[Image by Noah Biddlecombe]
What Millennials Want From Church – Part 3
The church, I think, often feels threatened by millennial culture. It presents itself feeling obsolete in a way, because we are trying to mold church to the expectations of millennials, as if being hipster cool is the only way to get them in the door. But church and millennial culture are not in competition.
The culture you possess where you live, layered with your national culture, is just a product of the time and place into which you were born. Jesus stands relevant whether now, pre-Industrial Revolution, or Ancient Roman times. The culture of Jesus is timeless.
Instead, Jesus stands as a pillar of truth within our culture. Jesus does not replace our culture, but rather has a culture of his own that is seeping with access points of truth so to be knowable by every person in every time.
He recognized that with different geographical locations, eras, politics, and technologies, there would be innumerable cultures throughout time. To seek to replace the culture of a specific time and place would be to make the gospel unreachable. When you take the culture away from someone, or force them to adopt the culture of another, they feel alienated from the culture they left and unlike the culture they are trying to embrace. We all know that never turns out well.
Jesus did not want to leave himself unknowable. He did not want to make his followers isolated. He did not want to leave every other culture without reference points to his own kingdom. Rather, he spoke trails of truth so that his can be a subculture of any culture.
The culture of Jesus can be done within each and every culture ever known to man. The culture of Jesus is to be part of your community, but to do it with such love and selflessness and peace and openness to others that it turns heads. To follow Jesus is to be a part of your own culture, but to the standard of the values of Jesus. To give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and then give above and beyond to the community around you.
The culture of Jesus is Truth.
In some ways, ours in the Western world today is a post-truth culture. Institutions have done a disservice to millennials to teach them to be tolerant of everything. But unless you are well-versed in one truth, you have nothing to compare it to. Critical thinking, comparing “truth” with “truth” cannot happen. What is left is a generation of people unsure of what truth is, unwilling to say they themselves know truth, and a generation who lacks the intellectual tools to even compare different “truths”.
But that the millennials are charitable with truth does not negate that there exists a single Truth.
There is Absolute Truth, just most millennials are blind to it or unwilling to announce they know it. Just as the perceived weight of our own life tends to blind us from truly seeing others, the perceived weight of culture tends to obstruct the timeless wisdom of Jesus.
How can we know one solid Truth exists?
Because there exists an unspoken morality within every culture, and that morality often overlaps despite no communication. Charity. Love. Family. Wisdom. Relationship. These are concepts most cultures across time willingly and wholeheartedly embrace. That killing requires justice. That sacrifice deserves esteem. That loyalty is honorable. That cooperation subverts division. These are largely idealized within all cultures. Even within countries in the throngs of civil war, where children are handed guns, these morals stand.
Because the fundamentals of humanity are corroborated by every language. Food. Clothing. Dwelling. Purpose. Relationship. Order. God. Every nation and culture focus on these in some form. They are the necessities of humanity. It is the vessel of seeking and delivery that changes with national, local and individual culture.
Whatever leader is in charge, Jesus is authority.
Whatever form of slavery pervades culture, Jesus offers freedom.
Whatever minority discrimination, whether it be gendered, racial or economic, Jesus sees and offers hope.
Whatever is the cause of your suffering, Jesus offers healing.
God is unchanging. And all Jesus did on earth was point to his Father through the changeable culture of his time.
Church today is to do the same. Point to God the Father, through all the points of cultural connection your Wisdom-inspired imagination and intellect can muster. Jesus can be known today. Connecting to Deity is a fundamental of humanity. So do our culture, but do it better.
We value connection, so invite people to connect at your table rather than over Wifi.
We value self-help, so disciple people why we possess intrinsic worth.
We value financial freedom, so demonstrate trusting God with your finances through ruthless generosity.
We value busyness, so stand restful among it.
We value academics, so confront it with the complex simplicity of Jesus’ wisdom.
Instead of being fearful of social media, harness it to spread love and goodness to your corner of the internet.
Instead of being dismayed by the hyper-sexualization of our culture, recognize that people are searching to fill their soul with love and acceptance.
Instead of bending to the influence of those who post perfect beautiful squares, spend time being bent to Truth and Wisdom in the Word.
Instead of scrolling on your device while you wait in line, look up and engage others with eye contact and conversation.
You do not need to have all the answers. You don’t need to reach a multitude.
The job of those who know Jesus today is to find the entrance points into their own culture, ways to make the culture of Jesus knowable to those around them. Not to be in hiding.
Jesus himself spoke in stories, telling elaborate heavenly truths that connected seamlessly to the social order, local knowledge and agriculture culture of Ancient Mesopotamia. Don’t change the gospel: tell those same stories, but dig deep to find what those stories actually meant to those who originally heard them, and make it relevant to now, like comparing of the Kingdom of Heaven’s growth not to yeast but to a viral post.
See your neighborhood. Know it. Listen for Wisdom. And you will begin to see how Truth can seep through the sponge that culture is.
What are some ways Jesus connects to millennial culture?