A Plea From a Millennial
A few miles from my boyhood home, just off a dusty country road, sits a little orange brick church. The tattered curtains sway in and out of the openings where the windows used to be.
The front doors are streaked with rust, and birds dart in and out through the broken walls of what were once Sunday school rooms.
When my family helped establish the church in 1895, it was called the Novesta Free Will Baptist Church. Four generations of my family repented, worshiped, married, and were eulogized in that little building. So much history. Such deep roots.
Although the church closed before I was born, I feel an acute sense of melancholy whenever I stop to look at it. The decaying remains are all that’s left of a place that once overflowed with life—where tears of joy and sorrow were shed and where countless destinies were changed for eternity.
I can’t help but think that deteriorating building aptly rejects the brand of Christianity many Americans of my generation (the Millennials, roughly ages 15 to 35) subscribe to today. We want the church to change the world, but we are separating from our biblical foundation.
A recent YouTube video that went viral illustrates my point. Titled “I’m Christian, But I’m Not…,” it features young adults making statements like “I’m Christian, but I’m not ignorant.” “I’m Christian, but I’m not conservative.” “I’m Christian, but I’m not judgmental.” “I am gay,” and “I think everybody’s in a different part of life and on their own path to wherever they’re trying to go.”1
Although the video does not claim to represent all Millennial Christians, it certainly reveals where we are headed. We have become a generation that scoffs at convictions and celebrates conformity. We have made spiritual life less about rejoicing in and sharing truth and more about how we feel. We—the generation of self-expression and independent thinking—are adapting to the cultural climate of political correctness and forced neutrality instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
So, in the words of the late Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer, “How should we then live?”
The book of Hebrews encourages us to remember we are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses” whose faithfulness and refusal to conform point us to “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1–2). These witnesses should encourage us to stay faithful.
We need to emulate people like Amy Carmichael, an Irishwoman born in 1867, who, in her 20s, dedicated herself to full-time Christian service. She eventually moved to India, where she spent the rest of her life rescuing young women and children from pagan-temple prostitution, leading many of them to faith in Christ.
We need to follow the example of D. L. Moody, who, at 18, received Christ as his Savior while working at his uncle’s shoe store in Boston and became one of the greatest evangelists in history. He had neither a degree nor a title before his name, but he walked humbly with his God and took the gospel to an estimated 100 million people during his lifetime.2
We need to become inspired by the life of the great 18th-century British statesman William Wilberforce, who was elected to Parliament at 21; became a believer in Jesus Christ in his mid-20s; and led a successful, lifelong fight to abolish slavery and promote godly living in the British Empire.
These people were not superhuman or endowed with exceptional gifts. They were ordinary believers who submitted themselves to the Lord and based their convictions and actions on the truths of Scripture. Consequently, they brought glory to God and helped change countless lives forever.
As our generation of evangelicals moves to the forefront of leadership, we must remember the little brick churches of the past. May we not scoff at their “antiquated” convictions but, rather, hear the echoes of truth once preached within their walls; look to those in the past as examples of faithfulness; engage the culture with truth; and stand firm for the tenets of God’s Word.
- BuzzFeedYellow, “I’m Christian, But I’m Not…,” Youtube.com, September 7, 2015 <youtube.com/watch?v=5bWHSpmXEJs>.
- Warren W. Wiersbe, 50 People Every Christian Should Know (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009), 178.