Because of recent events, I have to admit my hands have been full of rocks.
I’ve wanted to throw them at certain people for quite some time now. Every night after spending a short time scrolling down my FACEBOOK wall, I was adding names to my list of people who I felt needed a stone chucked in their direction.
I was getting rather upset. My hands were packed full of rocks and I had quite a pile of them at my feet just waiting for me to pick up. To say that I was ready to begin catapulting them across the wide spectrum of people I disagreed with would be an understatement. Many of my rocks were destined for those I have serious differences with. Particularly with those that have different beliefs than me. But some of these rocks I held were intended for some fellow believers. Specifically those fellow believer’s that are part of the ill-defined segment known vicariously as “Christian Millennials”. Many of whom choose to take an opposing side of issues that are not in line with how they were raised. Many turning their back on the very foundational principles that their parents taught them and then they spend most of their time and thoughts on bashing (throwing rocks) at this same foundation. Many taking joy when a fellow believer fails in their Spiritual walk.
Defined as those that are 24 to 36 or so, depending on who you read. They’ve been called the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time magazine. There is a common belief that they feel “entitled” by just about everyone. The bottom line is that these “millennials” believe they are right on just about every question of life. Even if they do not think they are right, they just know that you are wrong.
And they are leaving the church in droves.
Now it would appear that I am making too broad of a statement and painting a picture that all people in this group are the same… they are not. Many are searching for the truth and the church truly does need to find common ground with them. Also, before I come across as just throwing judgmental hand grenades at them, please read this to the end.
It is said that 70 percent of those raised in the church disengage from it in their 20s. One-third of Americans under 30 now claim “no belief in God or at least not the God they were raised to believe in.”
So there are 80 million millennialists (give or take) in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to the church. But most of the proposals I’ve read fall into two camps.
The first goes something like this: The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach, but it is clear they do not want their parents church.
Others demand a more fundamental change. They insist the church soften its positions on key doctrines and social issues. They say, our culture is secularized. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. Let’s marginalize God and/or Jesus Christ as simply our “buddy” to help us out (with a wink and a smile) when we are in trouble and that everyone can live their life as they wish regardless of eternal consequence. They believe we must abandon core beliefs and restrictive moral teachings of the traditional church. They believe the Bible is intended as a guideline, not necessarily absolute truth. They tend to question every story found in the Bible. It surly could not have happened the way the Bible said it did and if you do believe the Bible as fact, you are a racist, bigoted, hypocritical, uneducated homophobe. More importantly… you are just plain wrong.
They really believe that Christianity must “change or die.”
I have issues with both approaches.
I want a pastor that is relevent and up to date with the issues of life for all members of my church. I want him to be aware of current events but he doesn’t have to look like me. He shouldn’t have to look like them either. Chasing just the “coolness” factor at church won’t work.
I have horrible memories of a pastor lecturing me at summer camp when I was a teenager about the evils of a rock band that had not put out an album in 10 years. He came to the “service” dressed like me and tried to use language that he thought would relate to me. He had no clue and more importantly he was trying to relate and be “cool” but failed miserably.
In my experience, churches that try to be cool end up with a pathetic facsimile of what was cool about 5 years ago. No one wants to see a 60-year-old pastor acting like he is 25. It never comes off well. Does this mean that a pastor is “done” in his ministry in his 50’s or heaven forbid his 40’s? What will be “cool” when these “Christian Millennialist’s” turn 50? Will they be as relevant as they present themselves today? I think not. What will these, all-knowing (but have no real life experience) people do when the next generation comes along and has a different way doing things and have their own version of being “cool”? Will they see error in their ways? Or will it be too late to even matter?
The second tack is worse. Not only will we end up compromising core beliefs, we will shrink our churches as well. The advocates of this approach seem to have missed what happened to mainline liberal churches over the last few decades. Adopting liberal theologies and culturally acceptable beliefs has drastically reduced their attendance. When the premise of your take on Biblical accuracy of truth starts with “God couldn’t have” or “God didn’t” it is a slippery slope to complete unbelief.
In addition, I think that in solely conceptualizing God as a nice, kind, “Jesus is my best friend,” lover of kittens and puppies way that we have, we lose some of the reverence for the righteousness of a Holy God. Make no mistake, there will be eternal consequences for the way we live our lives.
While I am still coming to terms with how to exactly handle my inner feelings in dealing with them, I still believe that people like me and those of the church need to find common ground with those that carry these beliefs.
Now back to my hand full of rocks…
I had enough. I was tired of seeing these people getting away with throwing rocks at other people who I felt did not deserve the bashing they were receiving. It was now my turn. As I scrolled down my FACEBOOK feed and I was picking up more rocks and taking more names to receive them. I was going to respond to every post I disagreed with. Everyone was going to know what these people were really like. I wanted to embarrass them. I wanted retaliation. I wanted to prove them wrong.
I threw a couple of rocks at a few of them.
But as I raised my arm to sling another of my well-deserved, verbal judgemental stones… a still small voice in my heart said:
“Before you throw another one… Maybe we need to have a little conversation as a reminder?”
Arguing, I began to tell the Lord that I was justified! They were wrong and I was right and it was important that everyone know!
As I thought about justifying my argument to set people straight, I was reminded of the story of a woman caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning. Jesus faced this mob that was eager to stone this woman. He put a stop to it with a simple challenge: “anyone who has no sin in their life should step forward and throw the first stone”. Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!”
Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin.
Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.
Reminding myself of this story, I let a few stones drop from my hand.
I’ve never molested a child or shot anyone or taken something that didn’t belong to me, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot. I am not perfect and I need grace and forgiveness.
I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you?
A few more stones fell from my hand to the ground.
I pondered three Biblical truths:
- No one is without sin. (Romans 3:23)
- Treat others as you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)
- Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome. It’s not my job.
Regardless of my “feelings” or “thoughts”, it is not my job to stone those who I think are wrong.
Maybe this is the common ground we need to have. Instead of feeling like we need to throw stones at those we disagree with maybe we all need a reminder of our own sin. It is impossible to be self-righteous when you recognize the sin in your own life. I think we will struggle to judge others when the grace that covers our sin is front and center on your mind.
I dropped the remaining stones to the ground.
I am going back inside my glass house now. First to wash my hands, secondly to wash my windows because it seems I haven’t been seeing things clearly.
Again, I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.
Throwing stones…why does it seem as if everyone is guilty of doing this? Why are we so quick to judge?
Whatever you’re thinking of throwing… just don’t.
Drop your stone.