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Issues Millennials Care About: A Portrait Of Generational Differences

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generationaldifferencesTruth is truth. Error is error. Sin is sin.

Jesus and His Word will never change (cf. Heb. 13:8). If we truly love our unchanging Lord, we must always be concerned with every issue that stands in opposition to His teaching (cf. Psa. 97:10; 119:104).

That being said, opinions differ as to what issues are most threatening to Christianity today. This difference in opinion is especially obvious between generations.

I believe there has been a shift between generations in [what are perceived to be] the biggest issues that need to be addressed within Christendom.

The following differences are only based upon my own observations. In other words, they are subjective. 

If you were to ask the average Christian born before 1980 and the average Christian born after 1980 (Millennials) to list what they believe are the most important topics, this is what I believe they would say:

Issues of Paramount Importance To Older Generations

Denominational Error. To many, denominationalism is Enemy #1. This issue is concerned about things like (a) Who is right and who is wrong? (b) Why is God displeased with denominationalism? (c) Why can’t faithful children of God be members of denominations?

Liberalism. The definition of theological liberalism is, “taking liberty with the teachings of Scripture.” It makes light of things like the inspiration of the Bible, the silence of the Scriptures, the holiness of God, and presumptuous sin. Sadly, this word has been thrown around disparagingly and [sometimes] recklessly throughout the years, disenchanting many.

Worldliness. The love of the world, rather than the spiritual, is a disease that has long plagued many Christians. It is seen in attitudes toward questionable movies, T.V., modesty, money, etc. Unfortunately, this issue seems to fading in perceived importance among all generations. 

Evangelism. How can we reach out to our neighbors? This topic spiked in perceived importance several decades ago, and brotherhood programs like Fishers Of Men, visual tools like the Jule Miller Filmstrips, and door-knocking campaigns became very popular. Sadly, emphasis on evangelism has subsided, and many of the resources on the topic have become dated.

Issues of Paramount Importance To Millennials

Apologetics. Millennials are increasingly asking more fundamental questions like (a) How do we know God exists? (b) Did Jesus really perform miracles? (c) Was Jesus completely sinless? (d) Is heaven/hell real? (e) Is Jesus the only way? (f) Is the Church really necessary? Here is a question for you, the reader, to consider: Why are Millennials asking more questions like these?

Traditionalism. Millennials are suspicious of anything traditional, and are very critical when customs are treated as law in the minds of some in the Church.

Discipleship. There is a difference between merely baptizing people and genuinely making people disciples of Jesus Christ. Millennials recognize this, and want to know how to wholeheartedly pursue God with a simple, pure, child-like enthusiasm.

Legalism. This term is very difficult to define and is most often used in name-calling sessions. Most Millennials don’t know what ‘legalism’ really means; they just know they’re against it! Perhaps, for the purpose of this article, we could say there are two kinds of legalism: (a) there is the good kind of legalism, and (b) there is the bad kind, wherein you attempt to follow the Law of Christ without ultimately loving God with all of your being (cf. Mark 12:30). 

Overemphasis on Externals. This is related to both the issues of ‘discipleship’ and ‘legalism.’ Millennials are quick to see the error of a ‘checklist’ mentality: just going through the motions of worship, service, and Bible study with little enthusiasm, prayer, or zeal.

Judging/Hypocrisy vs. Tolerance. Though this issue is a non-issue in the minds of most among previous generations, there is a deep level of confusion about this issue in the minds of Millennials. Many genuinely believe that (a) all “judging” is wrong, that (b) it is “hypocritical” to be against sin, since we all struggle with sin, and (c) we should tolerate all lifestyles and practices inside and outside the Church.

Conclusion

Again, I want to stress that the above lists are merely based upon my observations; they are only generalizations. A discussion about entire generations can only be, by nature, a generalization.

Now, don’t shoot the messenger. I believe all of the issues are important to address and talk about.

What is the point of this discussion? I want you to be able to answer the question, “Is my church imbalanced in the issues we stress?” Are you neglecting the needs of Millennials? Are you ignoring the needs of older generations?

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4 Responses to Issues Millennials Care About: A Portrait Of Generational Differences

  1. Ron July 2, 2013 at 6:52 PM #

    Very well outlined! You know after 64 years I have come to realize that every generation must struggle with “balance”. The words/definitions may change but what it comes down to is always “what I want, what I feel, what I need” vs “what God has already shown regarding His expectations of our wants, feelings, needs…” 2 Cor 5:9 comes to mind.

  2. Lyn Brown Farris July 2, 2013 at 11:53 PM #

    I really appreciate your wording of the section about judging. I was surprised, though, that social justice was not included for millennials.

  3. Al Earls July 5, 2013 at 5:30 PM #

    To me the question then becomes how do I have a conversation with a younger Christian? I mean an honest and open discussion. The church cannot be tolerant of all lifestyles. I don’t mind an honest discussion but it seems to me that millenials want the discussion skewed in their favor.

    • Ben July 5, 2013 at 5:54 PM #

      Well, a true Christian, even if he is a young person, who is growing will not have an issue with the ‘tolerance’ misconception. Where it becomes difficult is when you are talking to a non-Christian or an ‘unconverted Christian’ (for lack of a better description).

      How do you convince Millennials that the church cannot tolerate, to the point of acceptance, unholy lifestyles? I would suggest by backing up and talking about more fundamental issues: The inspiration & infallibility of the Bible, the nature of sin, the magnitude of God’s holiness, and the absolute need for pure and dedicated repentance. Unless a person has a keen awareness of those four things, he cannot be reasoned with concerning the ‘tolerance’ confusion.

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