Men like me who are over fifty are often baffled by the demographic shift in mindset represented by the Millennial Generation. (According to Pew Research Center, millennials, sometimes called Generation Y, include people born between 1980–2000.)
Millennials are known for challenging the status quo and resisting structure. In some ways this is good. But in many ways, for us “baby boomers,” we see these challenges as coming from an unearned platform. Older generations appreciate the Marine’s title: “Earned never given.”
Millennials are the first generation to grow up with a computer in their homes. (According to recent research, 97 percent own a computer.) As such, millennials are the first generation whose values are formed by the Internet. This gives millennials an edge on harnessing the potential to use technology to spread truth. It also represents a tremendous cultural shift. A further shift is seen in a study conducted by the University of Michigan, “Monitoring the Future,” which reported that only 35 percent of millennials find it necessary to develop a meaningful philosophy of life, compared to 73 percent of boomers.
The millennial generation often fits perfectly into the Laodicean church age. The word Laodicea means “the people’s rights”—a perfect description of a generation that is self-focused. Author Jean M. Twenge in the book Generation Me lists three general characteristics of millennials: confidence, entitlement, and narcissism.
To be sure, every generation since Adam has had its flaws. We baby boomers have had more than our fair share of failures!
But in every generation, there will be spiritual, ministry-minded leaders as well as fleshly, divisive leaders. The difference will depend on those who humbly seek to walk in the Spirit and those who do not.
I know many godly pastors who are millennials, and I’m privileged to serve with many millennials on our church staff who are godly, Spirit-filled men and women of God. I appreciate their unique perspectives and their perceptive eye for authenticity.
What are the characteristics of ministry-minded millennials?
1. Ministry-minded millennials walk in the Spirit. They guard their spirit from anger and contention. They deny the flesh and walk in the Spirit. Invariably, this will result in peace and joy.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.— Galatians 5:25
2. Ministry-minded millennials walk in humility. Every generation has to battle pride. Consciously choose to walk in humility toward fellow team members and laborers.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.— 1 Peter 5:5
3. Ministry-minded millennials appreciate the contributions of others. Don’t dismiss the potential contribution of team members or fellow pastors because they are different. Some millennials quickly dismiss good influencers because they went to a “weird” college or are a bit more conservative than themselves. Biblical ministry has always been teamwork.
And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.—Philippians 4:3
4. Ministry-minded millennials pursue mentoring from the generations before them. Think of Paul and Timothy. When your values and philosophies are shaped by your peers (with whom you can easily connect on the Internet), you lose the most valuable sources of mentoring. Pursue—seek out—mentoring from generations before you. Read biographies of great Christians. Ask for counsel. Build relationships over generational divides.
Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.— 1 Timothy 1:2
5. Ministry-minded millennials limit their liberty. Spiritual leaders don’t push the limit. You don’t have to do everything just because you can.
Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.—1 Corinthians 8:13
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.—Galatians 5:13
6. Ministry-minded millennials pursue holiness. Millennials make valid arguments against some convictions of the previous generation: “You don’t go to movies, but you watch the same stuff on DVDs” or, “You can’t support that philosophy of dress scripturally.” While they raise questions worth hearing and discussing, they must give answers that indicate how they personally pursue holy thoughts or modest lifestyles, as in the case of these two questions. It’s okay to challenge the preferences or convictions of the last generation, but show us how you are going to conform to His image and not to the world in your generation. It’s not enough to claim “grace” if you don’t live with distinction. (I addressed this more thoroughly in Grace for Godly Living.)
Few millennials are emphasizing grace or liberty as their reason to give more to missions or witness more fervently. Somehow grace has become the license of some millennials to satisfy the “me generation.”
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;— Titus 2:11–12
7. Ministry-minded millennials are loyal to the principles and philosophy of Scripture. Times change, but principles never do. I believe most millennials in biblical Baptist churches want loyalty to principles and are sometimes frustrated by what they perceive as (and sometimes is) loyalty to preferences.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;—2 Timothy 3:14
8. Ministry-minded millennials walk with deference to the pioneers who’ve built the platform on which they are now standing. Many millennials talk of unity and grace while showing little to their more conservative predecessors. If you are on a staff, be respectful to your leader and his vision. When you have differences, pose questions (with a genuine willingness to understand his or her viewpoint) rather than making accusations.
Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.—Philemon 1:9
And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.—1 Thessalonians 5:13
9. Ministry-minded millennials consider the end of a thing. Before you become taken with a new trend in ministry, ask yourself and the previous generation, “What will this cost the next generation?” Ministry-minded millennials don’t think of me and now only.
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!—Deuteronomy 32:29
10. Ministry-minded millennials remember that success is not becoming the next mega pastor. Or having the next blog post that goes viral. Success is being faithful to the Word of God and the God of the Word. Success is a moving target while leadership is a fixed goal—and that goal is Jesus.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;—1 Timothy 1:12
11. Ministry-minded millennials scripturally win, baptize, and grow people. It’s not enough to be a great “change agent” who “transitions” already existing believers to a more convenient or hip worship style—our commission is to win, baptize, and teach the lost of this world. Statistics are clear: the groups who are led by “change agent gurus” are baptizing fewer annually. Could it be that in becoming enamored with change we have lost passion for the lost?
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19–20
12. Ministry-minded millennials take up their cross and follow Christ. Even in ministry, the millennial generation’s emphasis on self sometimes comes into play. But it doesn’t have to. All of us battle self in various forms. And for all of us, the answer is the same—take up your cross and follow Christ.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.—Matthew 16:24
There have been those in every generation who have resisted the fleshly trends of their generation and used the unique strengths of their generation to accomplish much for God. I see a host of ministry-minded millennials doing just that, and I thank God for them—for you.