3 Musing about Millenials

If you were born before 1978 I am writing to you. Millennials are classified as people who were born after 1980, or as people who became adults in the new millennium. So I’m giving you a two year buffer to classify people you don’t like or who just don’t quite make it…  because I’m a millennial and I’m right.  We like to classify people in America. We label and tag people for the purpose of better understanding. However, there has never been a more widely applied generational label than, “Millennial.” Seriously, it is the single most overused generational label! It is used by generations before 1980 to describe essentially EVERYONE they don’t understand! Before my generation, we tried a variety of generational labels (baby-boomers, yuppies, workers, gen-x, etc). Usually those labels cover a 10-15 year period. But then I was born and broke the system! Lol. No…. sociologists just got lazy.

Now Millennials are either the worst or the greatest, the most misunderstood or the least complex, the most diverse or the least willing to unify. It really depends on whom you speak with as to what we are. I’m a millennial… so by default I’m amazing (or that’s what I’m told I think of myself)… that’s my authority in this post. I am what you are trying to classify. And while it irks me that you lump me in with the current class of 18 year-olds, I’m willing to take the label if it makes you more comfortable. So, please, don’t write me off.

Here are three things I’ve noticed are different about Millennials.

  1. Time does not heal our wounds, it reminds us not to go through the same trouble again. I’ve been offended by people in the past and one common refrain shows up over and over from the generations pre-1978. “Give it time and you’ll be able to be friends. Time heals wounds.” This is not true for millennials. You see, we watched as our parents did this and we saw the false nature of this kind of relationship. We saw you smile when people passed you in hallways and then watched as you made passive aggressive comments that you may or may not have noticed. So, we vowed never to be like that. We marked those actions out in our minds as unhappy hypocrisy, right or wrong… it’s what we did. We seek authenticity. This is why my generation is so bad at politics and why so many of us love it when an old foolish man simply says what he believes (right or left). We trust what you tell us and when you break that trust, we walk away. Don’t get me wrong… we forgive, but we don’t come back for a second helping and unless there is some resolution and even contrition, indeed, often we won’t come back at all.
  2. We don’t care as much as you think we do about “belonging.” This seems to be the marketing push from the older generations. “We have a place for you!” Images of chairs and coffee bars are thrust upon us. Pictures of groups of people smiling and laughing together are appealing, but not for the reasons you think. You may have a place for us, but what if your place stinks? Millennials don’t simply want to belong, we want to matter. More than that, we want to be around authentic community that matters. We imagine those people are laughing because they are fulfilled in their purpose in life and as a result they are finding happiness. This is not new. You want to matter as well. The difference is that we don’t think of impact as something that is done through a career or a life-choice. We think of impact in terms of moments. Millennials will take a job that they don’t necessarily like if it frees them up to make moments count somewhere else. Why do you think we revert to anecdotal evidence whenever we try to prove a point? We are the only generation that responds to the question, “what do you do?” with answers that do not include our job and almost always launch into a story about something we think is important. In short, our self-identity is not wrapped up on what we do for a living or even what our hobbies are. Our self-identity is wrapped up in where we believe we are impacting the world around us. This is why we will quit jobs that are perfectly stable to chase dreams that are nowhere near stable.
  3. All categorizations of Millennials are false! (including what I just wrote) You are dealing with too great a subset of humanity. Basically, the term Millennial is used to describe 20+ years of people who live in various cultures with few common denominators. During those years, the internet has become common place, cell-phones were made available to everyone, and personal computers became common-place and even portable. Not to mention advances in education, medicine, and entertainment. Ohhhh don’t get started on entertainment… just look at music: Hair-bands came and went and are now resurfacing, rap became hip-hop became pop and back around again, Punk-rock became grunge became alternative became #whateverthey’recallingitnow, music became bad, and the pound sign became the number sign became hashtag (dumb). Add to that the infusion of multiple cultural variables and influences made available in this digital age and you have a control group that spans the globe. Any good scientist would tell you your sample size is too great. So, toss it. Instead of dealing with my generation like a category, deal with us like people. Figure out how the individual ticks and do the hard work of relationships. Stop dismissing us because you don’t understand “our generation.” No… you can understand us just fine. You’re just lazy and don’t want to take the time. So, no more blogs like this one ok? Stop reading the categories and start doing the work of knowing people. I promise you’ll have more meaningful relationships as a result and you might just find you like some of my “generation.”

Thanks… that is all.

 

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49 People: Reflections on Orlando

4949 people. There is a debate raging in our country about how we should respond to acts of senseless violence. 49 people. Some argue that we should take away guns (at least certain types), and they raise interesting points. 49 people. Some argue we should relax freedoms on guns so that someone could have stopped the violence, they also have interesting points. 49 people. Some argue that we should crack down on terrorism as we did in the wake of 9/11 and in the Japanese internment camps. 49 people. Some say this is judgement on a group of people because of their lifestyle. 49 people. Some say that this is judgement on our nation for its blatant disregard for God. 49 people. Some cynically point out that we don’t care about the countless shootings perpetuated by the Boko Haram so we have no business talking about this shooting. 49 people.

49 people lost their lives because of a senseless act of hatred and violence. 49 people in desperate need of a savior who could give them life the same way He has me. 49 people who were simply living this life. 49 people with whom you and I will never get to share the love of Christ. 49 people whose families now have to cope with the loss of their loved ones. 49 people.

The 49 people who lost their lives are no different than you or I. They had families, friends, jobs, and enjoyed life. They are not better or worse than you and I. The Bible is clear about that. It lumps murderers together with those who are disobedient to parents (Romans 1:29-30), and it states that there is NO ONE who is righteous (Romans 3:10-20). For those who would cite their sexual orientation, please remember… 49 PEOPLE. They were people, just like you and I. Apart from Jesus Christ, your lifestyle is no less reprehensible to a perfectly Holy God. This reckless hatred that was poured out on them is evil. It is not justifiable, and it is not appropriate nor right to excuse it because of religious ideology. It was an egregious evil.

As I ponder the death of 49 people I find myself returning to this text:

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

  • Habakkuk 1:2-4

Our world is filled with violence and wickedness. Many of our churches remain impotent and self-indulgent, becoming consumed with various political ideologies instead of preaching and living out the Gospel. Our world is not far from the wickedness that was rampant in Habakkuk’s day. Wickedness and death reigned. The unjust ruled, and the righteous were cursed and trampled. Yet, the Lord’s answer to Habakkuk is profoundly simple: justice will come at the end. As the Lord explains to Habakkuk what is going to happen to the wicked, Habakkuk is forced to worship. He concludes his book with a recognition that God is absolutely terrifying and yet incredibly merciful.

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

  • Habakkuk 3:16-19

In the wake of wickedness and evil, be like Habakkuk. Call upon the Lord to return and exact justice. Love those who are dying. And place your hope only in the Lord.

Oh Lord, come quickly and end the wickedness. Oh Lord, be merciful to us, for we are all wicked. Oh Lord, forgive, redeem, and re-create us. Oh Lord, come quickly.

 

From “You” to “We.” Communal Language

dda86-bible-on-a-pulpitIn an effort to apply scriptural text to our congregation, pastors will occasionally attempt command application to the congregant in a sermon, such as “You need to X,” or “You need to stop X.” Before reading any further, let’s be clear: there is a time when application is to be directly commanded and it is even at times when it is commanded in Scripture. When counseling with someone or dealing with specific confrontation, it is sometimes necessary to read the Scripture and say: “look at what it says! Now stop doing what you are doing.” Direct command application is appropriate in one on one and in small group settings. However it often falls flat when we attempt to utilize command application from the pulpit. It is with the best of intentions that we labor to establish proper and helpful application in our sermons and devotions. We identify problems and specific errors and sins and try to address them with the congregation. It often follows a pattern like this:

Pastor identifies a direct and relatively obvious application

Pastor states specific sin

Pastor says “you need to stop this sin”

Congregation leaves and goes on about daily life.

Pastor is confused why this does not work.

Why is it often ineffective to proclaim direct command application from the pulpit? Why do people reject these efforts at moral instruction? I believe there are many reasons that our preaching may prove ineffective in the area of application. The sermons may be detached and distant from the congregation. They may lack “unction” as Leonard Ravenhill explains in Why Revival Terries. They may be poorly presented and poorly worked. In truth, we may just be bad preachers. However, in an effort to improve our ability to communicate truth, I believe we should begin to think of sermons less as a presentation and more of a journey. The preacher is not standing behind the pulpit to engage in simple instruction. The preacher stands behind a pulpit to lead people through the Word of God to the life of God.

If we are taking our congregations on a journey we should strive to go with them. Our language must reflect a journey. Think for a moment if you were hiking with a guide and the guide began to say things like, “First, you’re going to climb up this hill. Then you’re going to have to be extremely careful as you navigate narrow rock path on the side of the cliff. Finally, you need to keep alert for signs to know where to go!” The guide may be a great guide, but his language and instructions lead one to believe he is not actually walking with the group. He is instructing the group how to walk as if he is on one end of a walky-talky.

Now consider the same guide saying, “first we are going to climb this hill. Let’s be careful and watch out for each other as we navigate this narrow rock path. Now, come this way! See the sign? We need to follow it!” Now the guide is leading people on a journey. It is the same when we attempt to lead people to God in Scripture. Our language must reflect the journey.

So, I propose we change our application language from, “you” to, “we.”

I believe there will be a few benefits to moving our language to “we.”

  1. Identifying ourselves as part of the congregation provides a naturally disarming comfort for those who may be struggling. It is always easier to admit error and press forward towards righteousness when we feel like others are doing it together.
  2. Spreading out application into a more general form allows the congregation the benefit of self-introspection. When someone is speaking directly to us, we are naturally defensive.
  3. Changing application to we, forces us to be vulnerable and relatable.

Guest Post: The First Sermon Andrew Remembers

b7a26-bible-on-a-pulpitWhen I was younger, my memory was great. I could remember shows, songs, books, events, and random information better than just about anyone I knew. In some ways this often does still happen. Some random facts come out of my brain at the oddest times. I also seem to remember bits of sporting news whenever I need, or want, to. In the last few years, though, my mind has slipped. While I am still fairly young, 28, stress, age (ha!), and health issues have taken their toll on my memory. One thing that I am ashamed to say, is that sermons, over my entire life, have never really stayed in my memory the way I wish they would.

I have gone to church since I was a young child. In fact, my earliest church memories are of riding to church in a booster seat and then going into the nursery, and I have very rarely missed a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. Yet, few sermons stick out greatly in my mind. In fact, only pastors themselves stick out in my. The first pastor that sticks in my mind is Charlie Westbrook.

Brother Charlie was the pastor of FBC Fairview Heights Illinois when my family moved to Belleville Illinois shortly after Christmas my third grade year of school. It was right around this time I gave my life to Christ and was baptized. It was also during our time there that my father surrendered to a call to the ministry, but that is a story for another day.

I am not certain how much time passed between our joining the church and the first sermon I remembered, but it was sometime between third and sixth grade for me. I know this because I was still sitting with my parents during the service. A few specific things do stick out about both Charlie and the church. Charlie was one of the most serious and passionate men that I have ever met. He was always very focused, intentional, and serious. His sermons were always very passionate and evangelistic. Each week the church would prepare a fancy bulletin and fill-in-the-blank sermon notes page to help the congregation follow along with Brother Charlie’s sermon.

Typically I simply attempted to either make my own origami shapes or drew pictures during the sermon. That particular week, however, I paid attention to the sermon. Sitting next to my father, I followed along with all of the notes and listened intently to Brother Charlie’s impassioned sermon. Still, it is funny, I don’t remember the entire sermon. I don’t remember if Charlie went through the entire book of Philippians or if he was even going through all of chapter 1. What sticks out was simply one part of the sermon. It is especially the sermon notes that stick out in my mind. The final note, the focus and most important point of Brother Charlie’s sermon, looked like this:

To live is ______________ and to die is _______________.

I remember filling it out and my dad giving me a nod and smile of approval as he marked it for emphasis. Brother Charlie then went on to explain just exactly what this means. I know that this was certainly not the first time I heard this verse in my life, and it probably was not the first time it was explained to me, but this is the first time I remember hearing and understanding that we must give all of ourselves for Christ.

What really sticks out to me from this is that Charlie simply and clearly stuck with the scriptures. He left me, a roughly ten or eleven year old boy previously uninterested in listening, with the scripture on my mind. Allegories, similes, metaphors, and personal stories are nice and can help explain things, but none of them have the depth or staying power, or power in general, of scripture. We must always aim to leave those we teach with scripture. If anything that I add or use takes focus away from the scripture, it is a problem. I am forever grateful to Brother Charlie Westbrook for leaving me with this memory and, most importantly, this verse.