Before we start, I’m going to be straight with you — I’m a millennial.
Yes, I’m in college, and not a day goes by that I don’t drink at least two lattes, turn on Spotify, or check my iPhone a handful of times an hour.
Yes, I do spend most of my days working and studying and on social media on my computer, and I won’t deny it. I live in the generation of technology, specialty coffee, and cultural progression, and here I am, getting swept up in it all.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This is the world I’m living in and I can’t do anything about that — and yet there’s something weighing on me, something that’s been bothering me about the American Church for quite some time now.
As the church, we don’t quite know what to do with millennials, and so we shuffle around, trying to cater to what seems to be what they want, yet we overlook the spiritual needs of all involved.
I’m talking about The American Trendy Church.
What has happened that our youth ministries look a lot more like parties than Bible studies?
What has happened that our worship sets resemble concerts more than they do a reverent and holy time of praising our God?
What has happened that our coffee bars look a lot more like Starbucks than a place to quickly grab a cup and go back to fellowshipping with people?
Why are we encouraging live-Tweeting and church selfies, when we need less of us, less distractions, less narcissism and more, oh, so much more of Jesus?
We’ve been watering down our sermons to be more about self-help than God-help, and made deciding on the right church about what it can offer us rather than what we have to offer to it.
We slap on our skinny jeans and slick back our hair in order to look cool for the young attendees, we create program after program to cater to every age group, we try to impress our audience with references to pop culture — and we completely, utterly miss what this generation needs.
The church doesn’t need more coffee — we have Starbucks for that — and frankly, we were never coming to church for the lattes in the first place.
The church doesn’t need more book clubs masquerading as Bible studies, or worship nights that have the same vibe as local shows. We don’t need to try to con millennials into staying, by giving them a great aesthetic to take a photo of and put on Instagram.
We need to do what the church has always been called to do – bring people to Christ. Demonstrate His love, His hope, the abundance of life we find in Him. At the center of the church, we must find the Gospel, and only the Gospel. Not good intentions, good decorations, or good coffee, but the good, honest love we find in Christ alone.
We’ve made churches so trendy that we’re losing sight of what church is all about: Jesus.
When we dumb down our messages to minimize theology and instead try to tell people how they need to clean up their lives before they can come to Jesus, and give them five steps to make that happen, we’ve got it all wrong.
Jesus came for the broken, the hurting, the lost, the friendless and helpless. Jesus came for all of us, and He came for the millennials as well. My generation isn’t incapable of understanding deep concepts; we thrive on them.
We want to know the depth of Christ’s love, not just that He supported diversity. We want to find people that we don’t have to be fake with — we want authenticity that comes naturally, from people who truly care, not just people who are hired to paste on a smile and greet us.
We want the whole Gospel, non-diluted. We don’t want you to make light of our sin, because in doing so, the need for a Savior is eradicated. We want to know that yeah, we mess up our lives terribly, but there is a God who cares enough to send His Son to die for us, to take on the complete punishment for our sin, a brutally sacrificial and breathtakingly beautiful thing.
We want the promise of hope, and the proof of it too, not mistruths wrapped in Biblical-sounding quotes found on Pinterest.
At the center of the human heart, the thing we all really crave is Jesus.
Not more programs.
Not more coffee.
Not more lights, fog, and songs that sound like Top 40.
We want to come to churches that are alive with the Holy Spirit, not a cheap imitation. We want to come to churches that we feel needed at, not simply served by. We want to come to churches that encourage us to be real, churches that encourage us to think, churches with people who care about us as people and not just as another progressive, liberal age group to witness to.
We want to be in a community of Believers that’s so impassioned for God that we have to know what all the fuss is about. We want to come somewhere where we can understand the Bible for what it is, to grow, to have deep conversations about things we all wrestle with.
We want to know Jesus in a real way, to come to services where we don’t feel like we’re being bribed to stay with a free raffle for an iPad (yes, this actually happened to me), conned into tithing because we’re told we’ll be financially blessed by God, or tiptoed around with political correctness in order that no one offends us.
We’re human too.
And we believe that the church is absolutely beautiful, the vision of God for His people — but we don’t want it like this.
We don’t need ‘inoffensive’ messages, Hillsong-esque worship sets, or food that tastes like it came from a four-star restaurant in the Fellowship Hall.
Deep in our hearts, we need to experience and get to know Jesus, His love and His mercy and His grace and His goodness to fill our desperate souls – just as every single other person that’s ever walked the earth has needed.
And we need to encourage our millennials in their pursuit of Christ before we ever try to entice them with our coolness.
Here’s the bottom line: when we relegate Jesus to something as low and worldly as “cool,” because “that’s what the young people want,” we’re telling God that He isn’t good enough for us in His holiness, that His grace isn’t sufficient, that His love isn’t powerful enough to draw people to Himself. That is seriously wrong.
But when we learn to approach people, whether they’re seventeen, or thirty-seven, or sixty-seven, as who they truly are, human beings created in the image of God in need of a Savior – that’s when God’s grace can fully have its transformational power. And herein is the purpose of the Church: to make Christ known, to display His grace to the world, and teach them to grow up in Him.
I think it’s time our churches reclaimed that vision and starting preaching Jesus again, simple, Holy and beautiful Jesus: our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Everything.