…the devil… He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
At Christian Unity Ministries we are beginning to ask ourselves some hard questions about the Millennial generation (currently ages 15-35 according to the President’s Council of Economic Advisors) and how it will receive the Biblical message of unity upon which our ministry is founded. I had the privilege of spending last weekend in Dallas, Texas “retreating” with a group of church leaders from that generation and a handful of us “Baby Boomer” leaders from our ministry. We had the most wonderful time discussing differences between our generations and how we interpret the Biblical principles of unity.
There was interesting discussion around all of the principles, but some of the quickest and easiest observations came in answer to one question: What lies has the enemy told your generation? Just to make it easier for them, I shared some lies the enemy has told my (Baby Boomer) generation. Here are some of the results…
1. Lies About Community and Church
The lie to Boomers: You need church, but you don’t need community.
My generation largely still respected the idea of church; so much so, in fact, that we invested quite a bit of our time totally reinventing it to mimic the “success” of the secular world around us (thus, the megachurch is born). Not only do we do church, but we do it really really big. But “church” for us has been a lot of big gatherings, like a concert or a sporting event, but not a lot of genuine community. In fact, we would view “needing” one another as a weakness, not a strength.
The lie to Millennials: You need community, but you don’t need church.
Millennials gave us social media. O.K., the truth is Generation X (currently 36-48) gave us social media, but Millennials have taken it to a whole new level. They feel the need for community. They group date, they “meet up”, they collect friends like our parents collected Green Stamps. Community, in at least a superficial form, is a natural bent for them. But deep, spiritual community such as New Testament church community? Not so much. To learn “unity” Boomers must be convinced that they were created for community. For Millennials to learn unity, they must embrace that Biblical community is considerably deeper and more profound than their most intimate Facebook posts or Instagram images.
2. Lies about Truth
The lie to Boomers: It is more important to be right than to be in right relationship.
Being right is what is most important to us. A lot of really hurtful stuff has been done by my generation under the banner of “just speaking the truth”. Because we do not value community or relationships (we set all our goals around becoming totally independent, so that we do not need anyone), we have no problem damaging or even destroying them in the name of being right. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have seen this play out in church conflicts.
The lie to Millennials: There is no “right”…no absolute truth. Not really.
These Millennial church leaders said it well last weekend. There is a prevailing “everyone does what is right in his/her own eyes.” Truth is relative and, in many cases, unknowable. Just be honest with yourself and “you do you”. But “do you” without hurting anyone, because community is valued. Only two absolute rules: (1) Be authentic; (2) Don’t hurt anyone. No other real absolutes. Biblical messaging to this generation of church will have to disavow them from this lie and will have to reteach them that there really is absolute truth in the ways of God.
3. The lies about Leadership
The lie to Boomers: A leader must have a clear vision. Without that, there is no leadership.
This goes nicely with the “secular success” models. We learned a lot of our leadership from the Corporate world and the athletic world. And to a much smaller extent than our parents, from the military world. Note that all of these leadership models rely heavily on clear leadership vision…competency. “Follow me because I have a compelling vision and I know exactly how to make it come about.” Think Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Pat Riley or Colin Powell. But the truth is, there are examples of “collaborative” leaders who derive vision from the people they are leading (lots of successful pastors fit this model).
The lie to Millennials: A leader must be authentic. Without that, there is no leadership.
According to my Millennial church leaders friends from last weekend, their generation follows authenticity foremost. There can be incompetency, there can be immorality, there can be confusion and chaos surrounding the leader, but if he or she is “authentic” he/she can lead this generation. If you think about that, it is a little bit encouraging, and a whole lot discouraging. Charisma also plays a big role for this generation, but morality or genuine commitment, not so much. Therefore, shepherding this generation will require truthfulness and authenticity FIRST, but those leaders who move beyond this to demonstrate genuine competency and faithfulness to God’s Word will begin to stand out.
In short, the church as we Boomers know it is about to change. And that is not a bad thing. And it is not all a good thing. But it is a certain thing. And we can learn these differences and find ways to help this emerging generation succeed.
We Boomers just have to set our goals and objectives accordingly and do what we do. 🙂