The Millennials are Coming!
By: Dr. Timothy C. Tennent
Most of us would agree that whoever invented the “airbag” for cars (whether he or she was a Christian or not) was doing so as an expression of a Christian world-view. It
is one thing to have faith and to trust God for our lives as we drive, it is another to trust God and have faith while we drive and, as a part of that trust, put airbags in our cars. We have created many things which fall into this category, including seat-belts, motorcycle helmets, and sensors on your garage door, to name a few. All of these things are positive expressions of God calling us to be co-creators with Him. He cares for the human race and has created thousands of safety protections in our bodies (like the immune system) for our positive good. We can’t create “immune systems” but we can create air bags and garage door sensors. These are wonderful acts and I want to affirm them wholeheartedly.
However, all of these expressions of faith should be set in contrast to a whole category of things which have emerged in our society “in the name of safety,” which are actually responses of fear, not expressions of faith. For example, an elementary School in Massachusetts outlawed the game of “tag” because, the Principal reasoned, “recess is a time when accidents can happen.” The reasoning is that the fear of an accident – such as the avoidance of a skinned knee -is of a greater value than the fun, developmental coordination, and exercise involved in playing tag. Another school in Attleboro, Massachusetts banned dodge ball because it was “exclusionary and dangerous.” Few seem to realize that encountering dangers and fears is, in itself, part of the crucial catechesis of growing up.
Life is risky.
We need to enter life with boldness and faith. You can be sure that a child who is constantly told to “be careful” and to avoid, above all, situations which might not be safe would never someday walk on the moon. In fact, it is likely that our current culture would never produce a Neil Armstrong to begin with. We are raising children who are too risk adverse. To put it bluntly, we need to raise children of faith, not children of fear. Safety is a positive value, but if left to run amok it can turn into a cruel task master. We could, after all, eliminate virtually all fatalities through car accidents, but it would involve reducing the maximum speed limit to 10 MPH.
This is where the Millennial generation is stepping up in a big way. The millennial generation are those born between 1980 and 2000. This is the majority age group of those who are currently in seminary training for the ministry.
I like what I see.
Have you noticed the fascination with bungee jumping and rappel free rock climbing among Millennial youth? Have you noticed their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others? They are the ones who are shaking us out of our slumber regarding the rise in sex-trafficking. They are the ones who are recovering the so-called “third metric;” namely, that the purpose of life is neither “making money” (metric #1) or “being famous” (metric #2), but is in raising a family and serving others! Millennials don’t mind taking risks. They are longing for us to quit entertaining them in church and start boldly calling them to a life of courageous faith. Let me say it again: The Millennial generation is longing for us to quit entertaining them in church and start boldly calling them to a life of courageous faith. My wife and I have two millennial children. I am constantly amazed by their boldness and their courage in facing life. It is truly inspiring.
Jesus calls us to abandon everything and be prepared to lay our lives down for the gospel. That may seem like an alien proposition if we, from childhood, have had our hands squirted a thousand times with anti-bacterial gel which “kills 99.9% of all germs.” Because, every “squirt” of anti-bacterial gel was also sending the message that the world is a dangerous place which we must protect ourselves from, rather than a world which we boldly enter, rolling up our sleeves, and get our hands dirty serving the sick, weary and lost. The Millennials don’t mind getting their hands dirty! The Millennials are more like the Apostle Paul who wanted to enter the arena in Ephesus and preach the gospel to a hostile crowd, than his companions and officials who only saw the dangers (Acts 19:23-31). Yet, it is this God-given boldness which produces an Apostle Paul on Mars Hill, or a Neil Armstrong on the moon.
Let’s quit wringing our hands over the “millennial generation.” This is an amazing generation with enormous possibilities. If you are a pastor, you may inadvertently not be noticing the children, youth, and young adults in your midst. There’s gold in those groups! Take a few under your wing and start to spend time with them, listen to their hearts, and get to know them. Help them to hear the voice of Jesus and to receive the Holy Spirit.
Let the Spirit of God fill their sails and they will put the rudder in the water and take the gospel to the ends of the earth