Generations: Walking with Millennials

Sunday Morning Sermon for September 3, 2017

Sermon Notes

  • For the church today, millennials are sort of like that “awkward friend”
    • We’re not ever really sure where we stand with them
    • Their feelings about us seem to shift with each passing cultural issue
    • On some issues millennials applaud us, stand up and rally alongside us
    • On some they seem to be altogether indifferent about us, “church is ok but it’s just not for me…right now…in this stage in my life”
    • And with some issues, like marriage, they have labeled us the main problem in society, the enemy of all that is good and right

Millennials: Exposition

  • For all of our traits, my generation is one thing for sure:  we are fickle!
  • We can be so inconsistent in our ideas of what “the church” ought to be like, and ought to be doing in the world
    • We bemoan the over-programmed church, but we have a list of 100 programs the church ought to adopt!
    • We don’t like churches that are too hierarchical – but then we hate it when they have poor leadership
    • We want leaders with vision – but we don’t want anybody telling us what to do or how to think.
    • We want churches where people really know and care for each other – but then we blast those churches for being too inwardly focused.
    • In other words – We want to have our cake and eat it, too!
  • But next to fickle, we millennials have another consistent trait:  we are always on the move
    • We run everywhere, usually while texting, jumping from one project and adventure to the next…searching, searching, and giving our opinion all along the way!
    • And there are lots of churches that seem to be running alongside us, taking notes and trying to keep up with our ever-shifting opinions

And so this morning, let’s just slow down for a minute, and instead of running

1) Millennials seek Adventure

  • Strength:  Millennials are willing to jump in and fully invest themselves in causes and programs that resonate with them, that make them feel alive and tap into their inner spirit.
    • For a guy like Ted, he found that in this island-hopping adventure
    • And so he had no problem pouring all of his time and money into this experience!
    • Imagine what a guy like Ted could do for the kingdom of God – That’s what millennials bring to the church…they bring life!
    • And churches that WELCOME that energy and enthusiasm will certainly reap a harvest of millennial fruit.
  • For the Church:  Millennials can breathe new life into older churches with a zeal for serving in ministry work.  
    • If you can connect your ministry to their zeal, you will gain a hard-working servant who will go and do… and bring in others to help!
  • Caution:  In our zeal as millennials to serve in places that are making a difference, church quickly becomes just another option for finding that feeling, for serving us and our need for adventure.
  • Church becomes about US, not about God.
    • And so when we feel like church isn’t meeting our needs…or, like Ted, that God is not doing it for us anymore…we walk away from it.
    • And yet the Bible so clearly tells us that church is not about us…it’s not FOR us…it’s for God and His purposes in the world!
    • The church exists to glorify God, not us!
  • Ephesians 3:10
    • “[God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To my fellow millennials…let us not become the center of our own universe in our desire for adventure.

2) Millennials crave Community

  • Strength:  Millennials want authentic friendships and relationships, whether at the office, the neighborhood, or at church.  We want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, and “do life” on a deep level with others who feel the same.
    • We want what happens HERE to be the reality everywhere else in the church.  Real, genuine relationships.
    • Because millennials crave community.
  • For the Church:  And that desire for deep community forces us, as churches, to evaluate the depth of the relationships we foster…
    • to make sure we are creating environments to go beyond surface level and provide opportunities for accountability and lasting relationships
    • to invest heavily in small groups…and then continually evaluate those small groups!
    • Fake, shallow relationships will send millennials elsewhere.
  • Millennials read Acts 4, where the church is caring for each other and meeting daily…and they want a church like THAT
  • Caution:  But like anything we hold as important, the search for “authentic community” can become an idol in itself.
    • A sense of community is a Biblical mark of healthy churches, but it is not the only mark.  Deep relationships happen outside of church, too…let’s not declare that ANY community or event that fosters deep relationships  MUST therefore be the church…
    • Baptism, communion, Gospel preaching, confession of sin, reverent worship- these are other Biblical marks of the church.  Do not mistake a Starbucks get-together for the Lord’s church.
  • Ephesians 1:23  church is the fullness of Christ
  • Ephesians 4:4-5  one Lord, one faith, one body
  • Ephesians 5:23ff  church as the body of Christ

Fellow millennials, let us crave deep community, but not at the expense of everything else that God desires the church to be.

3) Millennials thirst after Knowledge

  • Several weeks ago, in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, a friend of mine from Harding, Andrew, posted this Facebook question:  “why did God allow the trans-atlantic slave trade?”
    • As a fellow millennial he was doing what most spiritually-minded millennials were doing…he was wrestling with the realities of a broken world and sovereign God.
    • Responses to his post were very telling:
    • Millennials like me posted long theological essays dealing with ways of trying to reconcile God and suffering.
    • We quoted from multiple passages of Scripture, brought in outside books old and new…trying to come to grips with this difficult concept.
    • And yet older Christians, from previous generations, simply wrote things like “God’s ways are not our ways”
    • And for them, that was enough.
    • It was a beautiful theological spectrum there- showing how each generation’s faith guided them in respond to such a difficult issue.
  • Strength:  Millennials aren’t content with “pat” or “canned” answers to tough questions about life and God and the Bible.
    • Because millennials thirst after knowledge.
    • We want to wrestle with deep issues and see what God in Scripture has to say.
    • We come to our classrooms, the most educated generation to date…hungry for learning and answers…and we come to our churches the same way.
  • For the Church:  Millennials are hungry for digging and discussing- we want strong, deep Bible classes that make us think, question, and re-think and then ask more questions.
    • The Bible calls for us to dig ever deeper…it cries for us to investigate and study and seek out truth…
    • The Bible is not afraid of the truth it claims to have.
  • Caution:  Behind most older Christians’ “pat” answers that frustrate millennials…is a deep faith refined by the fires and trials of life.
    • When an older Christian expresses their faith as “God’s ways are not our ways,” that is not a cop out, nor is it a mask for a shallow spirituality.
    • It is a faithful declaration brought about from years of faithfully reading, wrestling, and applying Scripture to everyday life!
    • In his book, Why We Love the Church, Kevin DeYoung warns millennials about the dangers of being “ever seeking but never finding.”
  • Wanting to “wrestle with Scripture” can be a convenient cover for worldliness, for not taking Scripture seriously
    • And so that if other Christians, in the face of trials, are assured and joyful, we immediately accuse them of having shallow faith and being inauthentic
  • But Belief is not the enemy of authenticity.
    • Passages like Philippians 4:4-7 where we are promised the “peace that passes understanding” are meant to provide REAL COMFORT…
    • And knowing Jesus is meant to change the way we respond to tragedy and suffering

So to my fellow millennials…don’t write off “easy” answers from older Christians…imitate the deep faith that lies behind them.

4)  Millennials exude Confidence to Lead

  • For a lot of millennials, even having a room labeled “Elders Conference Room” is a turn-off.
    • It brings to mind a kind of “board of directors” image
    • This is where all the big decisions are made, behind closed doors… It’s sort of like trying to get in to see the Wizard of Oz And that skepticism comes from a deep-seated confidence to lead in millennials
  • Strength:  Millennials are self-confident and ready to tackle challenges and exert leadership…from those who are willing to empower them.
    • We are skeptical of closed-door meetings and top-down leadership structures.
  • For the Church:  Churches that are willing to invest trust and provide leadership opportunities for millennials will reap a harvest a hundred-fold in gaining committed, sacrificing servants.
    • Millennials are great catalysts for corrections- we push against elderships that act like CEOs and against ministry structures that are pyramid-shaped and retain most of the power at the top.
    • We thrive on inter-generational fellowship, bottom-up ministry structures, and elderships that empower (not stifle) church members to lead and serve.
  • Example: Waterview, I want you to know that we have a group of elders that not only understand that, they live it out. Last Wednesday night in our elders meeting, our newly formed Communications Design Team came in, an incredibly talented group made up almost entirely of millennials and talked about ways they want to breathe new life into the way Waterview uses technology to connect with guests and our local community. And at the end of their presentation I watched our decidedly non-millennial elders applaud and affirm their work.  God is doing great things in this church.
  • Caution:  Scripture warns against elders that act like dictators and encourages younger Christians to set high examples,
    • 1 Peter 5:2-3  not lording, but examples to the flock but it also calls for shepherds to be older men who are not recent converts.
    • 1 Timothy 3:6  not a recent convert. There is a wisdom and clarity necessary for shepherding that can only come with time.  Millennials need to remember this and respect those who have been entrusted with this responsibility of leadership.
    • Hebrews 13:17  obey and submit, make their work a joy

So I would call on my fellow millennials to focus on making our shepherds’ work a joy, not a burden.

5) Millennials want to make a Difference

  • Whatever convictions a church possesses about what is important, about what their mission is in the world…those convictions inevitably come to light in the most public place, the worship service. Through the sermon, the atmosphere, the prayers and comments from the leadership…you learn a lot about what a church thinks is important here.
  • Strength:  For Millennials, what is important to us is making a difference in their community and the world.
    • Any work that has a generous and benevolent impact will gain our interest and our money/time.
    • We see ourselves as global citizens and have a big heart for the poor and disenfranchised.
    • And those are all GOOD THINGS…very good things, really.
    • We desperately want to put the kingdom of God over and above the kingdom of America…we are “Christian Americans,” not “American Christians.”
  • For the Church:  Millennials remind churches, especially older ones, of an oft-forgotten part of their purpose- to serve the people around them.
    • We add the “go and do” to the “come and see” mindset of most churches.
    • We provide a local, and a worldwide, perspective for churches that need eyes that see beyond their own building and members.
    • We love passages like Matthew 25, where Jesus reminds us that every loving act done for someone else is like we are doing it for him.
  • Caution:  Humanitarian causes are part of the church’s mission in the world…we are called to serve and love and show compassion to everyone, following the way of Jesus.
    • Ministries like our grief support and benevolence house and School Bell…they are completely in-line with what God would have us to do in our community.
    • But… they are not our only mission…nor the chief one.
    • The church’s priority is evangelism, spreading the Good News of the Gospel to the lost because only the church is called to that mission.
    • We come back around to the text read for us this morning…
  • Romans 10:2-4
    • For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Fellow millennials…In our ZEAL to make a difference…let us not get carried away with establishing our own plans and purposes, the most lasting difference, for the greatest problem, has already been made on a cross on Calvary.

The cross makes a difference…to EVERY generation.

For millennial generation and the greatest generation the cross still means forgiveness and new life.

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