I’m a millennial, and yes, you’re right about me… I only went to church for the free coffee.
I grew up in a church where bringing a cup of coffee into the sanctuary was unheard of. Forget about a worship band, it was a piano and a hymnal. Millennials left this church as soon as they were old enough to escape their parents grasp, myself included. I got a bad taste for church. If church was like this, I didn’t want to be a part of it. We were constantly taught about the do’s and don’ts of Christianity, without ever being offered help with the struggles and temptations we were facing. Many of us could quote the Bible better than the pastor, but we were taught to live a perfect Christian life without ever experiencing the grace, mercy, and love of God.
We were criticized and told we were wrong for wanting to do anything that remotely resembled pop culture, but never with an explanation of why except for the fact that, “It’s just wrong. Anything the world does is wrong.” The church was stuck in the way things had always been done, and new ideas were almost always considered wrong because “God doesn’t change, why should we?” And that’s true. God doesn’t change, but culture does. And whether you agree with me or not, culture can help reach a broken generation.
Let me try to give an example.
When I was in high school, attending one of the churches like I described above, I went to a concert. It was a Christian rock band concert. I knew that many people in my church would think very negatively of me if word got out that I attended this concert because if you heard one of their songs on the radio, it doesn’t necessarily scream “Christian” at you. So, I did my best to keep it a secret. Well, we live in a day where the world can know what you’re doing at the touch of a button…. I got tagged in a facebook post… And it all went downhill from there.
The news quickly spread over the whole church. The youth pastor wouldn’t talk to me for three months. My friends’ parents told them they weren’t allowed to speak or associate with me because I was a “bad influence”. I felt alone in the one place no one should ever feel alone.
Before I continue, please understand that my dad and I have a great relationship, and his opinion on certain issues has since changed. And there are still many issues in which we may disagree, but he doesn’t pass judgement. We are able to discuss our differences openly, and he’s a great, loving father. Ok… back to the story…
My dad called me the night after the concert. First words, “I googled that band.” Oh, crap, I thought. He went on to talk about specific songs, and read comments people had left on YouTube videos like, “I can’t believe this is Christian, this band is awesome” (only there were a few choice cuss words thrown in there), and He continued with a few more comments like it. He told me, “I can’t believe a Christian would listen to such things!” My response:
“Dad, isn’t that the point!? Yes, the music isn’t blatantly Christian, but it also isn’t promoting anything bad. Do you know how many unsaved people were at that concert!? Do you know how many people heard the gospel last night because this band is bold enough to break the mold of typical Christian music! He was quoting scripture between every song and explaining the lyrics to teenagers and young adults who are broken, depressed, who don’t have a mom or dad or someone who loves them…. He was telling them about a God who does.” Alright, so my argument didn’t sound that good at the time because I was terrified of discussing such things with my dad back then, but that’s the point I tried to make.
You see, millennials aren’t about playing church. We’re past that. We’ve seen people do it. A lot of us were raised doing it. We want real change. We don’t care about breaking traditions to reach those who are hurting. We don’t see the point in wasting any more of our time or money on a fancy church building, when we can stay home and listen to Judah Smith and some Bethel Music online. We want to give our time and money to something that has a purpose. Something that sparks real change in someone’s life, something that we can see manifest before our very eyes.
We want to be a part of something real, a part of a church that isn’t just a church on Sundays.
We’re tired of the church world. Tired of making people feel like they should be perfect before they can step through those doors. We’re tired of not talking about real issues that we are struggling with because it makes people uncomfortable. We want to experience change for ourselves and then help others experience change. We don’t want to be a part of a church that is not pushing limits because they’re too afraid of making people uncomfortable or afraid of losing tradition in the process. If the local church isn’t willing to change to reach the lost, why would we want to be a part of it?
So why did I go back to church after having such a strong distaste for anything remotely pertaining to religion!? Because I had a friend tell me that her church had free coffee and cool music…. But I stayed because I met real people who were hungry for the presence of God and weren’t afraid to live dangerously and boldly for him. I stayed because church wasn’t just happening at church! I stayed because I encountered a God that was gracious and merciful, a God that loved me… which was much different than the God I knew in my childhood.
So, take it from a millennial who only came for the free coffee… WHO CARES? Just make sure you’re giving people a reason to stay.
Sometimes people may only see Jesus through you!