Over the course of the last six months, I’ve been communicating almost daily with a friend who was my small group leader when I was in middle and high school. We’ll call him Kurt. Kurt was an awesome youth small group leader.
What I never knew was that he also loved making techno music. Now living in Berlin and signed to a record label, Kurt is one of the most popular DJs of house music and plays some of the largest clubs in Europe.
Many in the Christian community ostracized him when he began to pursue his music career, and the people of God have been more of a judge and jury than they have been friends and family.
Since leaving the country and experiencing a myriad of cultures, Kurt’s faith has started to wane. Today, he identifies as a Christian-leaning agnostic. He believes Christianity causes good, but he’s not sold on the inspiration of Scripture and many supernatural events in the Bible, which naturally produces obstacles on the road to true faith in Jesus.
As I’ve been discussing world events and sharing the gospel with Kurt over the last six months or so, I realized many of the phrases I was taught to use as apologetic tools while growing up in church simply were not working.
Kurt is a Millennial, barely, but his situation is not unlike many older Millennials. He’s smart, engaged with culture, and open-minded. He is open to Christianity, but when people share the gospel with him and cannot answer any questions that come from their proposals, he starts to wonder if anyone actually believes what they’re saying.
When we share the gospel with Millennials, we have to understand that everything will be called into question. Glittering Christian assumptions, like the ones below, may have been sufficient in our culture when Christianity was king, but they don’t work with Millennials now.
Here are three ways not to share Jesus with Millennials:
1. “The Bible says Jesus is the only way to heaven. That’s all you need.”
If you attempt to share Jesus with a Millennial by appealing to the authority of the Scriptures alone, you’re going to sound like you’re proposing that cats wear hats because Dr. Seuss says so.
Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point: if you try to prove the legitimacy of Jesus as Savior with Scripture, you’re going to immediately have to field the question, “Why should I believe what the Bible says?” and now you’ve just gotten yourself into a much more nuanced conversation that will be difficult to navigate, so be prepared.
Because of the increased secularization of American culture, you’re going to have to go beyond telling people to trust the Bible blindly—you have to explain why the Bible deserves to be trusted.
Instead of simply appealing to the Bible as the ultimate evidence one needs to believe in Jesus, be ready to defend the legitimacy of the Scriptures as reliable, historical documents, because they are!
2. “Jesus is our lover and protector. He makes life awesome.”
Have you paid attention to what happens to the disciples of Jesus? Faithful followers of Jesus rest in joy of eternity amidst the turmoil of the present.
The promises of God do not prevent pain, and pastors, don’t pretend they do.
If Millennial values hold true, and if the secularization of culture persists, the prosperity gospel is going to die a slow, painful, deserved death. Young people have experienced enough economic and institutional instability to know that life is tough, even for those resting in Jesus.
Pastors, pay attention to what your young people are reading and sharing on social media. People know the world is messed up, and they’re not naïve enough to think pledging allegiance to Jesus is going to make everything immediately better. To be sure, followers of Jesus find untouchable peace in the finished work of Christ, but that doesn’t mean life is always peachy.
Even the man who built his house on the rock had to endure the storm.
Don’t pitch prosperity nonsense. Not just because it’s untrue, but because it usually doesn’t work.
Having faith in Christ doesn’t prevent problems, but it gives us a foundation on which to stand when they come, because they will. Even more, if the storms of life leave us in a heap, the foundation of Christ is our only hope for new life.
Instead of pitching a health and wealth gospel, share the comfort found in Christ amidst life’s hardest times.
3. “The Church has been a dominant force for thousands of years, how could that many people be wrong?”
This is precisely the sort of thing you do not want to say to a Millennial to share Christ. Among many unchurched young people, particularly atheists, the Church is seen as an oppressive, money hungry organization built to be the biggest ponzi scheme in the world. We’ve already looked at the fact that Millennials are averse toward institutions, so pitching the authority of the Church because its aged institutionalism is probably not the wisest way to approach an unbelieving Millennial.
I love the Church deeply. I am committed to the establishment of the local church as the greatest force of social and spiritual change the world will ever know, but most young people are not. If you’re going to reach unbelieving Millennials, lead with the love of Jesus.
God sent Jesus (Jn. 3:16), and Jesus sends us (Matt. 28:18-20). The gospel has been missional from the beginning. The love of God fuels our love for others, and the grace of God fuels our pursuit of justice for others. The gospel is the fuel for social justice.
Instead of appealing to the dominant force of the Church, appeal to the life-changing love of Christ.
God Grows Faith in Millennials Hearts
Sharing Christ with others is almost never easy. We’re afraid of people rejecting what is at the core of our being, which makes us understandably timid. Thankfully, the same Jesus that saves sinners equips the saints to share the gospel. If you’re going to share Christ with Millennials, begin by praying and spending time with the Savior you’re sharing.
An unwillingness to share the gospel is ultimately an unwillingness to trust God and pursue the mission given to us by Jesus. The Great Commission is not a solo mission. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” God will grow faith in Millenial hearts. He will make disciples by the power of the Spirit in that demographic. The gospel is the power of God for salvation—even among Millenials.
Chris Martin (@ChrisMartin17) is a social media facilitator at LifeWay Christian Resources in, an M.Div. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and blogger at Millennial Evangelical where he hopes to help pastors and Christians better understand, reach, and serve Millennials. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Susie, and hopes to pastor in the future.