Each generation has enough trouble of its own.
By Tim Spivey
Everyone is buzzing over the new Pew Research study that suggests Millennials are continuing to leave Christianity for the ranks of the “nones” (the religiously unaffiliated). A closer look at the data shows the bulk of the slide has occurred within Mainline Christian denominations and Catholicism, with Evangelical Protestants essentially holding the fort. While the bulk of the study didn’t isolate Millennials, its implications aim toward them. This means of course, the obligatory freak-out among some Christians who are afraid we are losing the next generation.
Here are some brief thoughts of my own.
- I’m far more worried about the generations surrounding the Millennials than Millennials themselves. At this moment in time, we seem insecure and unclear about who we are.
- I wonder why we ultimately point the finger at beliefs, politics, etc., instead of looking closely at the parents of Millennials—who for better or worse have shaped Millennials’ beliefs and practices more than any other.
- “Further, while Christianity may have lost ground, many of those who describe themselves as unaffiliated still “believe in God” or consider themselves to be “spiritual,” according to Pew. The question isn’t why spirituality is on the decline — but why many of today’s leading thinkers think de-emphasizing the distinctiveness of Christianity is a winning game plan. Nothing in this report or any other seems to warrant such a conclusion.
- It may be that well-meaning Christians, other than Millennials’ parents have shaped the new “spirituality” by wanting to find common ground with Millennials (not at all wrong in and of itself). But, to the extent our message devolves to do-goodism or a reductionist Gospel that makes treating the earth and others well all that really matters (Jesus is a good guy worthy of emulation — but not really Lord or Christ) — why wouldn’t they increasingly see themselves as spiritual and in right relationship to God without Christianity?
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — we should worry more about what God thinks than what Millennials think of the church. So, the question first isn’t, “Will we lose the next generation if our message doesn’t change?” A better question is, “What is the message God gave us to preach, and how can we be wise and faithful in how we preach and live it out?”
- We would do better to worry less about Millennials and more about the blurriness of the Gospel to many Christians today.
- Then again, worry rarely gets us anywhere. Conviction and action are much better than worry.
- The full Gospel is good news — and may express itself differently in each generation as it is lived out. If we aren’t willing to find relevant expressions of the Gospel, we may lose a great number of Millennials. But, if the Gospel itself changes, we lose everything.
You can click here to read a summary of the Pew study.
Here is some interpretation of the study from Christianity Today.
What are your thoughts on the Millennials conundrum? Agree or disagree with the thoughts above? What would you add or subtract?
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book: Jesus, the Powerful Servant.