Once again I’ve read an article about why Millennials (people who reached young adulthood around the year 2000) are leaving the church. The author is Addie Zierman, born in 1983. The title of her blog post is “5 Churchy Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials.”*
I have no ax to grind against Ms. Zierman. I’m sure she is a fine person. But I find the views she claims she and her fellow Millennials hold to be embarrassingly shallow, petty, and self-centered. Read Hebrews 11:35-38 and see how our spiritual forefathers were stoned and sawed in half and killed with the sword because of their faith. Or read up on what Christians are going through in the Middle East (and other places) today. Then read Ms. Zierman’s post and see how Millennials are being “scared off” by…that’s right…”churchy” words.
Would you like to hear some of the churchy words that Ms. Zierman’s fellow Millennials say are scaring them away from the church? One is “The Bible clearly says…”
No, I’m not making this up.
Even though the Bible does clearly say lots of things that are critical to our understanding of the life of faith, Ms. Zierman maintains that we preachers should quit using that phrase if we want to connect with Millennials. Instead, she would like for us to say, “This is where study and prayer have led me, but I could be wrong.”
Imagine how ridiculous I would sound preaching this way:
“Study and prayer have led me to conclude that you should love your enemies, but I could be wrong.”
“Study and prayer have led me to conclude that you shouldn’t cheat on your spouse, but I could be wrong.”
“Study and prayer have led me to conclude that you should be honest and truthful, but I could be wrong.”
The prophets and apostles didn’t preach this way. In fact, the prayer of the early church was, “Give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.” (Acts 4:29) I dare say the kind of preaching Ms. Zierman is lobbying for would never have turned the world upside down. (Acts 17:6)
Some other words that scare off Millennials are “believer”, “unbeliever” and “backsliding.” Why? Because, Ms. Zierman says, “Millennials are sick of rhetoric that centers around who’s in and who’s out.”
If that’s the case, then I guess Millennials must be sick of the Bible because, like it or not, the Bible is crammed full of “rhetoric that centers around who’s in and who’s out.” Consider God’s commands to the Old Testament Jews not to intermarry with Pagans. Or God’s promise to wipe out the Canaanites. Or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Or Jesus’s comments about the wheat and the tares…the sheep and the goats…the ones taken and the ones left behind. Or Jesus’s conversations with the Pharisees, who thought they were in but were really out. Or the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. Or John’s vision of people being thrown into the Lake of Fire in Revelation 20:15. And all of that is just scratching the surface.
Oh, and by the way, the Bible refers to “believers” and “unbelievers” 118 times. That’s a lot of passages we’re going to have to avoid if we want to keep from scaring Millennials.
I have what I think is a better idea. Millennials could just toughen up a little bit and not be so petty.
When I hear about Millennials leaving the church because of “churchy” words, I think about Moses, who had very good reasons to give up on the children of Israel, but never did. I think about Paul, who had very good reasons to give up on troubled churches in Corinth and Ephesus, but never did. And, yes, I think about Jesus, who had very good reasons to give up on you and me, but never did. They had the kind of backbone and sticktoitiveness that is missing in so many my-feelings-are-all-that-matter Christians.
The life of faith in a fallen world has many challenges. I would think the least of these would be putting up with “churchy phrases.” If we are so wishy-washy, so petty, so self-centered that this is all it takes to “scare” us out of the church, then we have lost our understanding of what it means to fight the good fight. It has never, ever been about us and our feelings or opinions.
Come on, Millennials. You’re better than this.