STOP CHASING! START LEADING!
I cannot begin to tell you how often I hear pastors and church leaders talking about the need to appeal to the millennials. Programs, music, leadership and appearance all are fair-game in this head-long rush to attract millennial's into the church building.
So I can’t help but ask: Are we chasing the culture or are we leading?
The media and church have labeled the next generation of young adults as ‘millennials’ but what makes them different?
Millennials are passionate to live their lives with global purpose like no other generation. Technology, social media, internet connectivity and unrestricted travel have given them a different level of access to the whole world in their daily lives. So what would leading this new culture look like?
Relational discipleship is the purpose of every Christ follower according to scripture that I read. So how are we as Western Church culture doing at leading future generations in the fundamental gospel that will set the world free from the consequences of sin?
Is the answer to create another program to attract and catch their interest with some holy bling? Why not prove to them instead that living in the footsteps of Jesus can and will change their world. It can start right here in their own backyard and fill that missing purpose in their lives to overflowing.
I have to say It almost seems like the Great Commission in Matthew 28 was written specifically for the millennials: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20(NIV)
Millennials see the world as their neighbor, but we as a church have neglected the personal, relational responsibility each Christian has to our physical neighbor right next door. We minimized the importance of actually loving our neighbor with our actions and we don’t take the command to love God and love our neighbor as the prime directive that it is. Millennials see through our shallow lifestyle and yet are hoping we will provide the leadership they need to meaningfully engage their world.
I’m reminded of a long-used line by parent’s that goes: “Listen to what I say not what I do!” I bet every parent has tried that at least once to justify their actions. Yet we all know our actions speak louder than our words because that is the example Jesus lived for us.
"I fear we are like parents chasing our young people with candy in order to hold on to their presence."
So are we still trying to use that same failed excuse with the young men and women in our churches? They are looking at our actions with hunger and passion for big purpose. I am concerned that in desperation we may have defaulted into focusing more on keeping the institution of the church intact rather than the epic purpose we each have as ambassadors of Christ.
These articulate, purpose-driven young adults are learning from the church by where we invest our money and time; but do the showy programs we give them to follow line up with scripture? No one is fooled with flashy substitutes that replace fulfilling our true purpose in Christ; and is that really what Christ died for? I fear we are like parents chasing our young people with candy in order to hold on to their presence.
I know we invest in foreign missions efforts both at home and abroad; but are they the vehicles of relational transformation the Holy Spirit intended as the Bride of Christ in the world? How do we connect our young adults to the right kinds of global outreach when they don’t understand the basic “love your neighbor” here at home?
Millennials are getting their models for global compassion in large part from Eco- projects that are focused on patching up creation in a secular context. We have given them little with which to frame their passion to leave this world a better place both developmentally and spiritually. Certainly we have failed at framing the eternal context of global responsibility as stewards of God’s creation and builders of His kingdom. We are inadequate at helping them understand their unlimited creativity and potential as made in the image of God. So if they don’t get the basics right in their home church, how can they effect change in the world for Christ?
Hospitality is the contemporary language of a living, Savior. Hospitality embodies the story of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told in answer to the question: Who is my neighbor? It is the essential missing link to the source of God’s transformative power in the world.
Hospitality is the DNA language of discipleship that brings the Holy Spirit living in me into physical proximity with the heart of my neighbor. Our up-and-coming generation of young leaders must see Christ-followers who actually ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. It gives them a front-row seat to watch the Holy Spirit work through those relationships and change lives for all eternity. Valuing others more than ourselves is integral to global restoration.
Hospitality is the stealth weapon of the Church that can make the church go viral!
So just maybe, we could put less emphasis on the big programs; and get back to basics. Open the door of our home to a neighbor and see what God does. Multiply that by every person in our church and “look out world!” Christ is alive and living in us. Start small with one neighbor at our table, then let’s watch God’s kingdom go viral as it lights the fire of His mission in the hearts of the next generation of believers. It is critical that they participate in that model from day one, side-by-side with those of us who claim to be true followers of Christ. I think it is time for us to re-calibrate our church culture.
One last thought. We have segregated age and generation groups from each other and kept them apart rather than being one body in Christ with one mind, heart and purpose. What if we reversed that? What if we promoted engaging senior members with young adults? What if we challenged every adult to invite a young man or woman into their home once a month? Once a week? Daily? At the same time we ask them to invite a neighbor too.
What could happen when two generations collaborate to initiate and grow discipling relationships with neighbors? Is that a church-growth strategy? Is that a Great Commission strategy? Would that be the missing, living example of Disciple Makers 101 that could light the fire in millennials and cause the church to explode around the world? I’m guessing God is already there at the table waiting for us to join him! Will you be there too?
Contact me to start a discussion to build your church’s capacity to lead rather than chase culture!