I am a millennial. As a member of that often-criticized generation, I have heard pretty much all of the negatives that people have thrown around, but the one that has hit the hardest is this: millennials are leaving the church because it is not exciting enough. This was something I first heard in a sermon at a church I attended prior to leaving the nest and heading out on my own to Maryland, and something that has bothered me ever since. While I do believe millennials are falling out of the church, I do not necessarily think it is because it is “boring” but rather that the church and those raising these millennials have been unable to make the Kingdom tangible. Let me explain.
Well, to my fellow millennials, we are getting older. It’s sad but true. And soon it will be up to us to lead the next generation.
I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents and two often annoying younger brothers, who I love. Statistically, I should have fallen away from the church or at least settled into a ritualistic pattern of church attendance that had nothing to do with my faith and everything to do with “the way we’ve always done it.” So why is that not my story? Let me amend my first statement: I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents who actively fought for the Kingdom and made it tangible for me and my brothers.
You see, the defining piece in my faith story has nothing to do with how “exciting” the church service was and everything to do with the parents who raised me by making the Kingdom too tangible to ignore, and God’s Mission too important to turn away from. My parents, in my eyes, are heroes for the faith. They have sacrificed their time, energy, and money for Christ for as long as I can remember and even longer than that. Both have served in missions organizations; both have discipled people here and led mission trips overseas. They have planted churches, shared the Gospel in hard-to-reach places, and have put themselves at risk all while raising three children. My parents are the reason I have not lost my faith and the reason I live on fire for the very tangible Kingdom of God.
Yes, they took us to Sunday school and they told us Bible stories and we became very familiar with Veggie Tales, but they also told us about their time with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru), brought us along when they had conferences with fellow missionaries, and eventually brought us on a few mission trips. But they did not make the Kingdom tangible only by simply taking us with them. They also made it tangible when we could not follow them, when the trips and work they did required us to stay home.
How? By engaging in discussion about why it was necessary to leave and re-emphasizing the importance of spreading the Gospel to the rest of the world so that they too may join the Family. My parents are heroes and because of them I am continually motivated for the cause of Christ.
So, why is this important enough for me to share? Well, to my fellow millennials, we are getting older. It’s sad but true. And soon it will be up to us to lead the next generation. What legacy do we want to leave behind? Are we living today like the Kingdom is tangible? Are we fighting for it as though it is precious? Have we given our lives to its King, regardless of the risk? How are we living in such a way to prepare for the responsibility of making the Kingdom tangible to our future children, nieces, nephews, etc.?
Here are a few steps you might consider:
- Find community – join a church, find a small group, ask to be discipled by a godly adult in the church.
- Study the Bible – engage in meaningful quiet time to strengthen your relationship with Christ.
- Engage in missions – learn about/meet the missionaries your church supports, support a local missions organization, volunteer in your community, go on a mission trip.
- Share your faith – include church in your conversations when discussing your weekend, invite friends and family to church or small group, exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in what you do and say.
If you are a new and/or current parent, your job is much harder because it involves not only growing yourself but also growing your children. It involves laying down your life for Christ knowing full well that your children may follow your example and lay down theirs too. It involves potentially sacrificing their future safety by showing them how you fight for the Kingdom regardless of the risk. It involves introducing them to Eternity so that they may spend it with Christ as a good and faithful servant. Are you living out your faith in a way that makes this possible?
I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents who actively fought for the Kingdom and made it tangible for me and my brothers.
Here are steps I have experienced in my family that began to make the Kingdom tangible for me:
- Engage in missions – support your church’s missionaries, participate on mission trips (here or abroad), bring your children on mission trips (here or abroad, formal or informal).
- Make the Kingdom the main ingredient in your decisions – engage your children in discussion about how the family operates in a God-centered, God-honoring way.
- Disciple the small family – study a book/Bible hero/word together, making sure to apply the text to your life, your family’s life, and your kids’ lives.
- Emphasize the big Family – explain to your kids that God came for all people and that all Christians are part of a global Family.
- Share the Gospel with your kids – do this again and again and again, showing them how it is used in your own actions and decisions.
I hope my words have carried truth, meaning, and value with them. I hope that this has given you hope, encouraged you, and, if I may say, emboldened you to continue in (or start anew) your passion for the Kingdom. To my Kingdom-minded parents: thank you for making the Kingdom tangible, for showing us how to live for Christ, for making Christ the centerpiece of every decision, and for including us in your fight for Christ so that it inevitably became ours.