Over My Dead Body: How to Stop Millennials from Straying from the Church

the bible trending

Trending Topic: #JustinBieber

Justin Bieber. What a way to start a blog! Never fear. We won’t discuss the pop singer in any depth. But he’s a good illustration of what I want to say…

The singer of my own generation was trending this week. No surprise, he’s always trending—mostly for bad reasons. A little while ago it was actually a good thing—he said that he wanted to “honestly live like Jesus.” However, his definition of “living like Jesus” must be different from the Biblical definition because not a few weeks later (this past week) he was trending because inappropriate photos surfaced of him relaxing on vacation in a Caribbean island with a girlfriend who’s a model. I wish I had never even heard of such vile, worldly information—but alas, in my search for a trending topic to discuss on my blog, I encountered the story. Shudder!

Don’t think I’m turning this into a celebrity gossip site. I cite that story to illustrate my broader point. Think about Justin Bieber’s life story (but not too for too long). Apparently, he grew up with at least a Christian mother. Perhaps he even went to church in Canada. But something happened along the way. And now, his attendance at church and his Christian actions in general are as sagging as his pants. Why? Well, I can’t read his mind (and don’t really want to), but I may suggest one cause. One factor that may have led to Justin’s “fall” from Christianity.

Justin was mentored by a worldly mentor. After some initial YouTube success, he was taken under the wing of a famous fellow singer who mentored the young boy…and drew him into a world so evil that it choked the life out of whatever Christian beliefs he had.

I wonder what would have happened if Justin had had a similar mentor—but one that came from a Christian background. Someone from perhaps a church in Canada—a youth pastor, a godly older man or college student, who took him under his wing to teach him Scriptural principles. What would’ve been Justin’s story if he was mentored by a Christian instead of a celebrity?

Justin’s story has become too many millennials’ stories. I’ve heard—and even seen—it happen over and over again in our churches. A young man or woman goes off to college and goes off the deep end. They abandon the church for a fraternity or faithless friends who seem so much “cooler” or “caring” than any of the Christians they know. They term all church-goers as “hypocrites” and engage in all the hype of hipster culture. They leave parents and pastors with broken hearts, wondering what caused these seemingly “perfect” kids to stray from the faith.

I can tell you one big reason. As a millennial, I feel very strongly that one of the key reasons my generation is leaving the church is because of a lack of godly mentors. I feel so strongly about this fact that I wrote a whole three-month long blog series about it entitled “Mentoring Millennials.” I won’t rehash all the stuff I hammered away there, but I think the subject is so crucial to our current Christian climate that it deserves a second reading. It deserves the attention of every member of the older generation. It’s become one of my all-compelling passions in life…

In fact, I feel so compelled by this topic that I want this verse to define my life: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Phil. 2:17). This is Paul (no surprise) writing to the Philippians while in prison. And he says he cares so much for their spiritual well-being that he will be willing to be “poured out” like a drink offering in order to see them saved and continuing in their faith. He wanted to mentor these people with the intensity of a professional sports player—he wanted to “leave it all out on the field.” Give up all in order to see people saved and matured.

Or, to put his words another way, he wanted them to leave the faith only “over my dead body.” That’s the mentor’s call. If young people are going to leave the church, let them! But in order to do so, they should have to run over a dedicated mentor who they know loves them and has invested countless hours into their spiritual life. No, you shouldn’t physically bar the doors of the church (fire hazard!). But as an analogy, be the door that a millennial has to push through to leave the church. Force them to shoot you down to get out. If they stray from the faith, let them have to not only abandon their parents, their church, and their childhood…but also abandon a dedicated and loving mentor.

People WILL stray from the faith. That we cannot help. People left the Philippian church—Paul is perhaps writing about such people in Philippians 3:18-19. And Paul wept over them! He did all he could to keep people like Demas from loving the world and leaving the worship of God. We can’t help it. But if young people are going to leave the church, let it be over our “dead bodies.” Let our lives be so invested into them with spiritual wisdom and quality time and godly advice and Scriptural principles and Spirit-led living…so that when they leave, they have to rip out part of their lives out in the process! And even, rip out part of ours…

It’s hard. But it’s worth it. Souls are worth it!

Ministry is not about preaching in front of thousands, being a well-known Christian blogger or evangelist, having the leadership positions. All these things aren’t necessarily bad—in fact, the Bible commands us to preach the Word in a church context. But no doubt Justin heard many sermons in his lifetime. And he still walked away. But did he have a one-on-one mentor?

It took me three long years, but I think God has finally drilled it into me. A lot more ministry happens over a cup of coffee in one-on-one conversations than happens from the church pulpit.

Ministry is about people, not positions.

Ministry is about people—and yes, people are messy! Especially immature millennials—like myself! But don’t let that intimidate you. The threat of rejection and the messiness of humanity didn’t stop Christ from stepping into our mess—and dying for it! So let’s step into the lives of those around us and INVEST. Mentor. Be the person in a young person’s life that stands between them and the world and shouts, “Christ is better!”

Maybe then we can avoid more millennials becoming like Justin Bieber.

-M@

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