This month I’ve written two posts on the church and it’s relationship with Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000). In the previous posts, we talked about how the church is failing to make an enticing sales pitch to Millennials and how the church can engage Millennials in a way that anchors them in the rich history of the Christian faith while embracing the future. Both of those posts were about things the church needs to go to close the gap to Millennials. In this post, I want to change audiences and speak to some things Millennials, specifically Christian Millennials, need to do to close the gap to the church. As much as non-religious Millennials feel a gap between themselves and faith and church, Christian Millennials often feel that the church is missing them too.
“Help me help you.” I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before. Often it’s used when someone asks for help or assistance but then does something to undermine the help they are asking for. My generation needs to help the church help us. We cannot expect the church alone to close the gap, there has to be intentional movement on our part to close the gap as well.
I want to suggest three things that Millennials can do to help close the gap to the church.
Read a simple book on theology. I don’t think is necessary to read a multi-volume set on systematic theology but every Christian should read a basic theology book. At the same time I’m not talking about Christian Living books, as helpful as they might be. I’m talking about books that help us define and better understand the richness of God and the gospel. Here are a few suggestions by authors who are alive and writing theology for our context:
Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. This book is a theological-biography (theography) of Jesus. If you want an in-depth look at the life of Jesus but without all the academic jargon, this is a great book. At 310 pages, it’s long but manageable.
Any number of books by N.T. Wright. My top three include: How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
All three of these book are in the low to mid 200 page rage in length, making them very accessible to those who know a lot or a little about theology. Plus, they are written by one of the most well respected New Testament theologians-ever. Each of these books will help you see what Jesus and Jesus’ message meant in his first century context, why it was revolutionary and how it still impacts us today.
Center Church by Timothy Keller. This is a fantastic book if you are interested in how theology and the church (ecclesiology) intersect. If you want to get a feel for the book, check out my favorite quotes from Center Church, part 1 and part 2.
Reading theology books like these are going to help you and I better understand the full scope of Jesus, Jesus’ message and what Jesus’ message means (in his time and in our time) that we simply cannot get through sermons or small groups. This isn’t the fault of pastors or small group leaders but those settings typically aren’t the right place for the kinds of conversations that these authors engage in. If you want to invest in your faith, beyond sermons and small groups, then dig in and read some theology books- and these are a great place to start.
Know the full story of Scripture. As Millennials, we need to be better at our understanding to Scripture. Specifically we need to understand the two major narrative arches in Scripture. First, the historical arch. We need to know and understand the historical timeline that provides the framework for the Old and New Testaments. We need to know the historical markers from Creation to Exodus to Exile to Jesus. Second, the theological arch. We need to understand the overall story that Scripture tells. Everything from the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles tell one overarching story of God moving to bring salvation to the world. We need to understand how each of those parts fit into the larger story. It’s by understanding the historical arch and the theological arch that we can know how our lives, churches and point in history fit into what God is doing to redeem the world.
Go talk to your pastors/ ministers. The role of a pastor or a minister is to equip those under their care to minister and serve. The truth of the matter is that pastors and ministers don’t always know the best way to do that.- especially if there is a generational gap. That’s where you and I come in. Go talk to your pastors/ ministers. Get to know them and they will get to know you in return. Let them know what issues you and your peers are encountering. Let them know the “times” and “seasons” of your culture. For example, in your culture maybe Thursday nights during the spring would be a bad time to plan an event because of kid’s sports practice. Perhaps a service project at an outdoor concert during the summer would provide families who don’t attend church with great exposure to the love of Jesus. Nobody knows how to impact those around you with the message and love of Jesus better than you- where ministers can be involved is in helping you do that. But if they are trying to equip you in ways you don’t need to be equipped or if they are not equipping you in the ways you need to be equipped, go and tell them or neither side will reach it’s full potential to reach those in your community with the message and love of Jesus.
There’s a gap between the church and the Millennial generation (my generation). There are things the church needs to do the begin closing that gap but there are also some things we can do to help. These three suggestions aren’t hard but I believe they will prove beneficial to help us, as Millennials, close the gap between us and the church.