Today we find ourselves in an interesting predicament. Never before have there been so many voices available to influence our lives. Never before could you have access to over 300 people at once all at your fingertips. Now I know where most of you think this is going and its not. I am not writing to bash social media, but to point out a number of simple facts. Let us make it simple, the church is at a crossroad. This is a fork in the road. Down one road is one style of worship, which many want to cling to. However, on the other side is another path. Young believers are lost and we need to find them and bring them to the church. So I look at the current political climate and the growing social environment in the world today and wonder how can I reach out to my generations and ensure my future children will be able to grow up in a world where God remains supreme in the minds around them. I do not want to see a nation, which was founded on many Christian, and religious ideals fall into an abysmal society. We sit at the point in our road where our future will be defined by out action or in action thereof.
Before I continue, I would like to introduce my background, and a slight view of my beliefs. I am a 25-year-old American Baptist millennial. I am a prospective seminarian, and have felt a strong calling to remain involved with the military and serve as a chaplain. While I am not quite there yet, all in due time, I plan to begin seminary in the fall, and am quite anxious to begin. One of the greatest decisions I had made over the past couple years was opening up about my faith because it not only was beneficial to me, but also those around me. It opened the door to some critique, but for the most part, I have been challenged in a positive manner and have been able to influence the lives of those around me. However, it has lead me to one of the more disturbing trend I believe have seen, and after some research it seems like its not just those around me. I hear of conflicting views separating Christians from uniting. I mention to a person who expressed interest in following Christ, or at least was open to the idea of learning more about Him. He asked me “What’s your faith group?” I reply to him “I’m Baptist.” He was relatively new, but replied, “Is that Christian, or Catholic or something?” I replied, “Well Catholics and Baptist are both denominations for Christianity.” He became confused, but I can understand his slight confusion as sometimes it appears that follower of Christ is more focused on the numbers in the pew than the truth. The truth being Jesus Christ and this is what we need to focus on, Jesus, our savior bottom line. Therefore, I guess I will get to my point, and this is a challenge. Rather than finding ways to point our differences we need to co-exist and become a united front as Christians.
Get With the Times
There is no questioning that there is a disturbing trend occurring in the United States today and we must address the issue before it influences our society. We can ill afford to lose this generation of people who still believe, and still have a thirst for the Gospel. To be honest this is a generation, which is very active, and by active, it needs constant stimulation. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a millennial that did their homework with out background noise either from the television, music, or computer, maybe a combination of either of them. The point is there is many ways to present the Gospel and very few of them are wrong. There is a growing call for churches to become contemporary. Millennials do not have the desire sit through a service, which is not modern and doesn’t fit their life. Singing from the hymnal is outdated, while it may work for a congregation of Boomers. The hymnal is a great resource, but obviously as more and more churches have funding to implement video screens and other multi-media projects the tradition hymnal will become outdated. While these hymns can continue to remain a part of the service, the church must understand that if they want to gain millennial believers they will be singing far more Oceans by Hillsong, and a little less of the tradition Holy, Holy, Holy. Again, I will reiterate the point I made earlier this is superficial changes. Music is not what the gathering we do throughout the week about. Nonetheless, is like an incentive and icing on the cake. Luckily, for the church this is something it has realized for years, the change continues to occur.
However, that is just one facet of the evolution. Any church that is not on social media is losing out, and losing out big time. Billions of people around the world are on social media. It’s a way to cyber-evangelize, if that’s not a word yet, it should be. Cybervangelism could be a way the church moves into the future. Now day’s sermons are downloadable and can be listened to at any time. It’s like a podcast about God for all to listen to. If a church has the resources to do so, they should be investing in this. Churches are on apps, facebook, and communicating in greener and more efficient manners. In no way am I advocating the church take away from the Gospel to ensure the comfort of millennials, but a simple face-lift, which has been done in the past, could be used. Especially when many changes are so minor and will, help the church develop growth. While many churches are making these changes, others need to find a way to make them. Evangelism is no longer limited to one on one conversation, and for those who do not necessarily thrive in one on one situation they can find ways to evangelize through social media.
Millennials are greener than our parents, so bulletins and newsletters sent out via e-mail continue to be a great resource. However, the church needs to take a stand against climate change. One of the more unappealing things for many millennials is the face there are people within the church are denying the fact of global climate change. It’s a global issue, and should be addressed by the church. While Pope Francis continues to advise of the dangers many people in this country continue to deny this. There is little to no denying the fact. Churches should not only be finding ways to develop an environmental outreach, but also ensure simple things such as recycling is done within the church. It sets up a number of good mission opportunities and becomes something that directly helps others. Project ideas are bountiful and clean up efforts by the church will be a great representation of the impact the church can have in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a matter leaders need to get on the same page with before it becomes an immediate life threatening issue.
The church continues to look for answer and everyone within wants to put their own twist on things. However, far too often, we overlook the most important thing about the church and that is teaching about Jesus. Church is about gathering as a group of believes to worship our Lord and Savior. It’s not about which music we play or which doughnuts will be served after service. Don’t get me wrong I love a good song and sometimes get bummed out when I don’t get to sing a song I want to, but it’s not about me. There is no me in church. These are all extra pieces to make church more comfortable. I’m not knocking these things, but merely point it out they do not matter at the end of the day. What we want from church does not matter. If you want to go to mega church go to a mega church, if you prefer a small church go to a small church, because as that gathering is focused on the most important thing Jesus and the Gospel then it is a good church. It does not matter if you gather in a tent, a house, a pancake house, or in an empty alleyway. If multiple people gather in the name of Jesus and that is what they are the for then it is church and we all need to accept that. God connects with people in so many different ways. While there is, a line to what people try to constitute as “church” the bottom-line is there is no blueprint for the “church.” Church is not a building it is a collection of worshipers gathered in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Only God Can Judge
I digress; last summer a Pew Research was conducted which indicates many millennial are non-religious affiliated. However, they still believe in God. There is a continuous rise in the term spiritual. What does this mean? Its simple God is still winning as He always does, but the church is losing. In part, it is hard to blame my generation; we are sitting at the pentacle of social issue explosion. Every issue possible has two unbreakable forces. One side seems to be the understanding and relatable point of view, but its lacking. The other side has a delivery issue and comes off as judgmental. Let us examine one of the biggest debated issues right now that of gay marriage. While many from the church are continuously point out that homosexuality is a sin, many seem to take it too far. Regardless if it is a sin or not, many people who place the claim on their name are in the forefront of judging these individuals and pushing many of these people away from the church. In the mean time, they are pushing others away too. From the millennial perspective, they see that the Bible teaches it is wrong, but it also teaches about love, forgiveness, and that only God can judge. For that reason, let us look at the Kim Davis fiasco, while Ms. Davis may have believed she was doing the right thing she was in essence violating so much more from the Bible. The issue for many of her critics was not the fact she was a Christians, it was about her depriving those individuals their right. It seems that you can be sexually immoral and the door is open for you, but if you’re a homosexual than that unforgivable. While this is not the truth for many Christians, many people understand the issue. There was a great deal of hypocrisy in this situation too. Many critics saw the Kentucky clerk and her divorces, which too is a sin, standing up against another sin. The church could gain a lot of ground if they would open their doors to all. One promising trend for the church seems to be the Papacy of Francis. Francis is attracting new believers to the church; he is becoming increasingly liked by Catholics and Protestants, young and old, as well as, believers and non-believers. I firmly believe all denominations should follow the lead of the Pope on this issue as well. In the book The Name of God is Mercy Francis clarifies his comments from his famous 2013 press conference where he states, “Who am I to judge?” He relies,”On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person? I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.” However, marginalization is exactly what many millennial see when it comes to the treatment of LGBT groups. Pope Francis has been quite vocal on the matter. In fact, he has state he is a glad this is a matter for discussion. Francis gives recognition to their rights, by in no way is the Pope contradicting the Bible. Rather than judge them, welcome them. Churches should be welcoming everyone with open arms who want to come to know Christ. Our faith was developed by imperfect souls. David was an adulterer, Paul was a murderer, and the examples can go on. God is merciful, and is capable of forgiving everyone because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While in no way am I advocating Christians to tolerate sins, but to reject another human being because of their life choice is like leaving a 7up out of the soda machine because it has no caffeine. We are all sinners. We are not called to love people for who they are, but we are called to love them. We do not have to condone what we believe to be sin, in fact, we shouldn’t, but if people continue to on the path, they are going we are preventing people from receiving God’s grace because of the skewed view they receive. We don’t need to push sinners away because they are sinners if we should none of us are welcome. We need to welcome everyone with open arms so what we can all be restored. Let God do his job. God is all knowing, we are not. Leave the judging to God. If you truly fear for this person’s soul pray for them, love them, and lead them to God.
Let Not Get too Political
Likewise, why does one political stance necessarily indicate their political preference? There seems to be a strong push from Christians, and in part Christian media, that being a conservative makes you a Christian, but being liberal makes you the enemy. Let me be perfectly clear on a matter, I identify as a liberal as many millennial do, hence the rising popularity of politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and other liberal candidates. Don’t get me wrong there are various issues, which I believe conservatives are, correct on or have a valid argument. However, let us squash the giant bug in the room and put out a news flash “Jesus was neither a Democrat nor a Republican.” I know awkward, I’m sure some people would love to debate that, but neither side of the aisle is perfect. While I would advise you to vote by your beliefs, and use your faith as a tool on who to vote for, don’t use your ideologies to identify who is a believer and who is not. Personally speaking, I believe that the government should assist those in need. While I don’t believe we as believers should use the government as a crutch to provide and solve every issue, it should help. Every small factor can make the world better, whether that is volunteering, donating, or making a wise well-educated vote. Help the poor and elderly should be a foundation item for every Christian. Additionally, it is largely a liberal value. While many people will look at helping them through government funding as a waste of their tax dollars, let us not forget the parable of the woman who gave everything she had. Helping one another is an act of love, and Jesus teaches us to love one another. However, there seems to be a major debate on these statements and helping the poor is a mere reverie. Additionally, liberals support health care and education, which are both major needs in our society. Liberal principles teach acceptance, hope, love, and forgiveness. I’m not trying to shift anyone’s political perspective here, but the statement you can’t be Christian and a liberal is an absolute fallacy. Lincoln was a liberal and a Christian. JFK was our first Catholic president, and a liberal. FDR, a liberal, and the list goes on. You’re voting for a Republican make you no more of a Christian than if you were to vote for a Democrat. You’re voting of a Libertarian make you no more of a Christian than if you voted for the Green Party. Whom you vote for does not necessarily indicate your religion. Now on this note you should use your faith, beliefs, and values when voting. Research your candidates; do not vote for Hilary Clinton because she is a Democrat, votes for her because you believe in her record of accomplishment or her values. Likewise, don’t vote for Donald Trump because he claims to be Christian. It is as James preaches faith without works is dead. I am not going to claim to know what Mr. Trump believes, but some of the things he has said at times have been highly suspect. Likewise, Ms. Clinton has some alleged controversy behind herself as well. No matter which side of the aisle you sit on you should be open to voting for the candidate that encompass your beliefs the best. That’s what voting is for. If you do not know where you sit there a polls, which you can take to show, where you sit. ISideWith.com has a fantastic poll; I found the results to be very accurate. Politics has become another way which has separate believes from finding unity. Far too often, we let politics get in the way of sharing the Gospel, but the Gospel is not blue or red, republican or democrat, nor does it endorse a single candidate.
Fighting the Beast
We as believers are continuously finding ways to distance our selves from each other, which makes us distant to those who may be seeking the Gospel. It makes no sense. The music we listen to, the television we watch, and the rise of outside immoral temptations. We look around and it is nearly impossible to not see an image, which has been sexualized. Every other movie seems to find a need to sexualize. People find it entertaining, but it’s also people exploiting the weakness of other people. However, it’s not the biggest issue, but it is part of the issue which desensitizes our society to its biggest weakness, lust, and lust has taken over millions of homes and it will not stop. It’s a hungry beast, which lurks on anyone who is venerable. Sex has become an industry. Pornography and extremely explicit images are available 24 hours a day for whoever wants them. It’s grown on the internet; it’s grown on phones, and other side markets around. It is something that is continuing the stand in the way of normal relationships and it gives those who have seen it a false sense of reality. It is something which over takes our minds. Its strong, it’s controlling. It wants you to lose. It makes you feel happy only to make you feel guilty. It has become the new norm and continues to evolve. If we do not fight this problem, it will only get worse. We cannot continue to support and so called “sex industry” we are harming the lives of millions. Even with the legal practices, we are creating a desire for the “illegal” ones. However, in the eyes of God, they are all wrong, while God is not anti-sex, it is anti-exploitation. Human trafficking is becoming a major issue for the world today. Sex trafficking as well as other forms of trafficking is going on right before our eyes and we don’t realize it half the time. It’s something every country faces. As Christians, we need to show love for our neighbors and stand up for these people and other forms of exploited individuals. People are not for sale plain and simple.
Society faces many issues and these are just simple thoughts from a simple man. Take them to heart if you want, or don’t. It’s not a big deal because at the end of the day I have my values and respect that other people do too. While I don’t believe that my views are incorrect I am up for different interpretations.
Be the Church, Be Authentic
One thing a lot of people don’t understand and it seems some pastors as well, is that we are all sinners. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, plain and simple we’re all sinners. Really nothing we can do about the fact we are sinners, we can control how much we sin, but it’s going to happen even if it’s that little white lie, gossip, or something that’s much further outside of the normal realm. Millennials do not want a place where the pastor and the leadership are too good to admit this fact. It’s acceptable for pastors to talk about some of their sins of their past. While certain things are better not told, many of the pastor’s sins can be teaching points. These teaching points display why God called them to ministry. We want to share the struggle, life is a struggle, and we want to get through it tighter as a collective gathering honoring God.
How many times have you walked past a homeless person sitting on the street and tried to avoid eye contact. I have found rather than doing this at the bare minimum say hello. Like most of us now days, I don’t carry large amounts of cash if any on me so it hard to help the garden-variety person who is asking for help. We all have our credit and debit cards, in today’s society it’s become a norm. However, this does not excuse us from helping others. Now on that note if you have some spare change and you do see some one homeless please do give. It’s what Jesus would do. Many people will simply say no because “They probably will buy booze with it.” However, it is not our place to judge, that is God’s.