If God could save Saul of Tarsus (educated, entitled, knew it all, wouldn’t take a telling, tolerant of all things that agreed with his worldview) we can be pretty sure that he can handle millennials. The beautiful thing about being Calvinistic is that we can have complete confidence that God will save some of them whether they desire salvation or not and regardless of their convoluted, post-truth wordplay, the Truth of the Word will settle like dew on their souls as the light finally dawns.
One of the most gracious truths about the gospel is that it never skips a generation, there are always some who are saved because God is determined to to be glorified and nothing can stop that from happening.
Whilst the rapidly changing culture presents its own challenges, and it may appear that millennials are a particularly hard generation to reach (perhaps even impossible?) we need to have more confidence in the power of the gospel and the God who wrote it. All generations are hard because all generations are dead set in sin and rebellion against God, but no generation is unreachable. Not until the Almighty relinquishes some of his almightiness and the sacrifice of Christ becomes insufficient.
Millennials are just lost people like every generation that came before them, all the way back to the Fall. And just like any lost people, it’s our responsibility to get the gospel into their hands.
As someone of this generation who is eager to see their peers (and anyone else really) snatched like brands from the burning, let’s talk.
The Old Days
It’s easy to lament the old days. Most of history is made up of the old days. The reason it is easy is because a significant amount of the ungodliness happened behind closed doors, glossed over by a thicker and thicker veneer of respectable church attendance the further back you go, and contained by the lack of social media.
It would be fair to say that the number of people who graced the pews on Sundays was far higher 50-70 years ago but 50-70 years ago Bultmann was on the scene cutting chunks out of Scripture, Moltmann was busy undermining the atonement, and both of them were pumping their philosophy through the seminaries into congregations. They, and others like them.
You can go back to the glory days of Spurgeon if you like but he lived in an era of Rationalism rising and science and religion were beginning to be pitted against each other. Even the Puritans, those great holy men, have you any idea how many of them were brutally murdered because the world and the church hated what they preached (hint–it was the same thing we mustn’t preach today: truth)?
A concession must be made, previous generations have been far more biblically literate, which was helpful in providing a foundation for sharing the gospel. Most of my own generation are more likely to associate Revelation 3.20 with Breaking Bad than the Bible.
For those who grew up in a time where it was still the done thing to pack the kids off to Sunday School each week or for the local Minister to take the school assemblies, I understand that it is hard to comprehend the fact that when it comes to the Bible, our heads are all but empty. If you speak to someone under twenty five, the chances are that God is the mean imaginary guy that Dawkins spends his life slagging and the gospel is black people music from way back before anyone had phones never mind hashtags.
The old days had higher Sunday attendance and better biblical literacy but the world has changed and continues to change and we’re going to have to learn that we need to start further back with millennials, perhaps even as far back as before the beginning.
The old days were no less ungodly than the present day, it was just a different kind of biblical ignorance. Take time to explain the things that you assume they should already know because it’s not necessarily their fault that there is this gap in their education that leads them to believe that Noah and The Whale is a thing.
Part of the difficulty in reaching millennials has been that previous generations assume we know too much when it comes to the word of God but that translates into assuming that we know far less than we do about other things too. Biblical illiteracy does not necessitate stupidity or ignorance, willful or otherwise. Be patient and be surprised.
And remember that the old days had their own unique problems too.
The Old Ways
As I grow older, a respect has gradually grown for people who don’t bother going to church on Sundays. I suppose that it is their honesty that I appreciate because it creates a clearer divide between those who are genuinely saved and those who just like the tea and biscuits. But at the same time, I wonder if the culture of pew-warming has its benefits–after all, at least it brought some under the sound of the gospel.
All that aside, some of the things going on in the West at the moment are pretty shocking. Abortion is a disease, euthanasia is heroic, marriage is no longer sacred, alcohol is readily available and porn is just one of those things that everyone does (according to the teen magazines). But I put it to you that despite the perversity of today, don’t write my generation off because yours was no less sinful. We all have our vices.
One hundred percent of people born today are born in sin. You’ll find that if you jump back a few years, the same was true of the Baby-Boomers, the Victorians, the Covenanters, the Reformers, the Early Church, the Greeks and Romans, and for Ancient Israel all the way back in the Old Testament. Everyone who was ever born (apart from one, and him the Christ) was born in sin.
Sin wears different facades but it’s the same thing underneath. Since the Second World War alone society’s idols have been Rationalism, prosperity, peace, power of various kinds, sexuality, postmodernism, career, science, autonomy, and now identity and this thing called tolerance in its different forms. When you cut God out, you have to replace him with something and that something may change over time but it’s always rebellion against God no matter how you dress it up.
This does not excuse it. But remembering that every generation is as godless as the one before it should fill us with compassion and fuel our desire to see God redeem a people for himself from among them.
They do not know, they have not heard that the Lord is the everlasting God.
It is self-righteousness to say that the old days and the old ways were any better than today. They were not (Acts 2.40), they were just different.
A New Breed
Don’t write us off unless God does so first. And he hasn’t, I’ll testify to that.
In all honesty, my own generation baffles and, at times, intimidates me. But God is saving some from among us. I’ve been watching a core of devoted young men and women growing up over the last few years, loyal to Christ and striving for godliness regardless of our peers. Call us the seven thousand if you like but I don’t believe that we are so small as to be called a remnant. We are more of a movement, we have gospel fire in our bones.
But what is fire without wisdom? We could never have fought the battles that you had to fight but we need your help to fight the ones we’ve been given. That’s why we need the generations that came before to come alongside us so that we can most effectively reach those who are still lost today, whatever their age.
We have the old blood in us, that thirst for the pursuit of God, that insatiable craving for Christlikeness, but we have something else too. Like every generation, we have been uniquely gifted to serve and glorify God in the context he has put us in.
So yes, millennials are a daunting prospect. They know less than ever before about God and his word. They don’t even really understand what truth is, never mind that it is a fixed concept.
But God is saving us. One by one he’s rejoicing to bring us in, and with the wisdom of our fathers in the faith and the passion that burns in the hearts of Gospel-Millennials, God is gearing up to make a name for himself in our generation whether our generation wants him or not.
All I ask is that we work together. That we stop seeing this age bracket as ‘millennials’, stop calling them that, and brand them as what they are: Lost sinners in need of a saviour.
And then we can begin.