Millennials and megachurches—we often hear these terms used derisively. Or at least dismissively.
Well, you know how millennials are…
Megachurches have more resources. And if they’re that big, it’s surely because they’re full of compromise.
But what if instead of dismissing either of these, we took another approach?
Consider millennials: There is much to appreciate about their unique paradigm and perspective.
The millennial leaders I talk to (including those on our staff) deeply desire Christ-centered, authentic ministry. They want substance over show. They value teamwork. And while they appreciate past heritage, they want to see greater things in the future. Specifically, they want to reach their generation with the gospel.
If we who are baby boomers and older dismiss these leaders because their paradigm is sometimes different than ours, or if we insist that they become just like us in order to serve alongside us, we miss their unique insights and strengths. (I know that with each of the strengths I mentioned above there can be a corresponding weakness. But the same could be said of baby boomer strengths, too!)
Millennials are no longer tomorrow’s leaders. They are today’s leaders.
(In case you’re still thinking of millennials as high school students, they are anyone roughly between the ages of twenty-five to thirty-five.)
Not only, however, are they today’s leaders, but tomorrow they will be the oldest leaders.
What if instead of treating them dismissively we appreciated and invested in them?
I began pastoring when I was twenty-four years old, and I have been pastoring what is considered a megachurch since I was thirty-four. That ten year period (from when I began until our church surpassed two thousand in weekly attendance) I was the age of today’s millennial.
Even back then, there were leaders who were dismissive, taking a “Let’s wait and see how long he lasts” posture. But I remember with deep gratitude those who were encouraging and made a “I’m here to help you any way that I can” offer. These were men like Tom Malone, Curtis Hutson, Lee Roberson, Don Sisk, and R. B. Ouellette—all of whom preached for our church in those early years. I’m thankful they didn’t dismiss me because I was young or because the Lord grew our church.
And that brings me to megachurches. If cities were growing smaller rather than larger, I could see why we might favor the idea of a small country church over a megachurch or why we would be concerned that large churches are compromising churches.
I get, too, that conservative Bible-believing Baptists look at some of the largest, most well-known megachurches around the country and see doctrinal compromise (and sometimes heresy) and a lack of holiness and purity, and are greatly concerned.
But rather than assuming that the size is the culprit, we should see a greater need for asking God to raise up sound, Baptist megachurches.
I wish every large city in America had an independent Baptist church that was exploding with newly-saved Christians and solid growth. For the past thirty-one years, we have endeavored to stay true to Bible doctrine and scriptural practice. We’ve taught holiness in lifestyle and preached “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
But if today’s young leaders who have a hunger to see great works planted for God sense older leaders dismissing millennials because of their age or megachurches because of their size, they will assume they must look to other groups for both acceptance and ideas.
If you’re a millennial reading this, could I encourage you to overcome any bias you perceive in two ways?
First, learn how to appreciate the strengths of and draw out counsel from those who are older than you. Make it an art form. Learn how to ask questions, how to see from another paradigm, how to guard against your own broad brush dismissals, and how to see past quirks and find substance. Proverbs 20:5 tells us, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
Second, remember that any fellowship or group will have issues. It’s just human nature: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” (Romans 7:18). Rather than getting discouraged by inconsistencies or dismissiveness, put your hand to the plow and fully give yourself to the work where God has called you.
And if you’re an older pastor (not that being older than a millennial is necessarily old!), could I encourage you to purposefully invest in a millennial? Take time this week to reach out to a younger pastor. Have coffee with him, encourage him, and learn from him.
Perhaps in the days and years to come, the Lord will raise up more megachurches that actually stand for truth, win souls, and reach their community for Christ. I pray that in upcoming days we’ll see some of the greatest works for God built through the labors of leaders in the millennial generation. And I want to encourage, train, and invest in these leaders.