There is much talk today about the decline of Christianity and the lack of Millennials in our churches. It is true that there are fewer people who are self-identify as Christians, and many churches are not populated with Millennials. However, the reality may be more encouraging than these facts indicate.
Ed Stetzer said on a Carey Nieuwhof podcast that what we are actually seeing is the disappearance of “Nominal Christians” and the rise of committed young adults in the evangelical church. You may be surprised to know that there are more young adults attending church today according to a study from the University of Chicago, than any other time since their survey began in 1972. So what is happening today has to be viewed from a higher vantage point than our own local context. Yet, what we discover must then be implemented within our context, if we are going to reap the benefits of these trends.
The disappearance of the nominal Christian and the rise of Millennials in our churches may be tied together more tightly than we imagine. You see, in our culture, there was a day when people would identify as Christian if they weren’t Buddhist, Muslim or some other world religion. Today, however, people understand that Christians are more than “non-other religion.” In other words, to be a Christian means you believe the Bible, and you have morals/standards that differentiate you from non-Christians. Christians have a worldview that is distinctly different than a secular worldview, and because of that, fewer people are willing to self-identify as a Christian.
Millennials are looking for purpose and meaning. They require authentic leaders and transformational messaging. There is no desire to maintain traditions for the sake of tradition, but rather, they challenge everything on the basis of true impact.
Don’t be surprised by the fact that this isn’t based on whether your worship has choruses or hymns. No, it is based on whether you have authentic leaders and are making a difference in people’s lives. Millennials want to be involved in transforming lives and advancing the Kingdom of God. Thus, those who attend are committed to a high standard of engagement in the ministries of their church. They rarely are content to sit and listen because, in their minds, there is work to be done!
Churches that preach and teach the Bible and have ministries that see brokenness as opportunity for the Gospel are seeing a rise in the commitment of their members, both young and old. Their members are working in areas of ministry like addiction recovery, adoption/foster care, English as a Second Language, Prison/Jail, etc. because they see lives being transformed by the power of the Gospel.
They are not attending discipleship classes, but they are connecting with other believers for the purpose of being discipled. These churches have a higher expectation of their members than attendance. These churches expect their members to be ministers of the Gospel.
It is imperative that we take a good look at our local context for ministry and ask ourselves some tough questions. Do we value broken people enough to seek them out in love rather than calling them out through shaming? Do we view discipleship as a study or as mentorship/coaching? Do we have ministries that transform lives or ministries that simply meet the perceived needs of our members?
On Jan. 28-29, at the State Evangelism Conference, you will be challenged to move your church’s ministry from an inward focus to an outward focus. You will have the opportunity to learn how God is using transformational ministries to not only transform lives but also churches. And you will be encouraged by the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
My prayer is that we will say farewell to the nominal Christian and hello to the influx of young and older believers who are ready to get involved in transformational ministry.