They are. When it comes to key foundations of the faith that have been held for decades- and centuries-long, Millennials view them differently than the last 3-4 generations. Here are 3 that stand out:
Whether or not Millennials are part of a cyclical pattern of global missions ebbing and flowing, or they represent a distinct change from the practices of the last couple-hundred years, how they communicate and scale their faith may be shifting from global to local. A few factors play into this.
The first is the idea of "missional" versus "missions." For a Millennial, missional represents localized change-agency, a much more visible, tangible, and personal enactment of faith. Outside of the church, too, Millennials have grown up hearing phrases like "local-to-global," "think globally, act locally," and "global citizen." These ideas come with sub-ideas: "here" and "there," no longer hold the same distinction, local solutions to global challenges are held of higher value than seemingly global solutions to local challenges, etc. Additionally, global missions to specifically evangelize will probably shift to more community development and social justice work abroad.
The second is that engagement for Millennials is more intercultural than geographic. Social media and the internet can be thanked for this. Also urbanization and global connectivity, where the world is less of a homogeneous place. For Millennials the world is as much at their doorsteps as it is internationally, so the notion of having to go somewhere else to communicate their faith is less necessary. This will probably apply even more to Generation Z, which will be more locally-tied than any generation the last 100 years.
The end of times and what happens after has been a huge backdrop of church theology, activity, and service. From hymns to missions, Christ's return and subsequent judgment has been a rallying cry of why it's important to engage and evangelize. Not so for Millennials.
In fact, I've met few Millennials who think very much of eschatology, heaven, end times, or eternal life. Not that these are topics they're not aware of or that don't have importance - they just aren't of emphasis.
The idea of "the Kingdom of God is at hand," is. Right or wrong, the social justice bent of Millennials seeks desperately to see the beauty and creativity and justice and perfection of God visible in the world today. This drives them in the same way that heaven and end times have previous generations.
Every month, a small group of Millennials and "senior" Millennials get together in Tucson to talk about how the generations differ and are similar in their views on key issues of faith, church, and culture. We recently came to an interesting conclusion: prayer as spiritual warfare is a concept that is very foreign to Millennials. This is not to say that Millennials don't have a prayer life - that would be incorrect. For Millennials, prayer is less of a weapon and more of an intimate, relational experience aimed at connecting divinely to ascertain their personal calling and path forward.
This reflects larger trends of Millennial engagement with their faith - they've grown up with a reflex against a Christianity that uses "battle-cry" language and desperately desire reconciliation, unity, and faithfulness in motion. Perhaps it also points to the individualization of faith that Millennials are crafting.
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Do these trends show up in your church? Do you agree or disagree? Comment below.
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