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More Than Rebellion

Pew Report is a wake-up call from God

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In America we love statistics. When they’re working in our favor, they’re especially helpful. Then we have the recent Pew Research Center report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The study shows that people who identify as “unaffiliated” is up nearly 7 percent and that the Christian share fell approximately 8 percent, mostly due to losses in membership from Mainline and Catholic churches. Today in America there are more people who either are not sure what they believe or are convinced that God does not exist—or maybe more who are simply willing to tell the truth about how they are feeling.

But rather than panicking or just reframing the results as “nominal Christians” being called out, we can learn something important from this research. What is happening with the Millennial generation is not just typical generational shift. This is more than rebellion against parents that will eventually correct itself. This is evidence of a “post-everything” landscape taking root in our country. When the percentages are consistently growing in favor of something opposed to Christ, something real is happening.

But, as a Millennial myself, I am not afraid, and God certainly is not wringing His hands, hoping that we can come up with a new strategy. Rather, and more simply, God is calling us into our neighborhoods. When the playing field shifts this significantly, it is tempting to respond with protectionism or nostalgia for what America used to be. Instead, Jesus’ call for us as a church is to give up trying to be “cool” or “relevant” and be present with the Spirit in this moment. 

The people who are now bold enough to call themselves unaffiliated are not just targets to be reached but folks with a back story. There is a reason they are unwilling to associate themselves with Jesus. It could be, as some have suggested, that they were never “real” Christians. It could be that the church has burned them. Or it could be that they have never met anyone who actually embodies the life, joy, and power of the gospel of Jesus.

Aren’t you tired of churches thinking they can just keep doing what they’ve been doing and people will eventually “come back” or “visit”? The 1980s church-growth model and the 1990s seeker-sensitive ships have sailed. Most of us know this, and some are trying new things, but frankly this isn’t about just doing a new missional church-plant model. We have to create space for honest dialogue and true relationship, desiring that people will indeed meet the real, living Christ.

While evangelical numbers are relatively stable, Millennials are much quicker to identify as atheists or agnostics. In response, let us be willing to carve out time to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. Let us create space to listen to our friends and neighbors, especially the ones who have something strong to say. And let us love people with the love of Christ, extending His presence to everyone we meet. Are we willing to respond to our own country with the same missionary compassion we feel for the world? What our country needs now is not for us to regain power but to be true missionaries in our own backyard. It’s pretty simple, but it’s the first step in responding to members of this generation who desperately need Jesus.

6 responses to More Than Rebellion

  1. With the way Christians are even started to be persecuted in the U.S. We will start seeing churches being forced to accept homosexuality, and same sex marriages, we as Christians won’t have any other choice except to start meeting in homes,like the early church had too.

  2. Tim – well written – it’s time we go to the bible 1COR 14:26 is the only prescriptive model I see for how to do church. While Jesus and the apostles ministered to large crowds they also went house to house, and ministered to smaller groups. hhhhmmmm I don’t see programs or any Junior Holy Spirit, nor do I see them getting worried about up close, personal even a little messy; but we in America like to keep our worlds private. Time to rethink real…house church, organic church it’s harder but it’s real.

  3. Tim,
    I completely agree with your conclusion to respond to our own country with the same missionary compassion we feel for the world. I literally spent the whole day today reading about the explosion of micro church planting movements around the world and wondering why we aren’t doing this in the US! The key difference with these churches is lay leadership and house meetings. Totally organic. Totally discovery-based. Totally millenial-ready. Here’s our response.

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