A response to Barna Group’s Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong
As an individual who identifies somewhere in between the Millennial and Gen X generations, I have seen a terrifying trend among those of my age and younger. Instead of being proud of the fact that we belong to Christ and are involved in a Bible-believing church, we seem to make that a secondary, if not altogether absent component of ourselves, depending upon whom we are around at the time.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission not only to his disciples, but also to subsequent generations, he did not put an expiration date on the message—well, not one that any human being is privy to. In fact, his words in Matthew 28:19-20 are not obsolete. He said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So why do we treat Jesus’ words as if they no longer apply to us?
Islam is based on devotion to their man-made religion which Muslims boldly proclaim. They believe it to be true and will even choose to die for it. If you were to study Islam, which has very little in common with Christianity, regardless of what people say, you will notice something called “abrogation.” Basically, it means that what Muslims believe is constant, that is, until another one of their prophets comes along and amends it or appeals that particular law.
However, their prophet Mohammed put certain laws into place prior to his death and as a result, they are unable to be changed by anyone else. Therefore, the things that are included in their religion will continue unchanged. That is why they believe that all people who will not convert to Islam must be killed. That law will not change due to the death of the one who declared it.
Christian faith is based on the verifiable truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the resurrection of Jesus could be proven false, then Christianity would be one more among many of the man-made options offered on the religion market. To date, no one has proven that the resurrection did not happen.
If people of other faiths trusting in a false hope can be that confident and dedicated, why is it that we believers who know the only Truth (Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6) are opting to change or ignore the command of our Savior?
I often share this little axiom with others, and I cannot honestly remember where I heard it: “The methods change, but the message never does.” The message of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ must not change, but the language with which we share it must be clearly communicated.
For example, if I were to approach a high school student and say, “Have you had the unmerited grace effected in your life and had the righteousness of Christ imputed to you as you experience your daily sanctification?” That young man or woman is going to look at me like I am fresh out of the nut hut!
Now if I use terms with which they can relate, the message will be much more effective. An example of this would be: “Did you know that everyone has sinned and done wrong things, but there is a God who cares enough to see that those wrong-doings are forgiven, and to prove this to us, he sent his Son to die on a cross to pay the price that we could never afford? Do you believe that? It takes faith, or simply believing that God is telling the truth. Have you accepted his gift that no one can ever earn?”
See, I didn’t change the meaning, but I did put the truth in laymen’s terms. Depending on whom you are speaking with, the terminology may vary, yet the truth of salvation must be the main message.
Having spent a few minutes to ensure we’re on the same page, I would like to get to the main question: Why are so many millennial-aged Christians opposed to sharing their faith?
We know they are, because the Barna Group—the most trusted name in Christian research—asked them and they responded that it is either not important to them or they are offended at such an idea. In their article, Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong, Barna states, “Among the major findings in this report is the revelation that Christian Millennials feel especially conflicted about evangelism—and, in fact, almost half believe it is wrong to share their faith.”
Now let’s look at Peter’s first epistle. Peter wrote about what we would consider evangelism in our everyday activities: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (1 Peter 3:15).
Does that sound like Jesus’ message? We do have hope in Christ, right? Therefore, we are always supposed to be ready to offer that hope to others. Yet we get so cozy in our denominational circles that anyone who doesn’t share our exact opinions gets a cold shoulder or is “shunned.”
Now we find that Millennials disagree with sharing their faith. Notice I did not say that they are uncomfortable—they are diametrically opposed to the idea. For most, they find it offensive to push their “religion” on anyone else, especially as we live in a society whose motto seems to be “It’s your life; do what you wanna do.”
But Jesus did not give his followers something called “The Great Suggestion” which has largely morphed into “The Great Omission.” He indeed gave us a command to see that we proclaim his grace, mercy, and hope to the world.
In any generation, our goal is never to purposely offend anyone, but the Bible itself declares: “For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who perish; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Jesus also said “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18-20).
This passage tells us the problem with today’s version of Christianity: we want all the benefits of God without sharing in his sufferings. We want the joy of Jesus to hoard, while ignoring the call upon each of us to share the Good News with others. We have gone from having servants’ hearts to being consumer-minded.
In the age of being easily offended or “triggered,” we as believers have bought into the lie that nobody should have to endure our opinions or our beliefs and we are willing to appease them by remaining silent. The devil does not have to use the sneakiest tactics; he only needs to keep Christians from sharing their faith, and pretty soon society is wholly secular.
Friends, that is exactly where we are, and it should frighten you! We can confidently say that we live in a post-Christian culture and I wish that were not the case.
I want to be very careful to affirm that I am not targeting Millennials or any age group in a negative way, but the numbers that Barna show this is a widespread sentiment among that demographic.
With a great burden, I speak to every child of God the biblical truth that we have been called to be salt and light in this world (more needed than ever)—God never changed his mind on our part in that. The harmful problem is that instead of adapting the methods to get the unchanging message to the culture; we have exchanged speaking truth for what Paul considers to be ear-tickling—telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The remedy? “Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2). When we speak the truth in love, the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of the recipients and show them that we care about their souls. While methods change, never change the message that Jesus saves!