Millennials and the Church

Millennials and the Church

Over the past year I have seen many articles on Millennials leaving the church and why. All these articles pretty much say the same thing, that evangelical churches now-a-days are too exclusive, too un-accepting of the LBGTQ community, don’t give enough to the poor,are too political, etc etc. So I just thought I’d address some issues in their arguments, from a Millennial evangelical’s perspective:

1. Churches don’t focus enough on the poor

Christ didn’t die for a building. He died for people. And when he created his ‘church’, he didn’t build some elaborate building with a massive cross and stained glass windows. He charged his people with a creed to love others, spread the Gospel, and follow Him. He also commands us to give to the poor (Luke 12:33). If you want your church to focus more on the poor, than start volunteering with the poor. Give to the poor. Bring some friends along. Make it fun. Just do something. We millennials are the most connected generation there has ever been, we have so many resources at our finger tips. The Church is what you make it. If there isn’t a ministry that focuses on your interest, use your resources and creativity and make it.

2. Too political.

Yes, the crazy people you see on TV are crazy (and they exist on both sides of the political spectrum) but those are the minority. Regardless of what party you side on, if a church can’t or won’t take a stand on a political issue, I would be concerned about the leadership of the church. Yes, there are some issues which the church doesn’t necessarily need to make a statement on (i.e. Trayvon Martin, Obama’s birth certificate, etc.). However, the Bible clearly states some seriously political stuff and to say that Jesus and His disciples didn’t shake up the political sphere back in their day would be ignorant. In Mark 12:17, Christ tells the people to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. And in Romans 13, He commands us to respect governing authorities and to even pray for them. I totally understand not wanting to be a member of the Westboro Baptist Church and their hateful antics, but to think that the church should just sit and be quiet is taking things a little far. We Millennials love to be activists. To stand for something, which makes this complaint confusing to me. Why separate your spiritual life from your political life? Those two go hand in hand for a majority of the issues.

3.The LBGTQ (and questioning youth)

The Church has definitely dropped the ball on this issue but not in the way many people think. They have dropped the ball by sending a hateful message of eternal hell and damnation instead AND, on the other side of the spectrum, sending a message of acceptance and ‘love’. They have dropped the ball by being split. There is a big difference between tolerance and acceptance. To be ‘tolerant’ means to show willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Tolerance is loving those who you don’t agree with or who don’t agree with you. Tolerance does not mean changing your doctrine to make others happy. God loves everyone. He created everyone. However, he did make some rules to help us live holy lives (as holy as we humans, who are prone to wander and sin, can ever be). And, as convenient as it would be to just pick and choose what we want to believe, Jesus doesn’t give us that option. The Bible is very clear on this matter. People may say it’s cultural irrelevant, however the LBGTQ community existed back then too and is arguably just as prevalent today as it was in Jesus’ Rome. And I get wanting to be supportive of this community. I have many loving and dear friends who are proud members of the LBGTQ community and I want them to live happy and fulfilling lives. I, however, cannot argue with Christ’s word. The Church needs to preach a message of tolerance while standing firm on Christian doctrine. A message of honest love. No sin is different than any other and no person any better than another. And in the end, sanctification is between you and God, no one else.

Call Me Eustace

Call Me Eustace

“The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been in Re:Generation, Watermark’s recovery ministry, since September. Re:Gen is a ministry for anyone with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. When I introduce myself at group, I say the following: “Hi, my name is Ali and I have a new life in Christ and I am recovering from control which manifests as stress, anxiety, and people pleasing”.  I never really realized how bad my anxiety was until I started the inventory process, where we basically make an excel spreadsheet of our lives, things that have left scars, poor choices, and sinful patterns and behaviors. And ironically, my inventory has sent me into a massive anxiety attack. The worse I have ever known. It is scary to see your patterns of destruction. Through this attack (that I’m currently still in), I have realized (1) I have a serious issue trusting God with my life and (2) I try to fix myself, taking the safe, easy, and familiar road that has always led to pain and suffering (I have an excel spreadsheet to prove it!).  This realization has truly been a breakthrough. I now know that I cannot trust my sinful self and, as we say in Re:Gen, my life has become unmanageable. I need to let go and depend solely on Christ. I’ve admitted I’m powerless over my compulsive behaviors. (“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” – Romans 7:18 ). I have chosen to allow God to move in my life and to trust him, taking the path I’ve never traveled. And I had no idea how truly exhausting and scary that would be. Today, I feel like Eustace. God is cleansing me of my sinful behaviors and patterns and it hurts more than I could have imagined. It’s painful! He is tearing off my dragon scales and I feel so vulnerable and hopeless. BUT God is faithful. I find myself reminded daily by the tiniest moments of peace and smallest reminders of hope to trust in Him.

Hebrews 12:3-17

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no“root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

So today, I feel horrible. Tapes keep playing in my head that I’m not strong enough, I’m broken beyond repair, and redemption is impossible. And the temptation to quit and go back to my old ways are tempting. But these are lies. God never said that change would be easy or fun, but he did promise that we WILL be redeemed. Christ died in spite of ourselves and nothing I do in the past, present, or future can separate me from the love of Christ. I just have to let him cleanse me.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

I started my today nervous about my first business trip ever. It was the first time I would be driving myself to the airport and flying alone. I always compensate for my anxiousness by planning ahead. Giving my world structure gives myself the illusion of being in control. So I got to the airport two hours early and was ready to go. I had even contacted the co-worker I was supposed to meet in Miami to coordinate our shared cab ride to our hotel. He said not to worry, that he would hail a cab when we got there. Perfect. One less thing to worry about. As I’m sitting at my terminal I realize my gate is not for my flight. I check the departure board and notice that not only has my gate changeQhd but my plane is at a completely different terminal! So I hop onto the sky rail and go to the opposite side of the airport. Finally. My gate. The RIGHT gate. After a while, a woman comes over the intercom explaining that there has been a slight delay. The plane I was supposed to be boarding had been struck by lightning prior to landing at DFW and needed to be checked out. They were currently searching for a replacement plane. She assured us that we would be leaving in 30 minutes…. An hour and a half later, I finally board the plane. I had to call my co-worker and tell him to go on ahead of me to the hotel. Now I would be hailing a cab by myself… something I’ve never done before. I take my seat among the other passengers. As I begin to read my book, the pilot tells us to hang tight while they check on a maintenance issue. At this point I’m just laughing. I figure everything has gone off my plan so obviously I’m here for a reason. In my uncommonly good mood for a passenger on a delayed plane, I made a witty remark that caught the ear of the guy sitting next to me. For the life of me I can’t remember what I said or how we started our conversation but we talked the entire 3 hour plane ride. He was 24 and active in the air force. He worked with private intel and couldn’t tell me much due to the secrecy of his position. However, what he did tell me was fascinating. As I began to learn more and more about this man and his life, I began to realize how caring, dutiful, and lonely he was. He wasn’t allowed to talk about his job, moved frequently, and was an introvert, causing him to have few friends. But he loved his job. He loved helping people and was thankful for his blessings. When I asked him how he got the job he has and he told me he chose his top three options and the air force and his test scores chose for him. They were the following:
#1: bomb defuser (ala Hurt Locker).
#2: fireman (equally as dangerous in combat).
#3: choose for me.
His test scores were so high the government put him in special ops/intel. He couldn’t tell me much but I do know he saves and protects the lives of soldiers everyday. The survival of wounded men rests on this young man’s shoulders. I told him that it was obvious that he was put where he was for a reason. Seeing that he was carrying a heavy burden on his shoulders, I asked if he had anyone to talk to, any friends.
“Not really…”
I then asked if he was a religious man.
“No, are you?”
I said yes and we talked a bit about religion, just surface level stuff like how he put “Jedi” on his dog tags as his religion because he didn’t have one, etc etc. As the conversation diverted, I felt convicted to keep talking about God with this young man. I went to the bathroom and said a quick prayer asking God to bring up a point in our conversation where it would be a natural transition to religion. He did. I spent 30 minutes explaining what a personal relationship with God looks like. I explained how Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, died for us, eliminated the need for rules and rituals, and provided us with the gift of eternal life. Turns out, this young man had not only never heard the gospel, he didn’t even know Jesus was a real person. He had never read the Bible. After my explanation of Jesus, I encouraged him to evaluate who he believed Jesus to be: a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. As our conversation diverted once again, I began to feel self conscious. Did my babbling explanation of the Gospel sound convincing? Did I sound silly or offensive? Did this guy understand anything I said? As all these worries swarmed through my head, I suddenly felt a sense of peace. I was reminded of a message I once heard that spoke directly to this situation. It is not our job to convert others. Eloquent speeches, scientific/analytical explanations, and fuzzy feelings don’t cause people to believe. It is between them and God. God doesn’t call us to convert people. He calls us to share the Gospel. I was obedient and that’s all that mattered. Before the plane landed, I asked his permission to pray for him. He looked skeptical but told me that prayer never hurt and that I could. As we walked off the plane, I lost him in the crowd and didn’t get the chance to say goodbye and wish him luck. I then remembered I had the daunting task of finding a cab. As I walked out of the airport, a taxi was waiting for me, having been hailed by my heavenly Father.
Everything happens for a reason. If my plane hadn’t been delayed, I never would have made a comment about it and would have simply continued reading my book, ignoring the people around me. Instead God gave me the opportunity to witness to one of His children. I’ll never complain about traveling again.
Please pray that Steven, the 24 year old man with the world on his shoulders, would see that he isn’t bearing the world alone. He is loved and appreciated by a God who is keeping him safe and has blessed him with the talent of helping others. Please pray that others would reach out to him and teach him more about Gospel and the hope we have in Christ.