This afternoon, a colleague sent us an article that spoke of the challenge the Church faces in reaching millennials (which you can read here). Though I found myself agreeing with many of the sentiments of the author, I also found myself wondering if there are other perspectives concerning the issue. I offer my humble thoughts:
i. It seems to me that the millennial crowd runs a certain spectrum (mainly the Western-Anglo Saxon-developed world). Therefore the conclusions from the article might differ depending on where you minister geographically. I would think that if you find yourself in Asia/Africa etc, the approach may need to take the culture and traditions of the people into consideration.
ii. Many of the points the author raises seem to point to an either-or approach to ministry; I submit that it can be a both-and approach. For example, when the author laments churches having value & mission statements, I agree with the sentiment that if too much time and energy is spent formulating these without the actual work of the ministry, something is amiss. The Great Commandment. The Great Commission. That ought to be our anchor. Yet, my counterpoint would be for every local church, God’s calling and gifting for them can differ radically. And having a clear mission and value statement can guide each congregation to focus on God’s given assignment for them.
In Singapore for example, when you think of expository preaching, Adam Road Presbyterian Church comes quickly to mind. For community outreach, Agape Baptist Church. Discipleship and disciple-making is what Covenant Evangelical Free Church is known for. And yet, together, the body of Christ, individually being faithful to the vision and mission that the Lord gives them, fulfils His ministry in the city.
iii. Perhaps the greatest dichotomy I see in this either-or approach is Point 7 (between preaching and mentoring). Perhaps this is coloured by personal bias (because my personal spiritual gifting is in preaching/teaching the Word), but this is a dangerous line of thought. It is my conviction that the decline of Church health/numbers (at least in the Western/Northern hemisphere, cos Christianity is exploding in China/Africa/South America), is not due to too much preaching… it is due to too much BAD preaching.
The antidote is therefore not less preaching, but more GOOD preaching. Anecdotally as well, while there is decline in Christianity in America, there are also two areas of growth: one is what you anticipate and the other quite surprising. The two groups? Pentecostalism/Charismatic churches and Reformed Churches! And to me, both are essential – the move of the Spirit and the Word of God.
Just to be clear, this is not a diss on mentoring. Jesus Himself modelled it: He had 12 disciples. His main focus was not on the multitudes, but on the 12. It was they that turned the world upside down. What I am saying is that preaching and discipling go hand-in-hand.
iv. One last point which I feel could be added to the article, which is my own personal weakness? The Person of the Holy Spirit. For all that the Church needs to learn and grow in how to minister to the millennial generation, understanding them, listening to them, mentoring them etc… they are NOT the focus, He is.
That the millennials are leaving the Church has less to do with (imho) our lack of engagement with them (as a root cause), but our lack of engagement with the Holy Spirit. Rediscovering the power of God’s Word, allied with the power of the Holy Spirit… prayer and preaching, loving and caring, I think, is the way forward in reaching the millennials and beyond!