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Why the Church isn’t Reaching my Unchurched Friends

By March 14, 2014Church, Culture

This is a guest post by my friend Jordan, who lives in Louisville, KY where she works as Account Coordinator for Heartland Communications Consultants, Inc. She enjoys blogging on a variety of topics including career, family, God, or most often, the awkward moments of the twenty-something life. To read more of her blog, go to

I am 23 years old and I go to church.

I am rare.

In fact, many of my closest friends are not involved in church at all.

Some of my friends simply don’t believe in the Christian faith. Others call themselves Christians, but church is just not a necessary part of their lives.


By now, it is no secret that my generation, or “Millenials” as we are called, is largely unchurched. There has been an extensive amount of research on the issue, and churches have made extensive changes to combat the problem.

Changes often include ridding of choir robes and organs in exchange for skinny jeans, drums, and fog machines.

But still, why are so many of my friends anti-church?

I grew up in the church my entire life, so when I went away to college, finding a church was at the top of my priorities. Unfortunately, finding one didn’t come easy. For a while, I found myself in the same category many of my friends are in. I loved Jesus, but I simply did not have a desire to be a part of the churches I was visiting.

And I visited every type of church. From traditional to “hip”, from small to big. I didn’t want to join any.

My reasoning was simple and it came down to one word.


Nothing seemed authentic.

Don’t get me wrong; I was full of teenage/twenty-something know-it-all cynicism and arrogance, I am sure. Churches are definitely not the sole problem. People are the problem. Because people are sinners-the church going ones and the non-church going Millennials.

But despite the associated arrogance, I truly think my generation is on to something in our desire for authenticity.

You see, the hardest years of my life came in college. For a while, it seemed like every week brought a new disaster that I had never faced before. As one event piled on top of another, I became a mess. My usual happiness turned to sadness, my usual good decisions turned to bad decisions, and my usual faith turned to nothing but questions.

I desired to be a part of a church that got it.

That got my struggles. My sin. My doubts.

All I wanted when I entered the doors of church was to find people who would bear my burden and remind me of whom God was, because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure anymore. Unfortunately, so many times, it seemed like the God people were pointing to was one that would want nothing to do with me and, if I was being honest, I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him.

Either everyone was really happy all the time with no problems, or they were being fake…and I was in no position to play the Fake Game.

In fact, I don’t think my generation in general wants to play the Fake Game when it comes their desire to find and know God.

We’ve played the Fake Game enough. The Fake Game surrounds us in advertisements, tweets, and Facebook profiles. When it comes to seeking God, we don’t want to play anymore. We want to find Him.

We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.

And we want the church to do it with us.

We want Pastors to admit their weaknesses.
Leaders to confess their sins.
Sunday School classmates to confide their struggles.
A church to recognize its shortcomings and rely joyously on God’s grace.

We don’t just want church-goers and pastors to hang up their suits and ties for t-shirts and jeans because its “cool”. We simply want people to be who they are Monday through Saturday on Sunday, too.

We want to come to God as we are.

And we want to be a part of churches full of people who do the same.

Because that is the Gospel we are interested in. And the cool thing is…that really IS the Gospel.

If you want to reach my unchurched friends, it’s simple.

You be you. Really.

And let God be God.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 85 Comments

  • Joe Bigliogo says:

    I can't help but think the author is mischaracterizing the position of millennials. The issue isn't so much their negative feelings or indifference to the church but the rejection of the Christian belief system itself. This is not helped by creating overly broad categories such as "unchurched". Some of them hold to Christian core beliefs but take issue with the specific church they were raised in. There are also a rapidly growing number of young people (and older people as well including me) who after considerable introspection and critical inquiry reject the bible and various Christian claims as irrational and untenable. They are confirmed unbelievers, not simply "unchurched".
    Reaching such people is not something churches of any theological bent can hope to achieve; because the issue comes down to the power of ideas. We no longer live in monotheistic cocoons like our grandparents did where they accepted whatever the clergy said without question. We live in the age of information and the internet and for every preaching a preacher preaches you can go on line and find hundreds of hits that tear it ti shreds. Christianity now competes on a vast playing filed of ideas, some of them in stark contrast to the doctrines found in the bible. Unless you keep your kids locked in the basement or insulated from the world there is not a lot you can do to stem the tide of atheism and skepticism. From an anthropological position this is the evolution of ideas and of culture at work. Kids today or not just leaving the church, they are leaving Christianity and it's claims for miracles and the supernatural. They are rejecting a faith based approach to knowledge and I see nothing wrong with that.

  • lex6819 says:

    Most churches are Baby Boomer couples clubs. If you aren't a married Boomer, you're not going to fit in. It's basically that simple. It was starting to become that way in the early 90s. The church I was raised in built a big new building in an upper middle class suburb, in order to attract more people from that demographic (the hefty check-writing demographic). Millennials were babies at the time. Gen X-ers were graduating into a failing job market, and so lacked the pre-requisite check-writing abilities to be attractive to the church. I attended church weekly with my family until I graduated from high school and went to college. I didn't go far, just maybe 50 miles away, and I was home most weekends. However, I never felt welcome in the college group, and after college, I made one or two attempts to visit singles groups, but I found being hit on by creepy older guys was just too off-putting. So, I dropped out of church for a while. "A while" dragged on for many years. I have not been married. I am 46. Take a look at your church's website. How many of your Bible study groups and Sunday school classes are welcoming to a single women in their 40s who holds down a full time job? I can save you some time: none of them do. Most single women my age (and I have many Facebook friends in that category) have no tight connection to a local church. *We* have become the proverbial "dechurched" (or the condescending term "Creasters" – attending only on major holidays, when family members are in town to accompany us). Most of the women I know are very spiritual people, very open to "God talk." But, there is just no place for us in the Baby Boomer couples club. The women's groups meet on weekday mornings (while we are actually at work!). There are a few singles groups for Millennials, and there are a few singles groups for the 50+ (which I suppose goes up to 90+). The Wednesday night Bible studies and Sunday school classes are for "single moms", so the never-married child-free need not apply. I absolutely feel that the popularity of new age teachers is largely due to the spiritual hunger of women in my age group, who are across-the-board completely shut out of local churches. Churches do a great job of reaching out to shut-ins, but they have a big blind spot where their "shut OUTS" are concerned. Rather than reaching out to this group, church leaders demonize us – as new agers, "deceived by Satan" blah blah blah. Most of my friends have no "church home." They revisit the churches of their childhood on Christmas, for the warmth of nostalgia, but knowing deep down they have no place there any more.

  • dr. jeff scott says:

    Reaching the unchurched requires changing their mental image of Christians according to this newly released book by Jeffery Warren Scott. Churches that that are successful in reaching the unchurched are likely to be encouraging, joyful, and compassionate.

  • Gordon James says:

    I feel a need to respond, starting with the title . . .

    First, it is my experience that we Christians are the church, and if "the church" is not reaching my unchurched friends it mat be because I am not praying enough for my unchurched friends. Could it be that God is wanting me (and you) to use me (and you) to reach the people he has placed us near?

    A second thought may be the difference between my experience of church in Eastern Canada, and your experience. My last 50 years have been in churches with between 50 – 250 people, They were small enough to get to know people personally. My sunday school teachers knew me when I was a wayward teen, and loved me back into a better relationship with God. Some of the dumbest people I knew were rescued from folly and trouble because they walked with Jesus. Some of the brightest people I have ever known were my sunday school and university teachers (Thanks Harold cook, Lorne White, Allison Trites)

    I guess my experience is real people having real faith, dealing with real issues in a godly way. The honesty and integrity of the church has always been far better than the unchurched world.

    There is also the issue of sacrifice.
    I have watched real Christians sacrifice much in their obedience to God.
    They give their time and money to serve.
    The best way to see real Christians is to start serving somewhere.
    That is where you find the real ones.
    The pretend Christians (I don't mean unsaved, but unwilling to give it all to Jesus) will not be found in the places where you need to serve and give.

    The "natural habitat" for real Christians includes not only worship, but also sacrifice and service.

  • @notashot says:

    It is nice when the push back comments simply prove the point of the article.

  • Kalen says:

    Millenials want customized, personal experiences at their church. The one size fits all Sunday sermon doesn't connect with them.

    As a 25 yr old, I agree. Many of my own friends don't attend mass. They're not leaving the church, they just don't want to get up and go on Sunday. I feel it's not so much about people being "fake", but that their church experience isn't being customized. I think the only way forward to capture young people's interest is to make that personal connection with the pastor. A lot of churches tend to leave it to 80 year old volunteers or REALLY religious young people who are just unable to meet new young members on the level they need to be met. I only stay at my church because I know the pastor personally and can talk to him about anything. If I just went based off of the Sunday sermon, I wouldn't feel such a connection or drive to get up in the morning and go. Pastors hold you accountable.

    I just wrote about this the other day.

  • waynw adcock says:

    my son chris works for heartland just moved from johnson city tennessee

  • Darrell says:

    As an atheist, I feel your pain & frustration! The organized religions are, in general, a group by hypocritical members only interested in exerting power over nonbelievers & each other instead of truly caring for each other (& all living things in the world). I would like to see religious folks put more of their tax-exempt money into helping make the world a better place for the living instead of building an edifice to their ego to be on display in their communities. However, if you feel the need to be part of a group which will support you when you need it, good luck finding a religious group to fill that need. Rational thought will do the same with minimal time & effort.

  • Jane says:

    You miss the big obvious. Lots of people don't believe in God and don't think religion is good for the world

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  • Charles Giles says:

    I am certainly not in the twenty something age, in fact I am more than three times that age, but what I do know is this; if you do not enter into a group of believers that are striving to be part of what was truly delivered to the Saints in the first century, then you are always going to be looking for the truth, and never find it, because over several thousand years the truth has been corrupted through certain organizations with their own agenda, then regrouped as their truth, even so they could not erase the truth completely so it will require much study to find that path, and desiring to find YAHOVAH, if you do, HE will know you.

  • Dawn Nicole Baldwin says:

    Sadly, I don't think this applies to just Millennials. People everywhere, at every age are searching for something real. And the church has done a pretty good job of trying to hide "real" under pretty & polished. Using artificial sweeteners with shiny packaging because I guess they're afraid people won't like what real tastes like.

    This broke my heart as I read it, because more often than not, it's true. I can think of several people I know personally that fall in this camp.

    And Jordan was actively looking for a church. I can only imagine the experiences of those who haven't been in a church in years—if ever—and aren't quite sure what they believe.

  • rogerwolsey says:

    Excellent reflections. IMO, these thoughts provide a keen mirror for us to gaze upon. Agreed, a large part of why so many young people are feeling wary of religion in the U.S. is due to the popularity of a shallow, vapid, insincere, and inauthentic forms of the faiths. Another reason is that the vast majority of young people don't share the homophobia that is common in several of the major religions. And still another reason is that today's young people have postmodern sensibilities that are open-minded and thus, are wary of conservative religions which claim that their way of connecting to God is the one, right, true, and/or only way. Sadly, many young people aren't even aware of more moderate and even progressive forms of the religions. Progressive Christianity, for example, is on the rise.

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity

  • Sean says:

    Very well said. My wife and I are in our early 40’s and struggle with the same issue. We are tired of fake and have only found authenticity in our close group of Christian friends, all of whom attend a different church than each other.

    I hate to say it but our Sunday activities have decreased from 100% commitment to serving in leadership, children’s ministry and sound to diminishing into the background. The closer we got to leaders, the more pride and appearance became the first priority.

    My relationship with God is most important, and in many cases I feel as if the church is drawing me away from God, not closer. So now we go to a church out of formality. We do enjoy worshiping God, and half of the time the sermon challenges us to seek God.

    However, my relationship with God is strengthened in my own study and prayer, which of course is biblical, and I can rely on my friends to keep me in check when I stray.

  • Sandi says:

    Your post represents the unfortunate reality of millenials. In the chuch, we gave you everything…your own youth building, worship service, short, feel-good mission trips, t-shirts, ski trips , and so many retreats. But we failed to teach you your spititual purpose in life–to worship God, enjoy His presence, and serve him forever. Now , as an adult, you are searching for a grownup version of that youth experience. I believe we, as Boomers, have to assume the responsibility for that. Realize your purpose, and God will lead you to your church family. I am in a relatively small church with many older members. The young adults who join jump right in, taking part in worship, service, and fellowship…without smoke and drums. God bless you on your journey.

    • Betty says:

      i would argue the exact opposite. We gave them and continue to give them these things but it is not what they ever asked for nor wanted. They (as all of us do)want unconditional love. Instead of giving what they need we have given them stuff. They have plenty of stuff. I spend time with millennials and they absolutely know how to worship, serve, and enjoy God. They have managed to do this while everyone has written them off as selfish. I don't remember them ever asking for what was thrust upon them.

  • Kristi says:

    There is nothing new under the sun, nor anything original about your generation wanting authenticity. You will never find a church with which you are completely happy. I suggest you find one that is the best fit for the beliefs you hold and one which doesn't subscribe to the self-pleasing, if it feels good do it (with regard to the worship service) mentality.

  • Denise says:

    You definitely don't need to be a young person for this to be the case. I am a baby boomer, and I really miss church. I can't find one that isn't fake, all the way down to its plastic handshakes. I love the people, but I hate the facade. I used to have a good church, but that was 35 years ago– 35 years!

  • Don Smith says:

    I magree with this and it is very well writte. iam one of the "old timers' but I find the same things and it is very discouraging and disappointing. I have been kicked out of morechurcches that most have been in but I will not give up! God is God whether they like it or not. This is what is known in scripture as the "laodicean Age, (Rev. 32:14) ,however, this does not excuse tha condition of the church, it just explains it. I have been a Pastor, Evangelist, involved in the deliverance ministry, Sundat school teacher and I am nearly 76 years old but I can and do isdentify with your feelings , hurts and disappointmment. My web site is found at the following addresses

  • Florida Person says:

    I guess I will take offense to this:
    'Either everyone was really happy all the time with no problems,"
    Is there a problem with living your life with the goal of being happy all the time?
    I AM really happy all the time. It is something I strive for every day. It is not always easy but I am working hard to be happy EVERY day for the rest of my life. I have an awesome Savior and an incredible God who is full of grace for me and my fellow man.
    Yes, I have problems. I have learned to accept my problems as something I need help from God with. I worry a lot less now that I live that way. I also lived the "woe is me" life and it is not something I want to go back to.
    I see my problems as something that I shouldn't burden others with, I ask others what their problems are so I can help them with their burden.

    • Will says:

      Part of the problem with this response is that you are not letting others minister to you; you are only ministering to others. While to your mindset this seems selfless, to younger generations in seems arrogant and inauthentic. Part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters is to serve and be served; when you refuse to be served, you give off the image that you have it all together and do not need God to minister through the rest of us to you.

  • kingskid48 says:

    Yes, there is an element of self-righteousness that has permeated some of the church as a whole and which I believe may grieve Him, but all the more reason to allow Him to do His wonderful work, to invite Him to have His way-in our services and in our daily lives. He will make us real. He will search our hearts if we will let Him, and remove the phoniness in our lives. He will give us a more tender heart toward the hurting and a bolder heart to win the lost.

    It really is time for His Church to allow the Holy Spirit to move. That's why Jesus sent Him-to be our Teacher, our Comforter, our Companion and our Friend. If we will do that, the boredom, the disorientation, and restlessness will leave. I pray that more and more churches will wake up to this. If we do, we won't be able to keep the young people away. This is what "real" really is.

  • yoitsmedude says:

    Here is what I believe is going on. Many Churches believe in "alter calls" they tell people even make them feel guilty if they do not go to the alter. Then they push the idea of a 1 minute prayer to Jesus which solves everything? Poles have been taken that shows this is a lie. These people believe this that they are saved. They are called a false conversion. Matthew 7:21 talks about this. Its like if you expect a criminal to confess to a crime. If this person does not understand the crime they committed they will never confess. The bible says to Repent and believe in the Gospel. Nothing about make a quick prayer and every thing is fixed? Ever try to tell someone they are not saved? First a person who is should examine them selves by the gospels. If they are not wanting to do as Jesus says then chances are so if many are realizing their not saved. Now they have one of two problems, knowing the church lied is not one. It must be God does not love me or he does not exist. I say he does I have been changed so, When will the Church wake up? Many churches believe in this prayer until they stop and this whole idea is re-asses d and stopped the problem will continue.

  • kingskid48 says:

    While I do understand the struggle that this young person is going through, I think perhaps it isn't so much a matter of the people in those churches not being "real". I think she just hasn't found where she belongs for a number of reasons.

    These churches are filled with imperfect people. They stumble, they fail. They may struggle in their walk, but that doesn't mean they are fake.

    Certainly every one of us could be and should be endeavoring to walk closer to God not only on a daily basis, but minute by minute. But I'm not sure this is possible without an understanding of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to be entirely open to Him, corporately and personally. He is the One Who makes life exciting, Who surrounds us with His comfort when we hurt, Who opens up the Scriptures to us in a way we never knew was possible, Who makes us know that we "belong".

  • Walt says:

    First order of Christian business I believe what the Bible says, all of it, no matter if I understand it or not. I take the stand that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God period. Having that for most in my mind. I believe the Christian church is America is quite full of false converts, I used to be one myself. A man can either convert himself to be a Christian this makes him a false convert and deceived. Or he can be converted by the will of God which makes him no longer a sinner (old man) but a saint (new man). A sinner (old man) is the man I was before Jesus Himself came to live in me and through me. (the Bible teaches this) If any man be in Christ He is a new creation old things have passed away, behold all things become new. now living in me is Jesus Himself who gives me the power not to sin. It does not mean I cannot sin as I still do, however if 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    Perhaps the church is not reaching people because the message does not have the power and the life of Jesus in it. Perhaps we have exchanged the power of the true Gospel for the corruptness of the false gospel which gives the one the illusion of fake. Perhaps the false gospel of come Jesus will give you a better life and everything you ever wanted needs to be cast aside for the lie it is. Let the true Gospel take its place where the sinner is made whole and because the Holy Spirit has poured out the love of God into his heart he can now love Jesus as He desires and love his neighbor as himself. When I was a false convert I thought I had the light in me, do you know I did not have the light, but was deceived. Yes the light I had was darkness and how a great darkness it was. However, when it pleased the LORD He opened my eyes and the darkness fled because darkness and light cannot occupy the same space. Light a candle in a dark room and you should see this analogy in action.

  • Sue says:

    From time to time I have asked one or the other if they have a tip about how I could get on His "good side." It used to throw me for a loop when they told me the "back story" of what they are facing and how they count it all joy. Maybe if you stopped to talk to some of the people at church instead of judging them on their appearance you would learn what it is to pick up your cross and follow Him with a loving heart. You might also learn which ones are the true church. That building is the hospital for sick humanity…only those who know they are sick feel a need to come in. Some find a cure and some do not. There is more to it than just this but get this part first and then you can go in and learn more.

  • Sue says:

    It appears that no one taught this person the value of common manners and honoring God's sovereignty. It is not being fake to dress for church. It is showing respect to God by giving Him your best. (Remember David refusing the gift of the threshing floor and the oxen because he wouldn't offer to God something that had not cost him anything, something that was not a sacrifice?) Presenting to Him the most that you have, the best that you are, is not to impress the other members. Only the ones who are self centered have that idea. I can't do much in that line but I have always been welcome at church. This is where His sovereignty comes in. Each of us has a different standard of our "best". I depend on others to know their best and to realize I am doing the best I can…no matter how lame it is to them. I praise God for His generosity to them.

    • Betty says:

      Actually I would argue that your first sentence shows your lack of common manners but hope you feel extra awesome attacking a 23 year old . Congrats .

  • John says:

    Your blog post is right on! I am not a millennial but, a tail end Baby boomer. And I too have been a part of church my entire life and am soo tired of FAKE church! It’s got to be REAL! God is real and we need to get it with him in every part of our lives in order to be real ourselves!

  • James says:

    I am not a milliumal but have experienced the same feelings. The answer I found was not to find a church that I thought was right for me but to be the church God called me to be. The church is not a place, it is not a worship service or any type of event. Before Jesus told Peter he would be the cornerstone of the church/ecclesia the word ecclesia already had a meaning. It was a local government like a city ccouncil but could also be a kings court. We are not just a church when we come together we are the church 24/7. God's church is His people called out to do His business. The church is people going fourth doing the work that God gave them with His power under His leadership. The church is people looking for the lost and unsaved to give them the love and hope of the gospel. It is people loving their neighbors as themselves and all knowing they are disciples of Christ by their love for one another. We all have fell for the lie that the church is God's people coming to gather and should wait and see who comes on Sunday but that will not change until we as individuals who are the church change. And slowly but surely as the traditional church fades away God will still call His people and empower them to go fourth, bear one anothers burdens and be known by love and nHis church will still come together and praise God with songs and in sermons but we will be known by our love and the needs of others will be more important than the comfort of our sercices and buildings.

    • Florida Person says:

      Actually, the word "ekklesia" means "assembly" or "congregation", not a "local government" or "kings court" (in this context).
      The word ekklesia is the original Greek Word, it was used in the Septuagint. So, the seventy-two translators that translated the Septuagint around 280 B.C. were very much aware of that word ekklesia. They used it in the Septuagint as a replacement of the Hebrew for the "congregation of Israel."
      From Matthew 16:18 – "…And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my ekklesia…"
      Also see Tyndales Bible and George Ricker Berry's Interlinear Greek/English New Testament (it's a literal translation of the Greek into English), which was written in the late 1800's, where he translated ekklesia as "assembly".

  • thisliminalstate says:

    Thanks for this post. Below is a message I preached about this very topic.

  • Chuck says:

    This is my take on this, yea there aw people that seem fake but that's not all of the people there, there are a lot of people that are real and do great things in Gods name that don't ask for pats on the back or glory in what they do but know that it's needed, and this one thing is just what I beleive that God doesn't need us to do anything but allows us to do so with that said the people that don't ask and just do are the real people out there in the churches and that's why you need to give them a chance, You might need a blessing go and help someone and don't tell and you will be blessed. Chuck

  • DGM says:

    Try reading theBible and searching for the way Jesus taught us ti live. First- love your neighbor as yourself. Ask for the Holy Spirit yo come into your life. Be cognizant of His direction and follow.
    Life is a journey so get on board.

  • I enjoyed reading your insightful article. My addendum to it would be that for too long we have seen a “tyranny of the loudest” approach from those that insist that they be allowed to determine what the “official” definition of what constitutes a “real” Christian (ignoring of course that there are 40 denominations in the US). Usually this is the sort of “faith” that emphasizes the need to judge and condemn people we disagree with as well as the idea of a church community as a “spiritual Elect” who can then look down on everyone outside their group. It goes beyond whether this attitude is even bad; I think that an outlook based on what the neighbors think simply has nothing to do with what God considers important. When the best known definition of church fails to jibe with the Gospel, it shouldn’t be surprising that it fails to receive God’s blessing.

  • Marilyn Shoults says:

    I am blessed to belong to a church where God is working and many desire and are open and honest in their walk with the Lord. I understand very well what your are saying, It was in college that I drifted away. I have shared your blog on m facebook to tell others that understand and invite them to ask where, where I go is not the only place, to be found where I live and would love to share with them where they can look to see if that is where God wants them. Thank you for reminding those of who are now longtimers that church as usual is not what Jesus died for and rose for , He came to set us free!

  • Johnny says:

    I was wondering if you ever been to a real apostolic Pentecostal church ,were there's people that have a real love and a real wanting for a move of God,knowing what matter of people they once was but now know the real mercy of a true Lord and have the most upright confidence in there pastor and in the direction that he is leading them,

  • Clark D says:

    I guess I have a problem seeing the Millenials, Xers etc. as more 'authenic' oriented or more put upon and criticized than my generation. Yes I'm at the tail end of the boomers. But, narrowing it down to my High school college years. We are the ones who faced the military 'face to face' over Viet Nam. Were shot at at Kent State. Ushered in free love and (gasp) psychedlic rock. Drug use skyrocketed with my generation. We led a rebellion and nobody even noticed!
    We thought we INVENTED the whole idea that we wanted to get away from the fake stuff of our parent's generation and get real. In fact I think we coined the phrase "Get real."
    Faking it and inauthenticity has been a problem forever. As believers we DO need to address it. But acting like it's new or the 16 year olds of the world invented it is really ridiculous. We should Be real to people. And allow people to be real to us and still love and accept them. But we also need to be Real before God and not try to massage His word into something acceptable to the wicked human heart.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks. I hear. I think she was only speaking for her generation. You're speaking for you're. Thanks for doing so. 

  • maradanto says:

    I'm not a Millennial, so perhaps my perspective is going to be off-kilter, but I don't know that authenticity is really the issue here, as much as relevance.

    To make a few sweeping generalizations, the evangelical church did its best to drive away both myself and my fellow Gen X-ers with its loud, persistent denunciations of the sins of society; its emphasis on the sin-forgiveness-redemption aspect of the faith, to the neglect and exclusion of all else; and its continued retreat into cloistered walls with its own culture, entertainment, language and what else.

    A lot of people in my generation asked, "What's the point of that?" and I think Millennials are simply following suit. We can argue whether this is fair, but today the church in America is known for hating gay people, for being angry, and for being bitter when we don't get our way. Jesus, meanwhile, was known for hugging lepers, partying with drunks, and befriending prostitutes.

    Jesus also healed the sick, and came to restore the relationships humanity has with God, and that humans have with one another. My daughters' youth group does gross games with Jell-O and marshmallows, and gets talked to every week about stuff that my girls find of no practical interest.

    So really, what's the point of church? The church could do things like Jesus did, things that matter. We could make it a point of building homes for the homeless; feeding the hungry; protecting the rights of women, gays and minorities; reducing waste and trying to mend broken ecosystems. We could, and if we did, I think we could answer that question "What's the point?" by showing it. But while some churches do things that, and while some organizations do things like that, it's not what we as a church are known for.

    Jesus came to mend a broken world. If we followed his lead, we'd find a lot more people willing to hear what we have to say.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks for some good thoughts 

    • Alexandria says:

      History has shown that we are known for "religion" and not for being Christ-like. Yes, we need to help the homeless, fed the hungry and reach those who are lost. But, defending the rights of gays, partying with drunkards and prostitutes is NOT what Jesus came to do or have us to do. He said "Go and sin no more." Re-read God's Word. Sin is sin!! Jesus did NOT come to change the law but to fulfill it. We are instructed to love the sinner, but hate the sin. I do NOT believe for one moment that means to endorse what they are doing but show them that they can be saved through Christ Jesus, in love. We are NOT angry but fed up with the blatant sin and rebellion thrown in our face at every turn from media outlets and churches to our own government. Being told that wrong is right and right is wrong. We are in the world but not of it and I choose to not be of it. We ALL have to make a choice in who we serve, God or satan. There is no middle ground, never was. I choose God the Father, God the Son and His Holy Spirit!!

      Religion has no place in this world, never did and is why I no longer endorse "church" but seek God as He would have me do so through prayer and His Word with the leading of HIs Holy Spirit. At some point you have to grow up. Churches do NOT train you up and send you out but keep you as though you are still a baby spoon feeding you to keep you under their control. GROW UP!! We do NOT need "church" to find and know God. Most have no clue who He is anyway. God does NOT need churches to do HIs bidding but does need each and everyone of us individually. WE are His hands and feet.

      There will be a great falling away as those who go to church for selfish and ungodly reasons finally give up and leave, others will do so because the church continues to compromise the very fabric of God's Word daily, and even more will do so when they finally see the lies and hypocrisy the church has been involved with since it's beginnings or should I say when Christianity was made legal come to light. Christians have become a lazy, compromising, selfish people. They forget their God, abandoned His Word and choose to seek the world. The time has come to turn back to Him. Stop believing satan's lies for he only comes to steal, kill and destroy!! We need to get back to HIs word, pray for one another daily and be HIs hands and feet. Seek Him first!!!!!

  • Brandon says:

    As a 27 year old pastor, I feel the same feelings and burdens. Thankful my church now works towards making this kind of environment, but can see from prior experience the exact places she’s talking about. And what’s worst, most of these places then BLAME non-Christian Millenials. By and large my generation is spoken of very negatively. We have our issues that’s for sure, but no church is ever going to reach my generation by telling they are all wrong…Especially since many of is are graduated and in the workforce. Thanks for the thoughts!

  • Clark D says:

    Ok, well I guess I get to be the one who pushes back a little. First, it was a good, heartfelt, and pointed article. Right on target in many ways. For example, "Fake" is a real problem. Has been a real problem for 2000 years. But we still need to address it and seek to change it. She admitted that some of the problem was her 'college age' attitude. When I was in college, I found a church (1972) but didn't fit in at all with the campus ministries. (It was more me than them.) And, she admits, the problem is people, both the churched and the unhurched, not how it looks or what it sounds like.
    But I guess I have some questions.
    How do you know, from visiting on Sundays whether the people you see aren't the same Monday thru Saturday?
    When you said, "We want to ask questions. Voice our doubts. Explain our struggles. Confess our sins. Confide our fears." I thought, So? Aren't there mall groups for that? IF you can't talk in their home groups and/or Sunday School groups, there are plenty of churches where you can.
    And doing stuff? Do none of these churches have outreach or service oriented activities? I bet some do.
    May I suggest a different reason your friends aren't doing church or the church isn't reaching them?
    Are you ready?
    You aren't reaching them.
    Before they are ready for church, they need to be reached by you. And me. And every believer reading this.
    The problem is not FAKE. The Problem is LOST. Or for some it is is BACKSLID. (Old fashioned, I know, but I gotta be me. Authentic and all that.)
    "There is none that seeketh after God." We must be the vessels God uses to pursue them.
    And God does pursue. But He is not anxious, worried, or wringing His hands. In fact, this is the God they don't seek: Rom 1:18 the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, … even his eternal power and Godhead; so they are without excuse:
    21 Because, …they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    That was me, before Christ. I imagine it was you too, even if it was a 5 year old version of all that.
    Part of the problem with the message of the church now is that we are less willing to speak the truth in love. (Sometimes we do speak it in love and the world screams "you intolerant bunch of haters." Guess what, Jesus told us that would happen.)
    The truth includes: there are "lost" people. Sinners, objects of God's wrath. There is such a thing as sin. It is wrong. God hates it. You can say you don't care what God thinks but you will answer to Him someday.
    But, and this is the glorious truth, God so loved He sent His Son. And by turning from sin and selfishness, and surrender to Jesus Chris we may be saved. We may be indwelled by God almighty Himself.
    Then, it doesn't matter how old the songs are, how the minister's dress, what color the carpet is, how "real" people may seem to you. You want to praise God for what He has done. If He says, don't forsake fellow-shipping with the Saints, you want to do what He says. When He says, let your light so shine that people may see your good works and glorify God in Heaven, then you want to work for Him.
    Its amazing what a saved perspective can do for you.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks. I appreciate your thoughts and insights. I guess I'll have to say, as a pastor, one way I see a difference on Sunday from the rest of the week, is the smiles of innocence on Sunday when everything is “fine” in appearance but watching the exact opposite when following a person's Facebook presence during the week. That's just one example. And then there's the stories I'm told continually about a deacon or Sunday school teacher who leads well on Sunday but is a tryant in the work place.  Stuff like that. But you're right. We aren't reaching them. And we aren't speaking the truth in love as we should.  I'm doing what I can, by God's grace and for His glory, to change that in my little circle of His world.  Thanks. 

    • NMH says:

      wow! absolutely agree with you Clark!!! It is not the Church's problem of not being "authentic enough" is the individuals not reaching out and if when they do they may still be rejected, not for doing it wrong, but for the sinfulness of the lost. This thirst for something "authentic" has made churches "fake" being authentic, "real" and ridiculously over emotional.

    • Christy C. says:

      Casting Crowns wrote a song about this like 10 years ago.

      "If we are the body, why aren't his arms reaching? Why aren't his feet going? Why is his love not showing them there is a way".

    • DON says:


  • Good article. We have experienced the same things here in Burbank, CA. Authenticity is the currency of our generation. That is why we have stripped everything away to be unapologetically simple. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!LMC-Unapologe

  • Darren says:

    Some of us more "seasoned" Christians feel the same way!

  • quincyzmusic says:

    Great post. I agree with it totally. I also believe that maybe it takes one who is this, to help others to become this. In the quest to satisfy all, authenticity has become something we try to be and again we fail because it is not who we really are but something we try to "put on" because it's what we think others want us to be. This may sound a bit like a page from a Dr Seuss book but in short…. Churches may need to be reminded what that authenticity looks like and maybe those on the outside needing this could be an agent of change to help the church to become this.
    Thank you for your insightful post.

  • Richard Gary says:

    This past so reminds me, of,Larry Crab’s book, Real Church.

  • Dara says:

    Wow. Excellent. Ditto. Amen.

  • Mary K says:

    There are many different ways to reach the unchurched and the millenials.

    Here are two:
    Within the first paragraph, it says the “purpose is to exist as an authentic Christian community, but in a way which is both provocative and accessible to un-churched people.” “Church” has a lot of baggage; maybe bars do too, but it’s easier to “be yourself” in a place that does not set expectations of behavior like the Church.
    I was very impressed with this book. If you look around your church, you’ll see that it’s mainly femails who sit in the pews. Why does church have to consist of being passively lectured to, occasionally standing up to sing, and reciting together? Why can’t it be mission and doing as church? My husband won’t sit in the pew; he has ADHD and finds it very hard to focus and sit still (I’ve stopped fighting with him on this and just accept that sitting does not meet his needs). If there were a project, hands-on preferably, that could take the place of this, perhaps with discussion on how this correlates to biblical values or truths, he might participate. But not as our church is now.

  • Great post. I think she's right on target as far as Millennials and even "Gen X."

  • Melanie Kern says:

    Very impressive coming from a twenty something young lady! I pray we can be that church needed to reach the unchurched in an authentic way.