience, adventure, and discovery.
Don’t those words sound an awful lot like Jesus’ invitation to follow him? For too long, the concept of discipleship has been reduced to stuff an older guy talks about with a younger guy at Starbucks.
- Information – The “information” young adults must become acquainted with is the richness of the biblical narrative and their invitation to participate in what God is doing in the world. This is what it means to come to know Jesus intellectually. This can happen at Starbucks.
- Imitation – In a community of practice, a disciple will begin to mimic the behavior, rhythms, and practices of those who are pointing them to Jesus. There is a re-shaping of life and character that takes place in this facet of the discipleship process. This happens in living rooms, kitchens, cars, workplaces, gyms, over text, call, email, or wherever else life happens.
- Innovation – In this component of discipleship, the Holy Spirit empowers a person and/or community to creatively embody the way of the Kingdom in their context. Here mentors and teachers must partner with Millenials to unleash their biblically-informed imagination to discover what God wants to do in and around them. This kickstart can happen in Starbucks, but that’s only the beginning of the adventure.
The invitation to follow Jesus is an adventure that involves our entire personhood. It will literally take us new places in our neighborhood, our city, and our world. By feeding Millenials experiences that expose them to the way of Jesus, we can facilitate Kingdom exploration that will transform their lives.
1. Bosch, 2 ↩
Sean (@Sean_Post) lives in Maple Valley, WA with his wife and two sons and leads a one-year discipleship experience for young adults called “Adelphia”. He is completing his doctorate in Missional Leadership.
Adapted with permission from One Year Millenials, Short-Term Communities, and a Coherent Christianity. One Year explains how to cultivate community and relationship with Millenials in ways that truly benefit their faith formation. Anyone seeking to engage young adults with a coherent Christianity will appreciate the big picture research and heart-level insights that flow throughout the book.