Thursday, November 20, 2014

How the Traditional Church Can Reach Millennials

What is a Millennial? A millennial is a person born in the 1980's to the early 2000's. Many different people have tried to place a particular year on this gap, but there is no possible way to accomplish this. Millennial is less of a specific age bracket as much as it is a perspective or worldview. Millennials are entrenched in postmodern thought and opinions. Western culture has changed a lot in the last few years.

Postmodernism is driving this cultural change. Postmodernism according to Brittanica is "characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism." They further define the term as "a general suspicion of reason." Millennials, we have a difficult time believing. I myself and a millennial, and I think in a very postmodern pattern. I never accept someone for who they are. I am always looking for the hidden agenda. I truly am a skeptic as are many other millennials. Additionally, I am very skeptical of reason. Millennials hate the idea of naivety! The thought of blindly accepting information as true makes me cringe.

There is so much more to understand and discuss when it comes to postmodernity. However, I would like to share what the implications of postmodernism is upon millennials and how their perceive the church. My first senior pastor I served under was Shelly Chandler, and he taught me that perception is everything. So let me list some of the implications:
  • aversion to institutionalism
  • aversion to naivety
  • aversion to tradition
  • aversion to purposeless enterprises and efforts
  • aversion to dogmatic theology
  • aversion to absolute statements
  • aversion to metanarrative
  • desires diversity
  • desires professionalism and excellence
  • desires sound logic
  • desires relevancy
  • desires personal relationships
  • desires to belong to a greater cause
Why do these implications matter so much? Because the church is generally perceived in the aversion section of these implications and not in the desire section. Today's traditional church is highly institutionalized, with the existence of committees for everything, liturgical traditions, institutional architecture. Many traditional churches use phrases like "God said it, I believe it, that settles it;" but this makes millennials cringe. Millennials also do not like metanarratives that attempt to define them, such as God's plan for redemption. They want to define the metanarrative.

However, I am millennial, yet I am very passionate about my faith and even work at a church. What happened? Let me clarify upon one of the concept of relativism. I abhor relativism and am a strong proponent of absolute truths. I particularly affirm the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, but I had to travel to this place. My travels happened through the use of logic. I am a philosophy buff, and to be honest so are the bulk of millenials, because we want to have the question "WHY" answered for everything.

So, I suggest a new tactic for traditional churches wanting to reach the younger generation. First, show compassion to this generation until it hurts. Express your love for them through service to them and their families. Second, be less dogmatic and more explanatory of logic. Assume that your people know nothing about the Bible. Assume your people do not even accept the Bible as authoritative, which could be argued that they do not according to some of their lifestyles. Teach and preach everything from ground zero. You have to make Christianity logically appealing to the point that all other options seem undesirable.

Ajith Fernando was a Christian from Sri Lanka, a culture that has been entrenched with pluralism for millennia. In his commentary on the Book of Acts, he noted that 70% of all evangelism in the New Testament was apologetic in nature, meaning that the evangelist had to reason with the recipient of the gospel. The New Testament era was one of the more pluralistic times in western culture, and I believe a return to apologetic evangelism and sound logic can serve the church well.
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