In 1955, James Dean portrayed a rebellious teenager in the iconic film, "Rebel without a Cause." It came to symbolize rebelling against society when really, there was nothing that had been done to warrant this rebellion. Boomers grew up in an affluent time with intact homes, and yet, many rebelled against the conformist culture of that time.
Millennials are by and large the children of Boomers (and some leading edge Gen Xers). Unlike Boomers, who were at war with their parents, most Millennials have grown up with good relationships with their parents. They have been coached, watched over, educated, and in many cases, moved back home with their parents after college--in part due to the economic collapse and there being no jobs, in part due to not having grown up or desiring to not yet take on adult responsibilities, and in part due to their close connections with their parents.
When you are friends with your parents, it is rather hard to be rebellious. And Millennials as a group, therefore, "rebelled" from their parents by being clean cut, non-hippyfied, well educated, and socially responsible young adults.
Indeed, studies show that Millennials have lower drug and alcohol use than their parents' generation, and while sexuality and "friends with benefits" is rampant with apps like Tinder and the delay of marriage, there is even a counter cultural abstinence movement.
So, what is "cool" to this non-rebellious generation? In their article "Millennials and the Changing Meaning of Cool," authors Brett and Kate McKay give these characteristics of what Millennials find to be cool:
So how does all of this apply to reaching Millennials for Christ? Well, I and many other missional and cultural observers are trying to find this out! Based upon observations, research, and personal experience, I would say the following:
What do you think of the above list? How can we better reach the Millennial generation for Christ?
In Joy Pullman's The Federalist article, "Crossfit Can Never Replace Church." she relates how some Harvard Divinity Students are equating Crossfit--an exercise club--with a religious / church experience, with religious rituals, community, and incorporation of family and children.
As a sociological analysis, this is interesting, and it indeed fits into other analyses of how church is functioning for huge portions of young people in the US. For instance, Kenda Creasy Dean's work, "Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church" makes the case that one of the reasons that so many young adults leave the church after graduation is that they have not truly been taught Christianity, but Christianity light--something Dean calls "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" (MTD).
MTD is the idea that (Almost) Christianity basically teaches that the goal of our faith is to be nice people, with little demands or claims on our lives. In this view, the church is but one extra curricular activity among many--easily dropped for more compelling electives when teens leave their Christian sub-culture. The church is replaced with club, sports, school, etc. If this is all the church is, then why could Crossfit not be a church or religious experience?
While as Christians, we intuitively know that this conclusion is wrong, does not a part of us wonder if, in effect, what we or others sometimes experience from church could be experienced elsewhere? After all, you can find a type of community, friends, a place to belong, and cheaper dues elsewhere, right?
If we think that we could "drop out of church"--as so many do--and not really miss it that much, then are we really "doing church" the right way? The idea that there is "no salvation outside of the church" is not a new one. Note these quotes from Early Church Fathers:
Irenaeus (died A.D. 202):
“[The Church] is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers.” (Against Heresies , Book III)
Origen (died A.D. 254):
“Let no man deceive himself. Outside this house, that is, outside the Church no one is saved.” (In Iesu Nave homiliae )
Cyprian (died A.D. 258):
“He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says: `he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.’ Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ.”
Of course, biblically, salvation is emphasized as being communal, not mere individualistic. God created and called a people, Israel. Jesus called the disciples to himself, forming a community centered around the cross--he did not just call people to individual salvation. This principle was well illustrated in John's gospel account of Christ's death, in which Jesus told John that his biological mother, Mary, was now John's mother in Christ, and that John was now his mother's son in Christ-(John 19:26-27). The seven ones of Ephesians 4:1f show the common bond that bind all of God's people together--bonds of Spirit, faith, baptism, and more. And the image of the new heaven and new earth in Revelation is that of every nation, tribe, and tongue--a great people together--praising and serving God together (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).
So if the church is an essential part of our salvation, why are so many discarding it--and how do we change this? Here are some thoughts.
Why is church/Christian community important, and how can we best convey this truth?
Search this site for a topic or message illustration or click on the categories below!
Dr. James Nored (Doctor of Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a preacher, evangelist, church consultant, writer, and missional leader located in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Could Good Preaching/Storytelling Bring Happiness?
The Power of Threes in Rhetoric
If Your Sermon Does Not Contain These Two Things, It Will Fall Flat
Why No One Watches Your Sermon Online--and 3 Ways How to Change This