I have a deep desire to see people discover the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. I am driven to find new ways to present my faith as a viable alternative to life without the hope following Christ offers. I want to be relevant when I interact with others. I seek to enter their world so that they can understand mine. I pursue opportunities to communicate Jesus as the type of person others would want to follow. I want it so bad – maybe too bad.
Millennials have exposed Christianity’s biggest failure – Authenticity.
I have seen the studies and heard the news reports. It has been the topic of discussion in books, on-line publications and blogs for some time now. Millennials want authenticity. Of course, now that we know what they want it is time to recreate the programs and Sunday meetings so that we can sell them on the fact we are authentic.
Because you may not have gotten the sad humour in what you just read I will repeat it again: “… now that we know what they want it is time to recreate the programs and Sunday meetings so that we can sell them on the fact we are authentic.” Is it authentic to program authenticity? Have we boiled down Christianity to reproducing an appearance rather than living out our faith? We want it so bad – maybe too bad.
We study the culture in search of the wrong thing. When culture trends toward showmanship, professionalism or a more culturally agreeable message, we oblige. We create superstars who often say very little of substance but talk a lot. We create Church models that look more like a business, more like capitalism than a charity. When people are hungery we tell them to get a job, when they need clothes we say your new job will pay for those, when they are in prison we say their isolation is the payment for their sin and oh by the way we love God and we love people.
We study how the culture views the world and then adapt who we are. We don’t study the culture to learn how to communicate a message that does not match their world view, we study the culture so we can match as closely as possible to their world. We didn’t reach them we joined them. We want it so bad – maybe too bad.
I am so glad that Millennials desire authenticity. Look at failure #1 &2, do you see a trend? If authenticity is being the real me or in the case of the church, the real us, then creating programs or changing the message to attract people to our cause is the opposite of authenticity. Programs should be just that, programs. Church should be just that, church. The message should be just that, the message. All these things are tools to present and live out the unchanging truths in a culturally relevant way not to be changed every time the culture changes.
If Millennials want authenticity why isn’t the church and Christ followers the first place they go? It is because we have changed our image and our message so much to entice people that we look like a marketing firm’s portfolio of ad campaigns. We have gone from one extreme to the other trying to bring people to Christ. Once we condemned, we raised ourselves up as if to say we don’t sin or at least our sins are not like yours, we are better. Then we tried to avoid talk of sin altogether to avoid offending anyone. We have fed the belly not the soul and called it love. We have condemned the hungry as lost souls being punished for their laziness and called it tough love. All of this in an attempt to bring people to faith in Christ. We want it so bad – maybe too bad.
Authenticity may be captured best in this scripture
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)
No show to jazz it up – no soft sell to make it more comfortable – no hard sell to scare – no elevating oneself over someone else to shame – no making the truth more palatable to trick – just coming alongside and saying we are all alike but there is more!