Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Millenial's Voice and Concerns...

I don't often do this, but I was impressed by this message so, some words to the wise...

Sam Eaton on Why Millenials are Leaving the Church


Marshall Art said...

Just from a cursory reading, it's pretty much "me, me, me". I'll have to re-read it more closely to see if there's anything more of any real value. (Because I actually read links posted by others.)

Craig said...

After a cursory first reading I got the same impression. As our church is in the midst of having this very discussion I think it's a very interesting topic and one worth looking at. In this case, I didn't have time to differentiate between the author's personal opinions and what actual research might show. My initial read is that the author's position is that churches must redesign themselves to cater to millennials, this seems short sighted and to ignore other generational groupings. Personally it seems like church should be about integrating generations not separating them.

As time allows, I'll probably look at each of his points individually.

Craig said...

I find this a little ironic on a morning when a couple of my millennial friends are kicking off their second church plant.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the feeling that this author is saying that churches should cater exclusively to millennials. Rather, I get that he is saying that churches shouldn't be irrelevant to the world around them, and that is how churches tend to strike millenials. I think the research backs this up.

But clearly, this should extend beyond any one age group. If your organization seems irrelevant and pointless, then who would be interested?

On the flip side of things, I fully recognize that tastes are different, especially oftentimes from one generation to the next. On the rather simple and shallow side of things, consider music: Gregorian chants (which I love) may have been especially cool in 1100, but not as current and meaningful to some in the 1700s. Harps and pianos may appeal to some demographic and electric guitar and drums to another, and that's fine, there's nothing wrong with that.

But mainly, I think what I'm reading that concerns many (not just millenials, either) with church today is that they read Jesus' teachings and recognize his deep concern for hoarding wealth, for taking care of the poor, for simple living, for loving and gracious interactions between people... they recognize his antipathy and even anger towards the religious and civic powers that be when they oppress or are lacking in grace... and all that strikes many people as being deeply relevant and as current an issue today as it was 2000 years ago.

BUT, they don't see the church being about those things, rather, they see churches who are not involved in helping the poor or who appear to have antipathy towards the poor, even when maybe they do offer help... they see churches who appear to align themselves with the wealthy and powerful, not the poor and marginalized, and this strikes them as irrelevant and, as I have read just this week, very much a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

I think this is what the author is getting at: Not merely "appealing" to millenials, but not being irrelevant to the world at large. I think he is saying that millenials oftentimes don't have time or patience with such irrelevance, not that "please appeal to our little bitty tastes!" In fact, I would be willing to bet that if you asked him, he would find someone reading his words and extracting that meaning out of what he said to be part of the problem.

Just a guess, though, since obviously I can't speak for the author.


Craig said...

I'm not sure that your hunch squares with what the author wrote, but your hunch is clearly yours.

Again, just on a superficial first pass I see that his points revolve around:

8 of 12 points specifically regarding "We or us", and one additional point where the "we/us" is implied not stated.

Only one of the 12 that is explicitly focused on others, so I'm just pointing out what's obvious from a cursory first reading.

As I said, it's a conversation that's being had and so I'm intrigued by digging deeper into his list.

One problem I struggle with is his attempt to speak for an entire generation. I know for a fact that there are plenty in his generation who disagree with all or part of his theses.

I'll try to do some more in depth on each one individually, because I'm not sure generalization is particularly helpful.

Anonymous said...

I usually start from the place of giving people the benefit of the doubt. Clearly, this guy is speaking from a place of concern for others. He speaks quite clearly of concern for others of his generation, for the poor and marginalized. So, given he's a decent fella expressing some concerns, his raising concern for "us," those in his generation, why would I treat that as somehow selfish?

He's pointing to the reality that so many in his generation are leaving church. Why would we not listen to those concerns? Indeed, as he notes, "churches" refusing to listen to these concerns is part of the problem.


Anonymous said...

Put another way:

This essay is on Millenials, of which, he is one.

Given that, why WOULDN'T he speak of "us" and "we," that IS the point of the essay.

Additionally, the concern is not just about "we millenials," it is about the Church writ large, which he very much wants to love and be part of... and yet, the Church is making it difficult.

Why? He says why, and it's not a matter of the church not being "millenial-friendly." It's because the church has abandoned the clear and simple teaching of Jesus... Love God. Love people.

The church, he says, largely ignores the poor and marginalized.

These are questions that impact beyond just "we millenials," and gets to the church - the other group he is concerned about - not being relevant or true to its Lord's teachings.

In short, he is saying that the church could benefit from listening to Millenials because they are concerned about following Jesus by

Loving God
Loving others
Caring for the poor
NOT getting caught up in minor religious squabbles
Being sincere and transparent

What is there to disagree with in this? How is this NOT focused on others?

As to "speaking for an entire generation," well, you have a point. And given him the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure if you asked him about it, he'd be glad to clarify that, No, of course, Millenials do not speak with one monolithic voice. But he is pointing to the verifiable data that millenials HAVE/ARE leaving the church in record numbers. And even amongst those leaving the church, I'm sure he'd be glad to clarify that they do not speak with one voice. But these are SOME of the very real concerns that are out there.

Again, giving him a bit of grace that he almost certainly recognizes that he is not speaking for everyone, what is there to disagree with in this, in terms of general concerns?

Way to go Sam. Not everyone will pick apart everything you say or start from a point of judgementalism.


Craig said...

As I've pointed out several times, this is a conversation we're having currently at my church. So this is something real that is going to lead to real change, not simply a theoretical excercise. Given that, it seems reasonable to apply some judgment and examination of his points. Otherwise how can one distinguish the good from the bad.

At this point it seems that his generalizing about both millennials and the church aren't necessarily helpful, but his questions are worth asking and it's a discussion worth having.

It's interesting that you've turned my desire to interact with this article in detail and to discern good from bad into some sort of lack of grace or something negative.

Craig said...

"...what is there to disagree with in this, in terms of general concerns?"

I've been quite clear that I would like to spend some more in depth time with his specifics before I disagree with anything. I've been quite clear that, up to this point, I don't necessarily disagree with anything. I do however have some general concerns, which I've mentioned. I haven't actually formed any final conclusions about those concerns, because I haven't had time to dig deeper.

"...that IS the point of the essay."

I could be wrong, but it seems that the point of the piece is to highlight areas where "the church" needs to change in order to attract millennials. Since I didn't see anything in hos piece that addresses things that millenials might want to change , I'm fairly confident that the piece is aimed at "the church", not at millenials. So, while there may be some basis for his formulation, at this point, my concern that the focus is on the "we/us" (millenials) rather than on the "we/us" of the inter-generational church.

"Why would we not listen to those concerns?"

As I've pointed out elsewhere, I believe that those concerns should be listened to. My church is in the process of doing exactly that right now. But that doesn't mean they should be accepted uncritically or without scrutiny. It doesn't mean that there isn't some appropriate push back. It doesn't mean that judgment shouldn't be used to separate the "wheat from the chaff".

"Indeed, as he notes, "churches" refusing to listen to these concerns is part of the problem."

Again, our church (as well as others I am aware of) are actively having these conversations as we speak. So, while I'm quite sure that there are churches who are "refusing to listen to these concerns", there are also many who are actively seeking to enter this conversation.

"...why would I treat that as somehow selfish?"

One possibility would be that to focus on one generation to the detriment or exclusion of others would be a seemingly unhealthy approach. To be clear, I'm not saying that this is 100% what he's advocating, just that it's reasonable to be concerned and ask the questions.

"It's because the church has abandoned the clear and simple teaching of Jesus... Love God. Love people."

Really? "the church" has abandoned those teachings? Really? There are no churches, anywhere? That's quite the indictment.

BUT,(this is a concern, not anything else)this is the kind of statement that raises red flags and should be looked at in a more thorough way. Because from where I sit, I see a bunch of churches who embrace "love God, love people".

"What is there to disagree with in this? How is this NOT focused on others?"

I didn't say that I disagreed with anything, just that I wanted to look more closely and interact with each point individually. It concerns me that 8 of the 12 are blatantly focused on what "they" aren't doing for "us" (with one other implied) while only one of the 12 specifically addresses doing for others. Now, I expect that as I interact with each individual point, I will be able to be more specific and detailed. But, from the big picture view, I see things to look more closely at.

I apologize if I've repeated myself more than usual, but I want to be as clear as possible about what I have said, and what I haven't. I want to differentiate what I've actually said, from what you seem to think I've said.

If you can be patient and wait for more specifics, that'd be great. If not, that's your call as well.

Anonymous said...

Marshall began his comments here in response to Mr Eaton's comments by saying that it's all "me, me, me..." suggesting some selfishness in Mr Eaton's concerns. You agreed, saying, "After a cursory first reading I got the same impression..."

I responded by pointing out that he is part of the millenials and so, of course he is speaking of "we, us, we..." why wouldn't he? My point was that you read this and appear skeptical and critical on the face of it.

I read it and think, "the data does show that millenials are leaving the church and here is a young man raising some valid concerns..."

I didn't have to say, "But my church does do most of these things 'right...'" or consider it an attack. I recognize and honor and value his voice for the point he's making.

I think that is one thing that he is asking for, and it seems reasonable to me, regardless of the generation.

I'm glad that you didn't say you disagreed with anything, but my point is that your voice is harsh and skeptical, rather than open and gracious, or at least that is how such comments as yours and Marshall's come across to many.

(How is, "this is all about me, me, me" supposed to come across if not harsh and critical?)

Which is the point this fella is raising. I'm saying it's something worth considering. I'm truly glad to hear that your church is addressing this, I just hope you all do it (and am sure you will, in person) in a gracious and thoughtful manner.


Craig said...

I'd say that if staring my honest first impressions along with evidence to support my impression is harsh or whatever, then why not consider the possibility that my impression is correct?

I notice that you choose to focus on what you perceive to be the "harsh" aspects of my comments while ignoring the positive aspects and my intent to examine his claims more closely with an eye toward incoptjem into our church's process.

Finally, you're acting as if skepticism is automatically harsh and negative, when it's clearly not always so.

Anonymous said...

Again, how is "me, me, me" NOT harsh?

I love skepticism. I encourage it. But there's harsh and judgemental skepticism and there's reasonable and grace-full skepticism.

I take this man's point. He makes some good ones based upon the data. Does that mean that I think he thinks he speaks for all millenials? No, clearly he doesn't. There's no reason to suspect that. Grace.

Does that mean I think his sweeping condemnations of churches mean that all churches are that way? No, of course not. Clearly, he doesn't. There's no reason to suspect that. Grace.

Does that mean I think that he's saying that churches should tailor themselves around only millenials' needs? No.

I can be skeptical of the sweeping claims he makes, I can think that they are not universal and I can suspect that he almost certainly agrees. How can I be skeptical and suspect that he likely agrees with my skepticism? Grace. Reason. Knowledge of what others have said.

I hear young adults all the time making similar sweeping comments. And I know these people. I know they recognize the difference between "many" and "all."

When he (and other people I know personally) say things like "No one is listening to us..." I fully recognize that they don't mean literally no one. They mean that, in their experiences, in the many churches that they have dealt with personally, they have time and time again met people in those churches who did not want to really listen to them. If I push them on it, of course, they will say they don't mean "no one." They're speaking hyperbolically, meaning this, instead: "Millenials are leaving the church - as a point of fact - because, too often, they are being ignored, their opinions are not valued, their insight is considered inconsequential and even when they are listened to, it is done in a condescending and/or negatively judgemental manner..."

And this is an important and valuable point that they are sharing. Again, it is their experience. What is there to disagree with?

You can disagree with people's opinions and they are generally fine with that. No problem, you're welcome to your opinion! BUT, when you deny people's experiential reality, that gets you written off as condescending and not listening and not following in the steps of the loving and gracious Jesus they recognize in the Bible.


Craig said...

I only point out the fact that the actual language he used is overwhelmingly "we/us" language. If simply pointing out the obvious and expressing concern is harsh, then I guess reality is sometimes harsh.

I've been specific in pointing out the positive aspects as well as my early impressions of things that might (upon later examination) be negative.

Your continued focus on areas about which I've expressed concerns and on harshly characterizing my skepticism to the exclusion of everything else I've said is itself a concern.

You are free to characterize things in any way you wish, but isn't accurately characterizing things preferable to inaccurately?

As I have time I'll address his specific points individually, but see no positive outcome in continued efforts to correct your characterizations of my initial general reactions to the piece, supported by fact as they may be, are still initial and general.

Again if you want to exercise patience and wait for more substance and specific, or I can spend time making corrections to your characterizations here.

It is interesting that you've chosen the route of assigning sinister negative motives to me, while not extending the grace you talk about.

So, until I have time to tackle #1, I guess I'll leave you to it.

Marshall Art said...

"at least that is how such comments as yours and Marshall's come across to many."

Who is this "many"? Besides Craig and myself, as well as the other anonymous guy who I believe calls himself "Hiram", who else reads your stuff and only renders their opinions to you personally as opposed to submitting them here?

The fact is you want to demonize us (more so me than Craig I suspect), for fear we will once again open up your positions like a felled buck to find nothing much inside. We both have expressed that our initial impressions were based on a cursory read, as well as that we both intend to dig into the piece more deeply.

I will say this for myself: I have found with remarkable consistency that reasons for leaving the church, regardless of the age of the person, have less to do with the church than with what the person would prefer the church would be for personal reasons. It's very much like the parts of Scripture you write off when it fails to appeal to your personal preferences for what and who God should be. Yet with that said, I may find (though I doubt it) that the "concerns" of this youngster are not of the same cloth. We'll see. Unfortunately, I am not able to dive in as I would like and it will take some time as a result. Patience.

Craig said...


I don't doubt that many of the folks who leave do so for the reasons you mention. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be having the conversation about how best to reach this generation without compromising the gospel to make palatable.

The problem, of course, is how the conversation goes and if both sides can honestly evaluate the problems with their positions and be willing to actually work together, rather that to focus on themselves.

Marshall Art said...

No doubt, Craig. But having said conversation while pretending the reasons they put forth are legitimate is problematic. Unfortunately, there is really no other way to engage with such people without doing the dance. The question of greatest importance is "why does one go to church in the first place?" In such a discussion when the congregation of a former church of mine was asked such a question, the vast majority of responses had a decided "what's in it for me" tone. This millenial's piece does as least upon a quick reading. Again, time prevents me from studying it more in depth, but I'll get to it eventually.

As to the "helping people" aspect, since we are the church, it isn't up to the church to do anything, per se. It's up to each of us. So that even a particular congregation has no formal set up for charity, it is particularly nonsensical to whine that the church isn't doing enough, as if one cannot do anything on one's own if the church one attends doesn't lead the way. To say "the church" is to help the poor isn't the same as St. Bob's of the Big Steeple, but those of us who claim to follow Christ, as WE are the church. One can find a myriad ways outside one's local store front church or parish to find ways of being charitable.

So that addresses one of the points from the article making that excuse no more than a cheap excuse for sleeping in on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

IF someone has experienced church after church not listening to them,
THEN they have a legitimate gripe.

Are you prepared to say they don't?

IF someone has experienced churches that don't spend a good bit of effort and energy (significant effort, comparable to what they do for Bible study or church pews) working alongside with and on behalf of the poor, widowed, orphaned or marginalized of some sort,
THEN they have a legitimate gripe.

Are you prepared to say they don't?

IF someone has experienced churches that are content with doing music, church services, etc in the way they've been doing it for the last 50 years because they prefer it that way (ie, the primarily older folk prefer it that way) and are unwilling to consider newer music, traditions, practices, etc,
THEN that person has a legitimate gripe.

Are you prepared to say they don't?


Who is this "many"?

Ours is a church that has been called the Church of the Last Resort, as in, people were ready to give up on churches for many of the reasons cited by this fella (and more), but they heard positive things about us and decide to give church one last chance.

I've/We've heard these complaints before. Some of us have lived through these complaints and experienced them first hand. I'm not speaking of the "many" people here who have heard about what you're specifically saying, I'm speaking of this greater conversation, which I'm quite familiar with and have heard many times over the years.

People are looking for/anxious for a church that truly practices grace, God's grace in salvation and one another's grace in how we interact with each other.

When someone raises reasonable points and is met with "it's all about me, me, me..." that is just another interaction lacking in grace.

Seems to me and mine (and those with whom we've met and embraced).


Craig said...

Yes, I'm prepared to say they don't have a legitimate gripe for two reasons.

1. Those churches are out there, it might take a little effort to find them depending on where you are but they exist and they're looking for people like this.

2. I know plenty of people who've just gone ahead and planted a church. Again, it's happening all over the country and it might take some effort, but if someone is that passionate about what they think a church should be and they've got some like minded friends, then I say go for it.

Craig said...

Except no one has said "It's all about me,me,me.".

I've expressed concern, healthy skepticism, and a desire to dig deeper and sift through the positives and the negatives so I can introduce them into an ongoing dialogue at our church. If that is "lacking in grace", then I'm not sure you understand what grace is beyond it being a convenient way to bash those who don't blindly agree with you.

Anonymous said...

So, Paul should have just shut up about the churches he criticized?

And presumably, this fella is talking largely about people already not feeling connected to/mentoredby churches... These people should take it upon themselves to recreate churches in a better way? Perhaps, but it's not likely to happen.

What I think this guy is telling you,what I'm telling you is that we're hearing from people who love Jesus' teachings, but are unimpressed by the reality of churches. Those sort of people will/are just saying, "Well screw religion. I've got no use for it if that's what it makes people into. I'll just find my own spirituality."

So actually, they're doing just what you suggest: finding their own way. They're just abandoning the trappings of traditional religiosity to do it.


Craig said...

No, not at all. What I'm saying is that he has two options that don't involve suggesting/demanding that churches change to accommodate him. He can criticize all he wants ( interestingly, you defend uncritically his right to criticize while attacking Art and I for engaging in the same behavior ). But his ability to criticize doesn't mean he's right, certainly not always right. It also doesn't insulate him from criticism.

Also, not every church needs to be everything to everyone. Just because you or I or the writer don't think that certain churches are doing things "correctly", doesn't mean that they aren't exactly what that particular community of believers needs.

I'll repeat. The churches he claims to want exist, and if they don't exist then (if he's right) there is a significant number of people who will jump at the chance to be a part of a church plant based on his opinions.

The fact that he won't admit the first of those undeniable facts casts doubt on his credibility. The fact that he (apparently) hasn't pursued the second casts doubt on his passion and his desire to implement change instead of expect change from others.

I'm going to repeat this since you apparently can't get past your narrative that I'm just a big meanie with a severe grace deficit. My interaction with this article is intended to critically examine his points, praise what is positive and point out what is not. I'm sorry this concept seems to elude you or that your just so enamored with this piece that you can't accept that it could be better.

Marshall Art said...

"When someone raises reasonable points and is met with "it's all about me, me, me..." that is just another interaction lacking in grace."

So, those points are reasonable because you say they are? I've read the piece again, and more studiously, and I'm left finding my initial reaction validated. While I don't begrudge either you or Craig giving the guy more credit than I feel his whining deserves, I find it all a matter of improper focus by the author...on himself, rather than on God.

To put it another way, I'm reminded of JFK's famous quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you..." except with "country" replaced by "the church". Like most Democrats in relation to JFK's encouragement, this guy is thinking more about what the church can do for him. Evidently, as he elects to speak for his generation, it's typical of millenials as well.

Craig said...


I don't think it's a matter of giving him credit. I think it's more about the fact that the conversation has value and that our church is in the middle of that conversation. As I've gone through in more detail, I think my issue is more with his tone (Full of absolutes, "nobody" is doing..., "the church"..., somewhat self/millennial centered) and how he puts things rather than the content. For example, he keeps talking about how "the church" needs to do X,Y, or Z, then he points to a resource written by the pastor of a church who is doing what he thinks should be done.

You could excuse this as hyperbole, and maybe it is, but I can't believe that anyone seriously interested in a conversation would frame things is such as way. Clearly, all one needs to do is point out one church that is doing what he thinks should be done in order to falsify his entire piece. At this point, I'm choosing to chalk it up to a combination of youth, passion, and being too personally invested.

I agree with your JFK analogy, in that the only way to "solve" this is with effort from both "sides" and a willingness to work for the larger common good rather than in self interest.

Anonymous said...

You could excuse this as hyperbole, and maybe it is, but I can't believe that anyone seriously interested in a conversation would frame things is such as way.

Just personally (and in my extended faith community group) we regularly talk with people who are very interested in conversation who frame things this way.

Just fyi.

Craig, I don't disagree with some - maybe even a lot - of what you think about this fella's thoughts. His claims are not sweepingly true, some churches are doing some of what he thinks should be done, etc. (I would say that my church and those in our extended faith community would all be antidotal to what he's finding as problems, for instance). The difference between us, it seems to me, is that I gladly accept what he had to say without needing to critique it, at least here in this space. He makes some good points, seems to me.

I saw no reason to assume he was saying his points were universally true, it seemed clearly to be hyperbole to me, thus, I had no reason to even point it out. It's a tone-thing, then (much the same way that you found his "tone" to be a problem.)



Craig said...

Look, if you want to uncritically accept his voice and concerns as a way of showing grace that's fine. It's just strange how selective your grace is when it comes to other voices and concerns.

As someone who spends a considerable amount of time with millennials, I rarely ever hear this sweeping generalization tone that you find so attractive. That could mean that he doesn't really speak for as wide a swath of his generation as he thinks. It could also mean that it's a poor communication choice that might not help him get the response he wants or to have meaningful conversations on the topic. Usually, contradicting yourself isn't a good way to be taken seriously.

But, please engage in your selective grace and allow the areas where you disagree to go unchallenged if you think that's the best way.

Craig said...

One last response here. In saying that you think he makes some good points, the implication is that I don't. Unfortunately, I've been quite clear and specific about the good points he's made.

Perhaps it wouldn't hurt you to acknowledge that I have been pretty even handed and acknowledging the good points he's made. B

Anonymous said...

You'll note that I said I agree with much of what you've said and haven't complained about your opinions. No, I am not criticizing what you said. I'm criticizing your criticizing.

See the difference?


Craig said...

No, you're criticizing my voice and concerns, hence selective grace.

Anonymous said...

I'm criticizing your criticism of another person's voice, concern and opinion.


Craig said...

Yet you criticize me expressing my voice, opinion, and concerns. Not because I'm wrong, not even because you necessarily disagree, but because you'd rather selectively extend uncritical acceptance disguised as grace. You'd rather let him continue in error, than to provide feedback.

You act as if criticism is a bad thing.

Marshall Art said...

"I'm criticizing your criticism of another person's voice, concern and opinion."

And herein lies the problem of discourse with those like Dan. You infer negative intent on legitimate critique simply because it is not a completely accepting analysis. Very hard to promote understanding or to find common ground when one immediately suspects the worst about those who are not mere "Yes men".