Editors note: If you’re not into preachy, Christian blogs, this one isn’t for you.
An associate posted a thought provoking post the other day dubbed ‘12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church‘. Have a squiz at it. I read it. I read it again. And again.
My first, second and third impressions is that the author thinks way too highly of himself, is waayyyy to happy to signal his virtues and seems more than happy to blame others.
I read his bio and about him, and my personal opinions of him softened, just a little.
The article ’12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church’ is, for the most part, is a list that says ‘wa wa wa wa me me me me’. Read it for yourself.
The author though, is onto something – I suspect though he doesn’t know what it is.
He’s rallying against something, in hope for something, but is looking in the wrong spots.
His heart naturally is in the right place, but he’s asking the wrong questions.
Now, I try to avoid preachy things on this blog. Actually, I like to avoid preachy things like the plague, because no one likes preachy things. I don’t even like preachy things. But I’m going to get preachy, because the author is striking a match against every surface, hoping it would light, when only flint will cause the spark.
So lets get down to business.
‘The Church’ has failed Millennials. Big time.
It’s not because ‘the Church’ hasn’t been inclusive
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t giving to the poor
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t accountable for it’s finances
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t mentoring it’s young (although there is a yawning gap here)
The Church has failed Millennials because for the last umpteen years, all that’s been served up is what could be best described as a wishy-washy ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ gospel. The Church has failed miserably to teach basic, fundamental truths.
The Church has absolutely abdicated it’s responsibility on key matters such as repentance, the Sovereignty of the Lord, the authority of the Scriptures.
The Church has really, really made a mess of any type of systematic teaching.
Think about strong cultures. I’ve written about culture before, but just think about it. What makes a culture strong? Systematic teaching. Living the culture. Breathing the culture. Being deliberate in teaching the young the culture. Imparting. Mentoring. Teaching lore and law. Wrestling with it. Wrestling with your place in it.
When was the last time you actually heard a Church talk about it’s doctrinal statements? Explored – and I mean really explored what it means to be a Christian? The author seems to critisise Christians who explore the truth, who delve into their faith, who explore the beautiful Scriptures. Reasons 7 & 9 talk about how Millennials don’t want to be preached at, but want to hear about the controversial issues. I whole heartedly agree that mentorship is lacking in the church, however, preaching – and I mean real systematic preaching and teaching is a wonderful, effective and authoritative way of delivering truth.
It’s telling, that the author seldom talks about biblical truth. About teaching even the very basic fundamentals of faith. There’s no real talk of ‘hey, teach us the truth and let us go and make disciples of Jesus’. There’s no real talk of ‘how can we really be set apart in righteousness’. There’s scant talk of biblical basics such as sin, repentance and forgiveness.
The truth is, the Church has failed Millennials. It’s failed Millennials by not giving them even the most basic tools for understanding biblical authority. For having the confidence to stand of the word of the Lord. For imparting discernment. In a time when the Uniting Church of Australia is scared to mention the name of Jesus in it’s advertising material, I tell you – the Church has failed Millennials.
To quote the X-Files, the truth is out there. Where’s the best place to start? Pick up your Bible. Start reading. Read it with fresh eyes. Ask the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask him ‘why’. Find him in the story of creation. Find him in the exodus. Find him in the Passover. Find him in beautiful detail in the law. Find his promises in the prophets. Find his fulfilment in his Son. Explore the Gospels. Read, and re-read the letters. Read it for yourself.
There are some great podcasts out there. Don’t find ones that cover the hot topics. Find ones that explore the truth. Find ones that will help you understand the Scriptures as they were intended to be explored. Find ones that will give you the tools to both understand what the Scriptures ment when they were written, and what they mean for you now.
We are living in a time were globally, Christianity is under persecution. I read just earlier this week a church in Cairo was bombed with worshipers inside. ISIS is doing dreadful things to Christians, as well as other Muslims and minorities. Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia actively make it difficult for Christians. Churches in the Philippians and Malaysia are being burnt down. In ‘the West’, churches aren’t being burned down, but hold up a bible and preach the gospel in a university, and tell me about the warm reception you get.
The things the author desires are good things- charity, mentorship, accountability. These are good things, but they don’t nourish the soul. The sooth, but don’t heal. They wipe tears, but they don’t reconcile the ledger of sin.
The Church has failed Millennials. It’s time now for Millennials to grow up, take responsibility of their own faith and start grappling with their own faith, and not by having a wa wa fest over the ills of the Church.
Growing up in a church-going Christian family, I had the privilege of hearing many wonderful stories of people who have had their lives turned around by the saving grace of God. People who turned away from drugs, violence, gangs – all manner of evils. Similarly, I’ve been blessed and inspired by many ‘heros’ of the faith – women and men who have risked it all to take the powerful message of Jesus to people all over the world, even in the face of danger and death.
Probably the worst I’ve ever copped for being a Christian was being called a ‘churchie;, or people giving me their frank and honest opinion on faith, organised religion or their ideas on God. Hardly persecution!
For many ‘Western’ Christians (myself included), it is easy to be two things. Firstly, too comfortable (even caviller) in our faith. The second, there’s a risk to see these great stories of lives turned around, or being bold in the faith as the ‘golden standard’ for living your life. The risk is that a boring, suburban life kind of isn’t cutting it, and that this kind of testimony isn’t as powerful.
I want to say that I truly believe every Christian has a ‘mission field’. It could be overseas, it could be in your own country. None of us are called to ‘hide our light under a bushel’, so I don’t want this to sound like an excuse for sitting on your hands and being a ‘Sunday Christian’. What I’m saying is, for me, certainly in the past, I never really thought my testimony would cut it compared to some of the ‘guts and glory’ ones I heard from the pulpit.
I’ve been blessed to meet people, as I’ve grown, who don’t have a whizz-bang testimony. Men and women who have not gone out and changed the world, who never had a life of vice and crime, who have never influenced thousands towards Jesus. These people, however, have made a profound difference in my life, and the life of those around them. People that have been Jesus to their colleagues, their neighbours, the guys at the pub, the mums at the school drop off, the homeless guy they see on the way to work.
People that faithfully, consistently and lovingly apply their lives to reading the scriptures, praying, practicing being Jesus to the ‘ones’ around them. Loving their family, being dedicated to their spouses and children, being faithful in their employment. These are the people that most inspire me.
People, that, who on the outside are quite unremarkable, but to me, have shown Jesus to me more than any big-name preacher or crime-to-Christ could ever do.
In everyone’s life, there will be times and seasons to be bold. To step out in faith, to take a risk, to put yourself out there. I know I should do it more – much more. What I’m saying, however, is that I’m most inspired, most impressed when I meet men and women that are faithfully committed in the small things, and who are Jesus to the ‘ones’.
Just because your testimony doesn’t include preaching to the masses, turning your life around from crime, from doing amazing work for God, it does not mean your testimony is any less worthy or special. It takes guts to represent Jesus in your family, your work, your community group, even your church. It takes guts to share the good news – even when you’re not facing harsh persecution. It takes commitment, strength and character to read the Word everyday, pray for your loved ones and your enemies and cloak yourself in humility everyday.
So to those fine men and women out there with a boring testimony, I want to honour you. I want to honour faithfulness, your love and your compassion. The difference you make in the ‘ones’ is immeasurable, and I thank you for it.
Continuing in the theme of me totally stealing ideas from my Grandparents whilst they are in Israel, I’ve been thinking about the importance of ‘affirming life’.
Without a doubt, Middle East politics is a hotbed of debate at the best of times. It’s been like that for the best part of 4000 years and I expect will continue that way for a while longer. The ongoing conflict in Israel is constantly splashed across the media, with both sides going toe-to-toe for their survival.
During their trip, my grandparents went to a conference where both the Israeli Prime Minister and President were in attendance and gave speeches.
What would you expect these much loathed-and-loved men to talk about? How they are going to crush Hamas perhaps? Ridding the world of the Iranian nuclear threat? Israel’s’ response to ISIS perhaps?
They spoke about the importance of affirming life. Of speaking life. Of living life. Of cherishing life.
This tiny nation of Israel looks at death every day – bombings, kidnappings, missiles and the ongoing propaganda war against them. In looking at death (and responding to it in very forceful ways), these leaders continued their commitment to life. Can you imagine that?
Closer to home, we have the important task of choosing life every day.
There’s something spiritual, something important about what comes out of our mouths. Indeed, the scriptures confirm that ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’. The Lord commanded the Israelites to affirm his Word to their children every day, as they rise in the morning, as they walk during the day and as they lie down at night.
I think there is two important truths in this – firstly that as parents, we need to talk to our children (and listen!); secondly what we say to our children, and by extension, those around us, needs to be life affirming.
I know as a dad, I’m sometimes guilty of not talking to my children. How strange does that sound? It’s easy to come home from work, get on with the nightly ‘happy hour’ duties, dinner, dishes, read to the children and put them to bed, without too much interaction. For some reason, I think the Lord commands dads to talk to their children – as they wake up, as they travel during the day, as they eat and as they go to sleep. Why? I don’t presume to understand what the Lord intends, however, I suspect that his desire is to see dads and children connect on a real way, to be in constant communication, trust and of course love.
I’m acutely aware of my own failing on not ‘speaking life’ into situations. I enjoy a joke as much as anyone, but sometimes I have to stop and think – does this joke have a sting in its tail? Probably more dramatic is when I get angry and I say things that aren’t life affirming – especially to the ones I love.
As many readers would know, I grew up in and around church and have been blessed to meet many wonderful people. Of those people, I’ve been blessed to spend time with some great ministers – men and women who have taught me much about faith, life and family. Of those, the ones that have impacted me most are the ones that visibly and demonstrably love their family. I was in a Bible-study group once with a minister who I love and revere so deeply – his knowledge and love for the Lord is just amazing. It’s what he does with his family that touches me more. I was at his home one evening, doing a Bible study when one of his children came home from work. He stopped the study, got up off his chair and gave his daughter a warm, loving greeting. He embraced her, told her that he was so happy to see her and asked about her day. She embraced her dad in return, affectionately telling him about her day.
Don’t kid yourself – life isn’t all roses, happy words and good times. To the contrary. I think sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of negativity. That’s why it’s so important to speak life into those around you.
I’m sure most of you don’t follow a particular faith or believe strongly and I don’t want to sound ‘preachy’. What I do want to impress upon you (and myself) is the importance of speaking life into those around you. Season your conversation with things that will build up. I’m sure we’ve all come across people who have had a lifetime of negative words spoken over them – cruelty from a parent, abuse from a partner and negativity from those around them. Maybe, just maybe, your life affirming word is the only positive thing they’ve heard in a while. How do you think your interactions and relationships would be if you took the first step to affirm life in others?
Speaking life takes practice. Affirming someone isn’t something that comes naturally – certainly not to Aussies, with our culture of ‘taking the piss’. I dare you though to try it –practice giving life. It costs nothing to speak life into someone, but can mean the whole world to the receiver.
Picture from http://realtruth.org/articles/100607-003-family.html
The child confessing they did break the vase.
The wife admitting she did spend money at the Tupperware party.
The husband coming clean on eating the last bit of chocolate.
Admitting to your mother that you are, infact, going to get a motorbike.
Coming clean. Breaking the news. ‘Fessing up. That feeling inside of you when you know you have to say it. I don’t think there’s any easy way sometimes to do it.
It could be something as benign as confessing to your mum that you are doing your motorbike test tomorrow. It could be something way more serious like gambling away your pay (which I have not done).
There’s a stack of ways – often strange ways – people ‘come clean’. Sometimes it just builds up and out of the blue, they blurt it out. “I’ve been having an affair” – dropping the bombshell no one saw coming. Others leave hints, aching to get caught so someone else brings up the topic – leaving paper trails of stealing from work for example. Others still brag in their breach of trust.
Some turn to a confession to alleviate their guilt, or get something off their chest. Some don’t deal with it at all, burying the hurt, anger or shame in a sea of sex, drugs, workaholism or the bottle.
Even more sadly, some leave it until it’s too late to confess, writing down their shame on the ‘final note’ before ending it all.
I’ve heard people spill their beans online, often anonymously on websites such as postsecret.com
Now hear me out, I’ve got nothin’ really to confess. I mean, perhaps something as benign as casually telling my mum I’ll be on two motorized wheels within days, but nothing really bad!
I’m interested – if you had something to say, to get off your chest, how might you do it? I’m not after details or anything. It could be something as simple and really nothing major like telling your mum you’re getting your motorbike licence. It may be a situation you did find yourself in – where you confessed – what was the outcome? Did things turn out well? Badly? Worse? Tell me in the comments below!
Pic from http://breakupcookbook.com/?page_id=440
I’ve met many, many people that have been positively impacted by school chaplains. I’ve met a number of school chaplains – amazing, dedicated, loving people. Hardly ‘religious nutters’ that many in the media would have you believe. I’ve heard teachers rave about the support they’ve been provided by their school ‘chappie’. I’ve seen kids lives improved by the input the school chaplain has had. I’ve seen congregations get around and support financially, spiritually and practically chaplains in their area.
There’s no hiding my Christian faith. From the get-go, I’d love there to be a positive Christian influence in every school. There is no doubt that chaplains do an amazing role in our schools, for all members of the school community.
I’m not here to slight school chaplains or Christianity one bit. Not one iota.
Here’s what I don’t like. Taxpayer money used for school chaplains.
‘Say what?’ I hear you say!
That’s right. I don’t agree with taxpayer money being used to fund a program that is ‘church’ based.
I read a great article on school chaplaincy outlining how school chaplains are funded and some of the rules that ‘govern’ chaplaincy in school. It was common-sense and I loved it. You could even argue that it softened my stance on this issue (but not enough to change my mind!).
You’ve probably picked up from some of my other writings that I’m a bit of a libertarian.
A weapon you use is a weapon you that can be used against you. There’s no doubt that a chaplain enters a school with the love, light and spirit of Christ. Yes, they are bound by regulation, but I truly believe that every chaplain serves and loves their school community as Christ loves all mankind. They provide practical, emotional and mental support to their school communities. All good so far. But what’s stopping legislation change to allow a ‘witchcraft’ chaplain? Or a Muslim chaplain? What’s stopping a practicing Satanist to become a chaplain, should legislation change to allow it? Christians can’t argue for funding for them at the exclusion of funding for others.
I’m not arguing for Christian influences to be removed from schools. There’s no doubt in my mind that at least the basics of our Judeo-Christian heritage be taught. It’s the bedrock of our or social and legal system. If nothing else from a historical perspective, our children should be taught the importance faith and religion has had in shaping our culture.
Here’s what I think.
As with many other community organisations such as the Salvation Army, the Smith Family and a myriad of others (who do an EXCELLENT job, I might add), the school chaplain program is essentially a Band-Aid solution to a much bigger problem.
As I’ve argued before (and you can read an excellent essay here which give you an insight on my thoughts), school chaplains, welfare officers, community development programs, homeless programs, social welfare programs and alike are trying to fill a huge hole in society. The family hole.
Nothing strengthens an individual, a society and a nation like a strong, stable family. A family where each member is committed to each other, that laughs, cries and supports each other.
Anecdotally, the main group of children that school chaplains seem to support are children from broken or abusive families. ‘Families’ where mum has multiple boyfriends, dad is a name on a Child Support letter and siblings are moved around on a whim. Families where the Government has become the main breadwinner, but unlike a loving parent, the state can’t set rules for everyday behaviour, read to your children or tuck them in at night.
There has been a huge increase in independent Christian schools. You’ve probably read about the ongoing debate for Federal funding on these schools. As a disclaimer, I send my children to an independent Christian school. It’s been my experience that the parents that send their children there do so not just for the faith-based education (whilst that’s usually high on the priority list), it’s because the children that go there have families that mirror theirs. The children usually have parents that are together, who put their money where their mouth is in relation to education and families where one or both parents work.
What has this done? It’s sucked a stack of middle-class Christian families out of the state education system. It’s changed the demographic of state schools to the point where many parents (and not just Christian ones) don’t want to send their children to the schools in their catchment area as it’s too different to what they are used to – either ethnically or socio-economically. So what’s left at state schools? Dedicated teachers trying to teach students that, for the most part, have parents not engaged in their kids education and children not engaged with learning. School becomes a babysitter.
So now we have high-schools where a chaplain is dealing with students who self harm. They are trying to help the child who’s dad has pissed up the fortnights dole cheque and now don’t have money for breakfast. They are trying to find emergency accommodation for the girl who’s mums new boyfriend bounced her off the wall. There’s hardly any Christian families left in the state school system. A few, but certainly less than there was. Kids are growing up with kids who don’t actually know a family where mum and dad are married, love each other and are committed to each other. Where’s that community the school could traditionally turn to when a family is doing it tough, when a meal is needed because a dad is out of work, or a group of mums that pooled together uniforms for the clothing pool? They are all at the independent Christian school.
So now we have two problems.
First, we don’t (and shouldn’t have, and shouldn’t need to have) taxpayer funding for a faith group to support someone to go into these schools to support them.
Second, and more importantly, we have a generation growing up in broken families.
What can we do about this? What can you do about this?
pic from children-uninterested-in-religion–but-churches-determined-to-bring-them-into-the-fold
I’ve noticed a trend on social media (especially Facebook) for the current topic of Christian conversation to be about biblical ‘perspectives’ on current issues. You don’t need to spend much time on social media without coming across a myriad of opinions on gay marriage, asylum seekers, the current state of politics in Australia or poverty.
Without a doubt, Christians should have an opinion on these things. Even a cursory read of the Bible will uncover values such as charity, kindness, goodwill, justice, forgiveness and right-living.
I just can’t help think that current western Christian thought has been hijacked by distractions. By current issues. By things that will divide, annoy and frustrate. By things that, to me, don’t define faith or lead towards drawing closer to Christ. I compare what seems to be the western Christian agenda with what is happening through the north of Africa and through the Middle East. I wonder if the Copts are having discussions about gay marriage? What about a secret home-church in China? Are they debating the ‘Churches’ response to climate change, or are they just hungry to get even a bible in their hands? What about the Nigerian Christian, going to church, wondering if his daughters are going to be captured by Boko Harum. Does he argue on Facebook on his opinions of the Big Bang, or does he literally pray for his life every day?
What I’m saying is why don’t western Christians talk about the Bible anymore? Why don’t we see conversations on Facebook or Twitter about a life-changing verse you’ve just read, or a passage that’s recently challenged your faith? At last count, I had a whopping 283 Facebook friends (and probably less after people read this!). Of those, do you know how many write about the Bible? One. Only one (and it’s not me!).
I could read a million posts on some ‘Christian’ perspective on a controversial hot topic and not understand the nature of the Lord one iota. I could read the post by that one and learn more in three minutes of reading than in pages of current dross.
What do you think? Why would Christians rather argue some controversial topic, rather than spend their time in actually reading the Bible? I’m talking to myself here, too.
How would you explain to a persecuted Christian in the Middle East that you’d rather spend your time arguing for marriage equality, rather than reading your Bible?
When one prepares for death, they usually prepare a will. A summary of the distribution of their worldly assets. Some have large wills, some moderate, some leave behind a trail of debt and loss.
For some families, it’s a time of great unease and awkwardness, especially if the will gets contested. Lawyers can be called in, claims and counter-claims made, settlements made or judgements issued. All for a fistful of worldly possessions.
As you know, my Grandmother recently passed away. I’ve been thinking of the ‘intangible’ things in life that you can’t bequeath when you leave this earth – you can’t bestow a quarter of your kindness upon four siblings. You can’t bequeath a third of your love to a charity, another third to a church and the final third to your cat. You can’t distribute your faith equally amongst your offspring.
What I want to know, what I’m musing about is, if you could bequeath your intangible assets, how would you do it? I know this is a dangerous question! Would you give your husband or wife some of your patience (ok, that was cheeky!). Would you give your children an ounce of your faith or your allocate your church a portion of your caring spirit? Would you give your neighbour your love for nature or your children your passion for sports?
More interestingly, what would you do if you were bequeathed something intangible that you didn’t want? It would be easy to disregard a bequest of grandpa’s bitterness, or your Aunty’s unusual love for cats. But would you accept talents, skills or blessings that would challenge you? Your brother’s passion for feeding the poor? Your mother’s love for the orphan? Your sibling’s strong faith?
Would you contest a will if a family member got more of the deceased’s kindness? Would you fight for just a bit more of their talent for music or art? Would you call in the lawyers to gain a greater share of someones business acumen or ability to make money?
I’m interested. What intangible talents, skills or blessings would you bequeath? What would you want to receive? What would you fight for, for just some more?
This picture was sourced from @kirpernicus on Instagram