My response to a Millennial

MillennialDear Jonathan,

I read your letter to the church, and while I am not a Millennial, I personally share many of the same preferences espoused by you in your letter; I too often long for the liturgy and music of prior generations. Many of the criticisms you raised really have merit and they are things that we should prayerfully consider. That being said, I want to share with you some of the reasons why I believe that any church that responds to your letter by making any of the changes you suggest, would be making just as big a mistake as the churches a generation ago did when they abandoned these very same things in favor of everything that they were told would attract the next generation to their churches. While nothing you have suggested is bad, and some is even necessary, our change should always be motivated out of a desire to conform the church to the call of Christ that is communicated to us in his word. We should never seek to change in response to the call of anyone telling us what their generation desires.

More importantly, what your “Dear church” letter, like so many before it, communicates is a complete misunderstanding about what the church truly is. To the believer in Christ, the church is NEVER “them,” it is ALWAYS “us!” And if the church has failed, it is WE who have failed. The church should never be seeking to conform itself to the desires of any one group, it must always be seeking to conform itself to Christ, who is its head. The church isn’t here to capitulate to the desires of any generation, nor do the failings of the church rest on the shoulders of any single generation. Anyone, from any generation, who wants to place blame for the failures of the church on those from another generation doesn’t understand the church at all. Please, instead of writing another letter to church explaining what the church must do in order to attract those from your generation, please start asking how you, as part of the body of Christ, can strive to be Christ to every generation!

As for your questions, I am very sorry than many of the tough questions that you have asked have been too often ignored, please don’t stop asking! I understand because I too have many questions, and while I have found answers to many of them, often those answers prompt many new questions and so I too am still asking. Here are some things I have discovered as I have sought answers. First, God has not created us all with the same curiosity, nor has he given us all the same gifts. Many will not be able to provide adequate answers to life’s deepest questions because that is not how God has gifted them. Seek answers from those, who share the same God given curiosity and desire for answers that God has placed on your heart. Second, take the time to really read the works of the great theologians of ages past. You will quickly find that there have been many godly men throughout history that have also struggled with many of the very same questions you that you struggle with, and often they have discovered some really good and thoughtful answers through their struggles. Third, recognize that many who claim not to have found answers to their questions, really have had no interest in seeking those answers. While some really do struggle to find answers to questions that nag at them, many use the claim of “unanswered questions” only as an excuse for not following God. The difference is that those who are truly looking for answers quickly engage when there is hope that some of their questions may be answered, but those who only want an excuse become immediately disinterested when any answers are offered. Learn to recognize the difference between the honest seeker of truth, and “intellectual” rebel who has no interest in the truth. Last, but most important, invest your heart into the study of God’s word because the ultimate answers to life’s questions lie within its pages. It often takes time, prayer, and hard work to discover them, but I am convinced that you will find that it is always well worth the effort.

In closing, I would like to share with you my very favorite “letter to the church.” It is a prayer that was prayed by the prophet Daniel, a man whose life exemplified godliness. Notice that when Daniel speaks of how God’s people have fallen short, he always includes himself (count and see how many times Daniel says “we/our/us” in this passage), and notice how often he holds himself (as one of God’s people) accountable to obeying God’s word. Daniel’s desire is to see God’s people conformed to God. Not once does he ever suggest that God’s people should conform to the desires of any man (or generation). Let’s take a look at his prayer, I really believe it is the model we should follow as we seek to encourage the church (which includes all followers of Christ) to change:

“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Dan. 9:4-19 ESV)

May God bless you,

Mike Tisdell

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