U.S. sitcoms, Seinfeld and Friends, began to popularise the communal determination of morals in the 90s. Few could have imagined how the next generation of Christians would then relativise their own beliefs. The Barna research group now report some staggering findings that make one wonder what it is that shapes faith or even the reading of the Bible today.
It suggests that 47% of self-professing Christian millennials are averse to sharing their faith with others. This almost doubles the figure recorded for Gen X adults. This is all despite millennials being almost equally competent at doing so and allegedly more gifted. The survey revealed an almost universal belief that faith-sharing is understood to be an essential aspect of being a Christian.
What does this tell us?
1. Millennials often live with contradictions.
Self-styled, customised and relationally-verified belief systems are less objective than ever before. Whilst critical thinking is to be applauded (and was often lacking in previous generations) this often accompanies a preferential hermeneutic today which is alarmingly situational.
Perhaps Barna’s millennials (surveyed among 2000 U.S. participants), if aware of the danger of an oncoming car, would not act decisively to prevent a friend from stepping headlong into its path, even if able-bodied and alert to the obvious plight!
It has been said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but maybe some think it is also to be padded in an attempt to make it more comfortable.
Naturally, many simply do not see any incongruity between helping those in temporal distress while neglecting those in eternal peril. This suggests indifference to a clear biblical disciple-making mandate that is hopefully an unconscionable response for Australian counterparts in the same age group.
2. Millennials are less theologically dogmatic than older age groups.
One explanation for Barna’s finding could be that American millennials are twice as likely as boomers, for instance, to believe that their faith-sharing will cause offence.
While Christianity is much-maligned because of clergy abuse of minors, perceptions of irrelevance or of negative attitudes toward society’s minorities, and also the rise of militant atheism, it is also grossly misunderstood. This is often due to the unwillingness of Christians to proactively present faith as if to somehow believe their right to do so is dependent upon an overt request for information.
Perhaps the self-professed evangelistic competence of millennials could do well to fill a clear societal void, thereby utilising their relational sensitivities in response to any aversion to faith, gently and humbly correcting and enlightening as needed to the eternal advantage of their audience.
Such an approach can be winsome and wise, altogether less strident than the alienating advances of previous generations, but without then tending towards extremes of apathy and indifference.
3. Millennials are poised for optimum impact
How much more important than ever that competent Christians become confident ones?!
Equipped young adults can clearly role-model Christianity’s potential for an improved quality of life and talk up its many benefits. They can relationally and lovingly address questions and faith concerns as the Bible itself requires.
What is needed, though, appears to be an injection of urgency.
Where courage is lacking, then the antidote is to wait on God that we might soar with Him as an eagle, in the spirit of Isaiah 40:31. Therefore, adjusting the wings of the new creation identity of any Christian who embraces their adoptive nature, allows an adaption to seemingly adverse winds so as to soar to new heights.
On the other hand, riding the friendly winds of the Holy Spirit’s influence also enables a response in accordance with His leading and our empowerment. The Spirit’s infilling of the early Church actually inspired an abandonment of self-will (and self-determined ideals) to advance the cause of Christ in the face of relentless persecution, a fact that merely served to spread the faith more widely and at greater pace.
Is the time not right, and the hour not urgent enough, for this advantage to be realised today?!