For all the jabs that get tossed at Millennials (text-junky-visually-addicted-short-attention-span-I’m-entitled-to-whatever-I-want-right-now), there is one thing that I can say with confidence. They can smell a fake a mile away.
My husband and I did youth ministry for ten years and we still get to wade in Millennial waters every now and then. (See adjacent photo of what the eighth grade girls did to me at summer camp last year. Yes, they painted my hair.) More than anything else, this tech-saturated generation longs for authentic face-to-face connection. While everyone has the social need to be known, this generation seems to thirst more openly for the waters of faithful, genuine relationship.
And hypocrisy repels them.
The new Barna study “Are Christians More Like Jesus or More Like the Pharisees?” is fascinating and convicting all at once. I know that I can fall into the Pharisee-like attitudes and behaviors all too often. But as it relates to Millennials, the following quotes should give all Christ-followers pause.
- …our team discovered that 84% of young non-Christians say they know a Christian personally, yet only 15% say the lifestyles of those believers are noticeably different in a good way.
- Perhaps pastors and teachers might take another look at how and what they communicate. Do people somehow get the message that the ‘right action’ is more important than the ‘right attitude’? Do church leaders have a tendency to focus more on tangible results, like actions, because those are easier to see and measure than attitudes?
- Finally, the question of authentic faith—is a particularly sore topic for many Millennials—who are often leaving church due in large part to the hypocrisy they experience. Again, no research is a perfect measure, but this study points out a sobering possibility: that the perception so many young people have of Christians contains more than a kernel of truth. Just as the New Testament writer Paul demonstrates in Galatians 2:11-16, the responsibility of the Christian community is to challenge hypocrisy just as boldly as other kinds of sin.
Christians do not need to figure out a new “tactic” on how to “reach the next generation.” We simply need to BE the new creation that results from truly meeting and following Christ. It is more critical than ever that we choose to take the hard, but necessary, steps of examining our motivations, thoughts and actions. If we can share honestly about how we fail and how God brings victory, a thirsty generation will naturally be drawn to the well of living water flowing out of these broken jars of clay.