Friday, August 2, 2013

Another Take on the Millennials and their Church Attendance (or lack thereof)

The church attendance of the Millennial Generation is a hot topic lately. After reading many posts with many perspectives, I decided, being born smack dab in the middle of the Millennials, to share my take. (My only expertise in this whole matter is my Evangelical church upbringing and my faith-transforming college education -something I believe I share with many Millennials.) 

I started reading here. And loved it. So, I sought more and found this. Yes, beauty. Then, here. No doubt, my generation is seeking.


Though I was born in 1989 -right in the middle of the Millennial birth boom-, I grew up just a few years too young to begin to engage in my generation's conversation about church. I missed out on the implications of the WWJD bracelets and Kissing Dating Goodbye (though I partook in both those trends). My childhood was chocked full of Pogs, Pokemon, Beanie Babies, and jelly sandals. Eating fast food was a treat after school "music" programs and I had more friends who's parents were divorced (or divorcing) than married. Nintendo still had plug in square remotes and N64 (as we all called it) seemed like a thing of the future when it ended up under our Christmas tree. 

I call myself a meta-Millennial, though my birth date falls right smack dab in the center of the decided age range. Mostly because, I'm just now realizing what it means to be a Millennial. At 24-years-old (if you can use old there), I am a college graduate, a full time employee, and a wife... But I'm just now questioning the institutions in which I was raised. Church, school, government, extracurriculars, oh how they taught me many a lesson. But, are those lessons pertinent, do they apply today, are they relevant to my generation? 

Jesus once said (in Mark 2:22): 
"And no one pours new wine into old wine skins, 
if he does the wine will burst the skins and 
both the wine and wine skins will be ruined."
(emphasis added)

What's Mark got to do with it? It looks like this: We, the Millennials, are new wine in old (church body) wine skins. Our worldview, and in turn, our faith is progressing -fermenting- while the brittle wine skin of the church in which we are embedded is bursting at the seems. As our hearts and minds expand with questions about Jesus' life (and its statements about our faith), the church is unaccommodating. It is through those cracks in the brittle church body that we are escaping. 

In bursting the wine skin, the wine goes bad. Much like that, the Millennials are turning away. We're tired of the inflexible structure in which we're trapped. So, we explode it and walk away spoiled and exhausted. Why return to a body unable to comprehend us, uninterested in hearing us and entertaining our thoughts, decidedly writing us off as a lost cause full of wild hearts? Unlike wild horses, we will not be tamed, we long to be heard, understood, and integrated. Because, growing up, we were taught we bring things to the table: things that incite change -beautiful, scary, and glorious change. 

I might be a meta-Millennial, but I, too, long for more room to exist within the Evangelical church. I believe in the spread of the Gospel, the love of Jesus Christ, my own salvation that hinges on Him. I don't believe in the black and white of the modern (though I hesitate to call it such) church. In a zone of black and white, sin and mercy, condemnation and salvation, I feel threatened. 

We aren't a believing body teetering on the edge of hell just waiting to be tipped into the fires below like we grew up hearing. We are His imperfect vehicle summoned to do His abounding love. To us, His love doesn't look like anti-gay protests; doesn't feel like fearing to ask questions about Him, us, sin, church; doesn't worry about the music, the sermon, the people, but His heart moving in and through us. 

The Millennials are a generation living in the grey area -and loving it. So, instead of trying to lead us back to the black and white church, let's take on some grey. Who knows? Maybe it'll afford everyone, Millennial or not, more breathing -or, more appropriately- fermenting room. 

3 comments:

  1. dude totally agree. great post

    ReplyDelete
  2. Who I am really doesn't matter. I have read your blog from beginning to end, cried through a lot of it, but not for the reasons you might think. You see I remember when your parents were looking for a church 15 years ago. I cried because reading your blog I was blessed to see real fruit come of their longing to find God. You, Amber, are wise beyond your years. You are the real deal.

    I write you now because your last post has me concerned. Don't throw it all in believing you can start a better church. Many generations before yours have tried, only to become more confused than the last. Truth doesn’t change. It’s simple, but not easy; that’s the problem.

    I saw a picture that you posted of your dad and his siblings with the Blessed Mother in the background. You have strong roots, Amber Minegar Thomas. “The Church of God will not bend her knees to the gods of this world though they offer her peace” (a line from a favorite Rich Mullins song). She stands Her ground, stands firm on the Rock. Stand firm, beautiful girl. The Church of the future will be small, but more faithful. Your heart loves all people and that must never change, but like the father allowed the prodigal son to leave, you must allow them to leave too. Your generation will have to choose just like mine. It hurts just like so many things we have no control over. Love them through your prayers by continuing to live your life out loud. Yes, they might laugh at you, hate you, and say all kinds of slander against you. Jesus said this would happen, and it’s going to get worse. Little Sister I have seen such strength in your posts. You’ve got this.

    Roots, track them down. Those who have gone before you have left you an untapped treasure to discover. You don’t need a new church.

    ReplyDelete

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