Archives For Millenials

Young people fill the pews at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., pastored by Mark Dever.

Young people fill the pews at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., pastored by Mark Dever.


COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Mark_Dever_blogA 16-page church bulletin leaves little to the imagination. At Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., worship attenders know exactly what they’re getting into from the time they walk into the split-level, high-ceilinged sanctuary, less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol.

The order of service, printed neatly on the inside cover page, lists every hymn, prayer, and Scripture reading. Every song is there in entirety – not just lyrics, but actual music.

Even the Nicene Creed gets its own page, with three paragraphs of explanation about where it came from and why we recite it. (“I said this in church for 28 years,” said one visitor, “and nobody ever explained it to me.”)

Your first impression is that this church is good at welcoming new people. They remember well that not everyone who walks in the door has been here before, and maybe they’ve never been in any church before. But it’s more than that. There’s a shrewdness here (in the nicest sense of the word), and an attention to detail that may be best matched just down the street under the Capitol Dome.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church is a church for its very unique city.

Capitol_Hill_exterior_blogWhat’s most interesting is that there are Millennials here – that elusive generation that’s giving churches fits around the country. A variety of ages are represented at Capitol Hill, but the congregation skews young. A few families sat in “bulkhead” seating at the back of the sanctuary, with a little extra leg room to accommodate a fidgety toddler. The rest of us were packed into crowded pews – between 900 and 1,000 are here for worship on Sunday mornings.

Capitol Hill isn’t doing what most churches do to try to reach Millennials. Lately, the normal prescription is a relaxed dress code, coffee bar in the lobby, and maybe a violinist in the worship band. But here in Washington, what’s reaching Millennials is orderliness. And 5-minute prayers (four of them). And a 55-minute sermon based on one chapter of Psalms.

Capitol_Hill_bulletin_blog“You will be bored if you don’t open your Bible and leave it open,” Pastor Mark Dever said before his message on Psalm 143. “All I’m gonna do is talk about what’s in the Bible.”

The service lasted more than two hours, but people still stuck around to chat afterward. Some milled around the small bookstore tucked into a corner of the overflow room just off the main sanctuary. Coffee and cookies and conversation were had downstairs.

There are few surprises at Capitol Hill, besides the fact that this church on a quiet tree-lined street is ministering effectively in a difficult place, using methods that you never would have thought would work. Combined with age-old truth.

“You may have come in here as an adversary of God’s, an enemy,” Dever said at the end of his sermon. “But there’s no reason you have to leave that way.”

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Ronnie Floyd, elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention last week in Baltimore, is calling on Baptists to rally in Columbus, Ohio, next summer to pray together for spiritual awakening.

“As I work with our Order of Business Committee as well as other leaders, I will respectfully request that we dedicate as much time as possible in next year’s convention to pray extraordinarily for the next Great Awakening,” Floyd wrote in a June 16 column for Baptist Press. “I want to call you to Columbus to what could be one of the most significant prayer gatherings in our history.

Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in Baltimore that America’s greatest need is a great awakening. Prior to the convention, he organized two national gatherings for Baptist pastors to pray together.

“Our convention has bemoaned our decline in baptisms, membership, attendance and giving far too long,” Floyd wrote. “Now is the time for us to take aggressive action by calling out to God together in prayer.

“At the same time, we must take the needed strategic actions to change our trajectory as a convention of churches. While we face these critical times, we know God is doing some amazing things right now through Southern Baptists. As we celebrate those to the glory of God in Columbus, we will also call out to God in urgent desperation.”

Read Floyd’s column at BPNews.net, and click here to read more of the Illinois Baptist’s coverage from Baltimore.

Stanley explains tweets during SBC meeting
Georgia pastor Andy Stanley sparked a long online conversation when he tweeted during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, according to a Christian Post report. The Baltimore meeting focused heavily on revival and spiritual awakening. Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, was not at the meeting but tweeted on the topic several times, including, “Instead of praying for revival leaders of the SBC should go spend three weeks with @perrynoble Why pray for one when you can go watch one.”

Stanley was referring to Pastor Perry Noble of New Spring Church in South Carolina. He told The Christian Post that in the tweet and others during the meeting, he was referring to revival in the local church, rather than in a great awakening sense. “I can understand the confusion and I definitely contributed to it,” said Stanley, who still exhorted the local church to take actions that can lead to spiritual awakening.

“I love the local church. And I’ll admit I get a bit stirred up when I hear church leaders talk about the need to reach more people while refusing to make the changes necessary to actually get the job done.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Millenials tell Barna: Top 5 things to do before 30
Barna’s recent study of Millenials – “20 and Something” – delves into what the generation believes about life and work. Including the five things they most want to accomplish before they turn 30: gain financial independence (59%), finish their education (52%), start a career (51%), find out who they really are (40%), and follow their dreams (31%). Read more at Barna.org.

Be fruitful, says Pope
After celebrating Mass with 15 married couples at the Vatican, Pope Francis warned against childlessness. “It might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog,” he said, according to a report by Religion News Service. “Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

The pope’s remarks came on the heels of a report that Italy’s birth rate fell to a record low in 2013. The U.S. birth rate hit a record low in 2012, but about 4,700 more babies were born in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

List locates world’s most persecuted countries
Christians face the worst persecution in North Korea and Somalia, according to the 2014 World Watch List. For 12 years, North Korea has topped the list released by non-profit organization Open Doors. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen also are in this year’s top 10, along with the Maldives, a chain of islands off the coast of India.

Eric_Reed_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Eric Reed

We need to learn how to talk with young people.

I must have entered some stage of fogey-dom if I feel the need to make this topic a course of personal study. But I do. We all do.

The millennial generation is making important adult life decisions now: marriage, family, and faith. So many of them have eschewed the church, but they are the generation who will turn the tide and secure the future of our denomination, if it is to happen.

But how will we bring them into the kingdom, and into the church? More specifically, how will we bring them into Southern Baptist life?

Some fresh insight on this comes from an unexpected source, a Catholic professor who studies and teaches about contemporary religions. Patricia O’Connell Killen was a conference speaker at the February meeting of Baptist newspaper editors. Many of her observations of the American religious landscape were good summations of things we’ve already heard:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults claims “none” as their religious preference, with people under age 30 leading the exodus.
  • Fewer than 50% of U.S. adults claim to be Protestant, making Protestantism the minority religion for the first time in our national history.
  • The resulting “open” religious environment means people are very willing to experience without the pressures of cultural and family expectations; the choices are up to individuals as never before.

But when the professor spoke of the students in her classroom, most around age 20, I heard something I think we all need to hear. Here’s my interpolation:

Today’s young adults aren’t all looking for churches that are always adapting to the latest cultural trend. They don’t want a lot of the so-called “relevance” their parents sought. They want something in their faith and in their experience of church that is solid, unchanging, immutable.

Why? Things that change too much are untrustworthy, her students have said, and they want something they can trust. (One of Dr. Killen’s observations is especially pointed: “What is tradition for children who have negotiated three-to-five sets of parents since the age of two?”)

The professor contends that this emerging generation struggles to make decisions. The millennials had more options than any generation before them. (Which of 100 channels do you want to watch on TV, baby? Which video game do you want to play? What do you want to wear today, princess? Which toy do you want in your Happy Meal?)

The parents let the kids make the choices. And the kids – by chat, text, and tweet –consulted their friends. An entire generation with nothing but options was always testing the winds to see how their crowd was leaning.

That produced a lot of indecisive people who are always changing and, ironically, are suspicious of change.

The application to church life is counter-intuitive to me. I thought a generation of choice-addicts would want churches that offer lots of choices. But the professor says, not so. The church or denomination that is always changing for the sake of relevance doesn’t meet their needs, but instead feeds their deepest fears: There’s nothing I can really hold on to.

We who have preached against “tradition” in previous generations will bless a future generation if we point out the value of some biblically sound traditions. For Southern Baptists to have meaningful conversations with young people today, we must focus on the unchanging aspects of our theology and missiology: We are people of the Book, we preach salvation in Jesus Christ and there is salvation in no other, and everyone needs the opportunity to hear that Gospel.

This is not an excuse for our churches to get stuck in the old ways. Methods may change, because methods wear out and need to be replaced. And styles may change to fit communication needs and technologies. But worship is more than singing nothing but ditties written last Thursday, discipleship grows in relationships that endure for years, and faith is based on the unchanging God, “…the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

In today’s conversations, our starting point may not be what’s new, but what’s not.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist, online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Joining Filipino Baptists at work, IMB representative Mark Moses handed out packs of rice, noodles, canned sardines and water to Typhoon Haiyan victims on Panay island Monday, Nov. 11. “We listened to their horrifying stories of pounding winds and walls of sea water sweeping away their earthly belongings,” Moses said. “We prayed and grieved with the people. We made assessments of priority needs.” (IMB Photo by Mark Moses)

Joining Filipino Baptists at work, IMB representative Mark Moses handed out food and water to Typhoon Haiyan victims on Panay island Monday, Nov. 11. “We prayed and grieved with the people,” Moses said. “We made assessments of priority needs.” IMB photo by Mark Moses; from IMB.org

As officials assess the damage from Typhoon Haiyan, Southern Baptist workers in the Philippines are distributing food and evaluating how best to meet immediate and long-term needs. Officials estimate 10,000 people could have died in the storm. International Mission Board representative Dottie Smith said, “Pray for strength for those who are still stranded, low on food and water and are feeling helpless.” Read more at IMB.org.

LifeWay apologizes for stereotypes in ‘Rickshaw Rally’

The Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources, apologized last week for the use of racial stereotypes in “Rickshaw Rally,” its 10-year-old Vacation Bible School curriculum.

“I agree with those who have helped us understand the offensive nature of that material,” LifeWay President Thom Rainer said in the video apology presented at the Mosaix conference in California. “And I agree evangelical church and ministry leaders — particularly those of us who are white — need to commit to assuring, as best we can, these offenses stop.”

Rainer became LifeWay’s president in 2006. Read more at BPNews.net.

Coming soon to a theater near you
The producers behind History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries are repackaging the parts of the story that focus on Jesus for a new feature film. “Son of God” will be released February 28, 2014 by 20th Century Fox. “This is a big story. It deserves a big presentation,” Roma Downey told The Christian Post. The star of “Touched by an Angel” produced “The BIble” with her husband, Mark Burnett, and also starred as Mary, the mother of Jesus. “The stand-alone opportunity of two hours and 15 minutes to follow the birth, the life, the mission, the miracles, the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the Great Commission, the entire Jesus narrative.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

IBSA Annual Meeting starts Nov. 13
Follow along here and at Facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist or Twitter.com/IllinoisBaptist. The IBSA Pastors’ Conference starts today, with panel discussions and messages by Bobby Boyles, Jerry Cain, Micah Fries, Chuck Kelley, Eric Mason and Jason Strother. For more information, go to IBSA.org/meeting2013.

Writer lists five phrases that are too ‘churchy’ for Millenials
Blogger and author Addie Zierman once left the church, and now she’s back. She shares on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog five church cliches that are “maddening and alienating” to Millenials like her. Read the list here and then tell us how you agree or disagree.

pull quote_flynnIn the struggle to keep young people in church – or bring them back – are we simply choosing one trend over another?

COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Blogger Rachel Held Evans sparked numerous online conversations this summer with her posts about young people and church. Evans, 32, is a lightning rod in the evangelical community, having already tackled evolution and gender roles in her books. Her columns this summer on CNN’s Belief blog about why millenials are leaving the church are probably less polarizing, but likely more important too.

The disconnect between young people and the church is a real, documented problem. And the news is bleak: Barna found 59% of young Christians will leave the church permanently or for an extended period of time at some point after they turn 15.

Evans posits that young Christians can see straight through the church’s attempts to keep them. She writes, “Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being ‘cool,’ and we find that refreshingly authentic.”

Young Christians, Evans says, don’t want a change in style; they want a change in substance.

Indeed, candles are cool again. And robes and vespers services and responsive readings. In fact, some churches have gotten so cool that those of us millenials who have grown accustomed to stopping by the coffee station before heading into the service are no longer cool enough. We’ve aged out of our own demographic.

That’s what happens when you emphasize style over substance. Style is divisive. So is substance, but we’re promised it will be if the church is focused on the Gospel.

Evans claims substance trumps style, but she’s still advocating for a change in the latter. The instruments of the ancient church have much deeper roots in church history than online giving and electric guitars, but they’re still accessories we use to “decorate” the corporate worship experience and draw people to participate.

None of those things are inherently right or wrong. But they are part of the overall style of a church, and hopefully not its substance.

I know the authentic, unpretentious church Evans writes about in her blog post. I grew up there, except mine was a Southern Baptist church that didn’t follow the contemporary wave of the early 1980s and 90s, but instead waved real palm branches on Palm Sunday. We dressed to the nines, sang along with a pipe organ, and recited the same prayer of contemplation every week. And in my small youth group, kids still struggled with their faith. Some even left the church.

Style may attract people to a church, but it won’t keep them in. No matter how old the style, or how young the people. The church needs something substantial, and fortunately, we have it.

Blogger and LifeWay editor Trevin Wax wrote that he mostly agrees with Evans’ style vs. substance thesis, but would tweak it this way: “What millennials really want from the church is substance. Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.”

And that never goes out of style.

Tuesday_BriefingLeaders debate disconnect between millenials and the church

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

“Some millenials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams,” Trevin Wax blogged earlier this summer.

“But other millenials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.”

Those words from Wax, managing editor of LifeWay’s “The Gospel Project,” succinctly explain the debate sparked in July by a blog post by Rachel Held Evans. At issue: the millennial generation (generally defined as those born around and after 1980), the church, and the perceived distance between the two.

Evans, a 32-year-old author right on the edge of the millenial divide, shared on CNN’s “Belief” blog that too often, church leaders think they can bridge the gap with better, cooler style choices in music, technology, and the entire worship experience. But, “we’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there,” Evans wrote.

She gives to church leaders who want to appeal to young Christians: “…I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.”

Evans’ column lit up social media and garnered thousands of comments on CNN’s site, where it’s still getting feedback more than a month after it posted. Other Christian leaders responded too, agreeing with some of Evans’ points but also offering their own take on the problem: 59% of young people disengage from the church for an extended period of time or for good, according to Barna.

It’s an important conversation to have, said Chase Abner, IBSA’s collegiate evangelism strategist. “Like it or not, Millenials will soon be at the helm of our churches, schools and governments. Let us labor that they might hear and respond in faith to Christ.”

It’s the in’s and out’s and how to’s of that labor that had leaders talking about Evans’ blog post. Trevin Wax noted that although Evans says Millenials long for Jesus in the church, the ideal church she describes may not look like Him.

“When I read the Gospels, I’m confronted by a Jesus who explodes our categories of righteousness and sin, repentance and forgiveness, and power and purity,” he blogged. “I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.”

Wax writes later, “Rachel says Millenials want to be ‘challenged to holiness,’ but the challenge she appears to be advocating is one on our own terms and according to our own preferences.”

Several leaders who commented on Evans’ post turned the focus away from the church and took a harder look at Millenials themselves. Are today’s young Christians giving the “me generation” a run for their money when it comes to self-centeredness?

“I’m sorry Millenials, but I’m going to have to throw us under the bus here: we do not have everything figured out,” wrote author Brett McCracken on The Washington Post’s On Faith” blog. “And if we expect older generations and well-established institutions to morph to fit our every fickle desire, we do so at our peril.”

In response to Evans’ suggestion that church leaders sit down with young Christians and talk about what they’re looking for in a church, McCracken proposed the opposite. “Millenials, why don’t we take our pastors, parents and older Christian brothers and sisters out to coffee and listen to them?”

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, echoed that idea in a column on Baptist Press, but took it a step further by calling on church leaders and parents to help young people experience the church as a member of the body, rather than just part of various age-graded programs.

“When they are disconnected from the congregation, it should not surprise us that young adults, who have never known the church as a whole, are disinclined to embrace it when their age-graded group has run its course.”

Allen wrote he wants his children to get to know people at all stages of life in the church – from young couples to senior citizens. That focus on relationships is increasingly important to young Christians, Abner said. In a day when technology can make anyone an expert on anything – even Christianity – young people want to know whether the information we have is making a difference in the world.

“They can’t see that just from shaking your hand before or after a service. They can’t see that just because you teach the Bible well,” Abner said. “But they can see it in the way you love your spouse and children. They can see it in the way you follow Jesus at work. They can see it in the way you refuse to compartmentalize your devotion to the Gospel.”

Read more about young people and the church in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, online this Friday at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

Kazakh Baptists fined for meeting
Authorities in Kazakhstan fined 18 Baptists this summer for participating in religious activity not authorized by the state, Baptist Press reports. The country’s Administration Code bans participation, leadership or financing of any unregistered religious community. Forum 18, a religious freedom organization based in Norway, reported three Baptists fined an two months’ average salary for leading the meetings, and 15 others were fine one month’s average salary for attending worship.

Kazakhstan’s Council of Baptists don’t seek state registration, maintaining that the country’s constitution and international human rights commitments forbid requiring government approval for worship. Read more at BPNews.net.

Doves offer something for everyone
The nominees for the 44th annual Dove Awards showcase Christian music’s diversity, from rock to hip-hop, Southern Gospel to praise & worship. “The Doves represent the best of the best – in all genres of Gospel music, celebrating talent, ministry and outstanding performances,” said Jackie Patillo, executive director of the Gospel Music Association. The Dove Awards will be presented Oct. 15 and broadcast Oct. 21 on the UP network. Worship leaders Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin each received nine nominations, and will vie for song of the year with “10,000 Reasons” and “Whom Shall I Fear,” respectively. Read the full list of nominees at DoveAwards.com.

NAMB offers online resources to encourage church leaders
With Pastor Appreciation Month coming in October, the North American Mission Board is providing churches with resources to encourage and support their leaders. NAMB is encouraging churches to pick one Sunday to lift up their pastors during a worship service. The web page NAMB.net/honoring_pastors offers posters and bulletin inserts with 50 practical, specific ways lay leaders can encourage their pastors and their families year-round. Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Lisa Sergent and Meredith Flynn

Exactly three months ago, the Illinois Senate passed the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act.” On February 14, the state seemed poised to become the tenth to legalize same-sex marriage. But today, the bill is still awaiting a vote on the Illinois House floor.

The hold-up could be due in part to the efforts of religious leaders and groups like the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), who have made known their opposition to the bill. IFI has organized recent rallies in front of the offices of state representatives, and a coalition of African-American pastors in the Chicago area are using automated phone calls to urge voters around the state to contact their local representatives and tell them to vote no. The calls are voiced by Rev. James Meeks, a former state representative and influential Chicago area pastor. In the calls he states, “In my view, same-sex marriage should not be the law of the state of Illinois.”

Reports in March and April indicated the bill was as many as 12 “yes” votes short. But Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s sponsor, told Chicago’s ABC News last week that proponents of same-sex marriage are “very close” to passing the legislation.  According to a Sunday Chicago Tribune editorial, “Harris needs 60 votes, and we’re told he’s a mere three to five short, with plenty of fence-sitters.”

Governor Pat Quinn has expressed his impatience with the House’s failure to vote on the bill. “It’s time to vote,” he said last week. “Illinois passing marriage equality in to law, I think, sends a great signal to the people of our state and the people of America. So it’s important to Illinois (that) the House of Representatives get going.”

The Illinois General Assembly’s session ends May 31.

Just last week, legislators in Rhode Island and Delaware voted to legalize same-sex marriage in their states, and yesterday, Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor Mark Dayton is expected to sign the bill into law today.

Other news:

Bill would change state’s abstinence-focused curriculum
A bill that would change sex education curriculum in Illinois is awaiting a vote by the Senate. Heather Steans, a Democratic Senator from Chicago, is sponsoring the bill that would replace the state’s abstinence-based model of sex-ed with curriculum that would also emphasize contraception and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. Opponents, including the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), say the legislation would subject young children to “graphic sexual information to which most parents would find highly objectionable and inappropriate.” According to an IFI press release, “If the ‘comprehensive’ sex education bill, HB 2675, is passed, it will establish a one-size-fits-all approach to sex education and remove local community control over choosing true ‘age- appropriate’ curriculum, another term used in the bill.” Read a Chicago Tribune story about the issue here, or visit the Illinois Family Institute’s website.

After guilty verdict, Gosnell could face death penalty
Notorious abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first degree murder Monday, and could face the death penalty. Gosnell, 72, was charged with ending the lives of babies born alive at his Philadelphia clinic. He also was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar. During the trial, pro-life advocates waged a “Tweet Fest” to raise awareness about the charges against Gosnell, which had gone unmentioned by most mainstream media outlets. Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Politics plays a role in pastors’ environmental views
Pastors’ views on the environment are largely linked to the political party they identify with, according to a new study by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found 43% agree with the statement, “I believe global warming is real and man made,” while 54% disagree. But the numbers are more extreme along political party lines: 76% of pastors that are Democrats strongly agree with the validity of man-made global warming, but only 7% of pastors identifying as Republicans express the same belief. Pastors also weighed in on whether their churches are actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint; read more at LifeWayResearch.com.

Barna study explores mass exodus of Millenials from the church
Barna’s extensive research on the Millenial generation has resulted in some alarming statistics, like the fact that 43% of church-going Millenials drop out of church sometime between high school and turning 30. The research also generated some interesting distinguishing characteristics of these “spiritually homeless youth.” Read about Barna’s three categories for Millenials who have left the church – nomads, prodigals, and exiles – at Barna.org.