It seems like everything is directed towards Millennials these days. We are (apparently) the worst generation ever born, so we draw quite a bit of blame for ruining everything. At times, I kind of get it. There are some things about our generation that frustrate me to the core of my being – and yet many times we get blamed for ruining things that were handed to us in shambles. Regardless of which side of the Millennial line you fall on, the fact is that over the next decade, it will be predominantly Millennials leading the church. Whether we like it or not, time marches on and there is always a changing of the guard. So how do we embrace this reality? How do we prepare?
This list is directed predominantly to two types of people. Predominantly, I’m speaking to the Millennials who know they’re called by God. Second, I’m speaking to those who will hand over the reins – and the areas you can pray and sow into for this generation.
My heart is not to be fear-based or negative – though the whole context of this blog is negative, in a sense. My goal is to bring an admonishment, and some encouragement to embrace our hour and to know where the landmines are so that we can lead well. I want to give you an opportunity to prepare for what I believe are some of the biggest pitfalls facing Millennials leading the church going forward.
These are not listed in order of importance.
One thing that has been weird about growing up in the Social Media Age and taking on leadership roles in the church is how “In your face” it is that there are other churches that are bigger, more financially prosperous, doing a better homeless ministry, reaching more people, and so on. Comparison is almost impossible to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, there has always been a church “X” peeking over to see what church “Y” is doing. It’s weird, but it is a thing nonetheless.
Still, there has never been as many opportunities to compare as there are now, with every church imaginable using social media to get the word out about their cause. The best foot always goes forward. The highlight reel. The temptation as a leader in the church is to focus on keeping-up-with-the-Jones’s in order to stay relevant. The result becomes a whole bunch of churches looking like an amalgamation of the trendiest styles, structures, and preferences. The measuring stick of effectiveness becomes the fickle acceptance of foot traffic rather than the ministry of Jesus.
I’ll give you an example my Senior Pastor speaks of often. There’s nothing wrong with satellite churches if they serve the Kingdom, but they become really weird when they become an indicator of success or a badge of honor. When it becomes Pastor X has 6 satellites so we need to start doing satellites, it becomes gross. What if you’re not called to that? What if you’re not gifted and tooled to do that? Yes, Craig Groschel has 33. The freeing truth is…you’re not Craig Groschel. Craig is. This is the calling God has given him. Now that we set that aside. What has God called you to do?
Let me put it to you straight – you’re most anointed when you’re YOU. By comparing and trying to be more like church x, you lose your why (it came together too easily, I embrace the cheese). You try to emulate their style instead of imitating their faith. God called you to what He called you to. Embrace what he has for you. By trying to be someone else, you pull the rug out from the unique expression that God wants to bring through you. Know who you are, YOUR purpose, and you won’t want to be anybody else.
Theologically Weak Worship Leaders
Oof that one was even hard to write.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the unique set of struggles you worship leaders face on a weekly basis. I was not blessed with the talent and giftings that come easily to you. Please understand, this is not a knock on you. In fact, I believe you are increasing in importance. That importance comes with great responsibility. In our increasingly music-centric culture, sermons can be forgotten in moments where songs can stick to people for years.
Some of your gifts are so strong that they can move a crowd effortlessly. God has gifted you in extraordinary ways. But gifting alone will not sustain you in the long run. If you’re going to be effective long-term, the Word must be of utmost importance. It is not enough to just know the overall concepts of the bible well enough to write songs about them.
Today, about one-third of all American adults report reading the Bible once a week or more. The percentage is highest among Elders (49%) and lowest among Millennials (24%). – Barna Group
Is this alarming to anyone else? The pitfall I see here is that worship leaders could become more and more influential (as sermons become more bite-sized) and less and less Biblically sound. Without grounding in the Word, they become highly susceptible to deception even though their gift doesn’t change. The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. Their gift, then, becomes a vehicle to sway less grounded believers into whatever destructive pet-theology is rampant at the time. This is happening more and more in Christianity, I don’t even need to mention names.
All I’m saying is, worship leaders are only growing in importance. That is not a bad thing. Just make sure that your influence is Word-centric or you could be unintentionally destructive. We need your gift, and we need it bathed in the Word.
Swallowing the Political Pill
Uh oh. Here we go.
Our generation has an increasing interest in politics, and I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with that. We are a generation that believes we were born to make a difference. Let me also say that there are also people that are genuinely called by God to impact the political realm, and they have a gifting, call, or grace (whatever you want to call it) to tackle this sphere with a Christ-likeness that is admirable. This is not really an admonishment to them. We need people like this, and I thank God for them.
For the rest of us, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care. That doesn’t mean you should avoid all involvement. One of the things I have noticed, though, is our generation’s difficulty discerning the difference between being a Kingdom-minded person who cares about societal and political issues and a Christian who is under the influence of a political spirit. Jesus warned his disciples, aka the ones who were following him, to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” That is the religious spirit and political spirit. They work like leaven, just a little bit at first until slowly working its way through everything.
I can’t tell you how many people my age that I know used to have a genuine passion for God that is nowhere to be found now because they began swallowing whole the political pill. Their passion is now partisan and their love for the simplicity of the gospel is non-existent.
Many of these young believers right now, in a reaction to the religious spirit, are switching to a political spirit to combat the spirit they just left. They are two sides of the same coin. It’s like leaving heroin to go to meth and telling yourself you’re healthier. The Political Spirit doesn’t care which side of the debate you are on: left or right, blue or red, or even wrong or right, as long as politics have taken some of your affection away from the Kingdom. That’s just the way it works. As long as the leaven can work its way in, it’s only a matter of time before it is so worked into your thought life that politics become equal to the Kingdom. That’s a dangerous place to be.
We cannot let the political issue of the day set the agenda. Those issues matter, they are important, but we are also citizens of a higher government. Our allegiance is there first, and we vote, speak, act from the values held dear there to the best of our ability here. Let the core messages of the gospel be our agenda, and let that flow into how we tackle politics rather than having a political agenda that we try to back up with some bible.
We could probably spend 100 blogs on this topic and its nuances, but I’ll leave it here for now.
This mindset/ideology has already wreaked havoc on much of popular Christendom, and we are mostly unaware. The Emergent movement of the mid 2000’s did its damage, switching the priority from learning how to apply Christianity in a postmodern world to applying postmodernism to Christianity. This has undermined the reality of absolute truth, overemphasized skepticism, and made the message increasingly self-focused. All of these factors are in direct opposition to the gospel.
With no absolute truth, there is no foundation for faith. While some natural truths are subject to change, part of being a believer is settling in your heart that there are core things in Christianity that are true regardless of how man interprets them. There are some non-negotiables for us that are absolute. There are truths, and then there is The Truth. In this postmodern age that is all about “my truth” and “your truth”, deception has a field day.
I am not looking to interpret the bible to back up “my truth”, I am looking to build my life on The Truth until it becomes my truth.
Me-mode works against the gospel. The more postmodernism works its way in, the more me-centric our songs and messages become. The state of our country right now, in my humble opinion, has more to do with postmodern thought than we realize. The world preaches the gospel of self. Our gospel can’t look like theirs. We must actively recognize this pervasive mindset and redirect the message to the real gospel.
I will actively admit to you that empathy is not my strong suit. I pray about it regularly. I want you to understand that this is not a call to be a jerk and stop caring about people. I know that people have been through some real stuff.
With that in mind, I have to say, I don’t understand why being a victim has become so sexy in our culture. Everyone and their mom is a victim of something. I’m not saying that being vulnerable about something that happened to you is a weakness. What I am saying is that our culture has an obsession with accepting “victim” as a permanent identity.
You are more than a conqueror. You are royalty. You have God in you. You have a purpose and a plan laid out for you. You are loved.
We as leaders have to be aware that there is a difference between coddling and compassion. Coddling is meeting people where they’re at and reinforcing the very thoughts that keep them trapped. Compassion is recognizing the real pains and situations people are in, and caring and loving someone enough to pull them out. To love someone enough to help them realize that their identity is so much greater than what has happened to them. A victim mentality is in-congruent with where God is taking his people.
I don’t have all the answers. This is also not an all-inclusive list. There are many other pitfalls I’m sure Millennials leading the church could fall into. I don’t want to be overly negative. This is more of a reminder than anything. I believe God has a plan for this Generation, and that we will usher in a great revival and harvest if we handle our moment well.
I am a Pastor, Author, and Teacher based out of Kansas City, MO. I am passionate about the message of the Kingdom, Grace, Healing and the renewing of the mind. I have been following God since age 18 when I was radically transformed and inserted into revival. I have learned some hard lessons and seen some wonderful fruit in the Kingdom, and my goal is to impart wisdom and grace to you to walk in fullness. I have a walking miracle for a wife and three amazing boys.