I’m a Millennial, born sometime between 1980 and Y2K (the day when all the computers and the universe imploded), and my generation has a lot going for them.
Some call us the “Hopeful Generation” because few generations to ever walk the planet were more mission-minded and cause-oriented. I have friends who use vacation-time to serve in third-world countries, who won’t buy coffee from anywhere but direct-trade vendors, who run fundraiser 5Ks every weekend. I even have friends who’ve shaved their heads and cut their beautiful beards because they saw on Facebook a friend of a friend raising money for another friend with cancer (and that’s a big deal, because nothing gives you instant authority in life like a great beard or stache).
Some call us the “Relational Generation” because there’s never been one more connected. Sure, some people (including me) hate on the false-intimacy that social-media provides. Sure, some people need to be given read-only accounts to Twitter and Facebook based on the sheer number of selfies and “look-at-me” posts they publish hourly. But that doesn’t change the fact I communicate with loved ones across the country daily on my iPhone through e-mail, text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, and Facetime (sometimes I even use my phone to make calls too!).
Some call us the “Educated Generation,” as already our rate of receiving undergraduate degrees has surpassed all other generations. My generation thinks college degrees are sweet and a prerequisite to life-advancement. So even if we spend our college days doing everything but college work, we still think it’s important. That’s why we’re there on the 6-year plan.
Are you swooning yet? Because you had yearbooks. We have Facebook! You had K-Mart. We have Target (boom!). You had hula-hoops. We have X-Box. You had mass-media. We have personal media, a social platform where we can talk about how awesome we are (on our blog). And let’s not let the one word that shuts the whole “best generation” conversation down go unmentioned… Netflix. Need I say more? …Pandora! Oops, that slipped out.
Authentic community is the context in which we are to follow Jesus. The scriptures say it, the characters modeled it, and the early church established it.
Community wasn’t a doctrine for the early church, it was the environment. It wasn’t a part of life for a Christian, it was the way of life. It wasn’t just another thing, it was the reality in which they did everything. And really, the idea of following Jesus was unthinkable outside of authentic cross-shaped relationships.
But community and relationships seem to be an afterthought any more for churches. Today the idea of church has been developed under an entirely different guise. When people hear the word “church” they think buildings, denominations, and 60-minute services we check off our agenda until next time.
My generation, the millennials, are leaving “church” at record rates because they see it as an irrelevant institution that has failed to distinguish between right practices and right principles. They look at the church and see an institution that has placed a tremendous amount of weight on rituals and rules rather than relationships.
And that’s sad to me… because relationships mattered most to the early church. When you study the early church in the scriptures you see more of a dynamic and expanding network of messy but maturing love-relationships, and less of a formalized institution where everyone needed to show-up and get-in-line or get-out.
So here’s four things to ponder about the early church that might change the way you approach church today:
I’m a preacher, who’s young, that likes to rant about dating and marriage. So naturally, one of the most popular questions I hear from singles is, “How can I know if he/she is the one?”
“Tyler, we’ve been dating for a couple years, and she’s talking about rings and naming our first baby! How do I know she’s it?”
“I have a track-record for choosing duds. I used to say all guys were alike, but then I looked back at my last five relationships and noticed that the common denominator was… ummm, me. So I’ve finally chose a guy who seems like he’s good. How can I be sure he’s the real deal?”
“I’m 27 and already divorced. It was the worst thing ever. How can I know that won’t happen again? How do I know she’s the one?”
This is a tough question, to say the least, but it’s a good one. One I think everyone should ask that respects God’s institution of marriage. And it requires a conversation larger than this blog because each couple and situation is different. But allow me to offer one piece of advice that’ll start the conversation for you.
Since history can remember, women have been treated as less than human.
It wouldn’t take much time skimming ancient and recent history to see this. Today, in countries around the globe women are pushed around as weaker or peddled as property. Even in our “enlightened” nation women have to fight for their place at the proverbial table of honor, respect, and opportunity.
Notably, in the realm of sexual relationships, American men are taught to view women as objects rather than as people: the way women are joked about in cubicles at work, talked about in dorms like dating is a race to third base, sung about in popular music, depicted in mass media, divorced as if it was nothing more than a legal process. It’s all kind of sad really.
Do you know what you do with an object? You objectify it.
You know your mother and I love you right? Right? We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love you… You might want to sit down for this… because this. is. an. INTERVENTION. We think you’re having a Pre-Life Crisis.
Let me explain. Just about every young-adult experiences an identity crisis.
(Or, for the sake of good branding, a “Pre-Life Crisis.” Not to be confused with the more popular but less cool “Mid-Life Crisis.” Nor your irreversible post-mortem destiny called the “Post-Life Crisis” – also known as heaven and hell.)
Sooner or later, at some point in our young lives, we get to this magical moment between dependence and independence where we decide that “I just have to figure life out for me!” Since the day we were born, our values, beliefs, and worldview have been determined by the roof we live under and the town we live in. But as we grow toward adulthood we begin to establish our independence. “I don’t care what mom says. Or dad. I don’t care what the church has told me. I don’t even care what the law says, Mr. Officer. Common sense, move over! For my entire life, I’ve been told who I am. And now, I need to make sure that’s who I really am.”
I don’t know when this happened for you, I just know it did. Maybe it was your senior year when you became old enough to smoke a pack while rocking the vote. Maybe it was your first week in college when you tested waters that would’ve earned you a life-sentence for even mentioning at home. Maybe it was when you started dating a guy or you met a professor who challenged the way you thought about life. Or maybe it was when you graduated and everything got real, like fast. I don’t know when the magic moment was for you, but we all went through it.