Soaring electric guitar solos resonate across the amphitheater arena as attendees make their way through the cramped lobby, where vendors are selling everything from t-shirts and coffee mugs to DVDs and the pastor’s latest book. Somewhere someone is wondering, “Wouldn’t Jesus be flipping over these tables?” But before there’s time to have an actual theological debate, congregants find themselves standing in front of flashing lights, pulsating stage speakers, and three colossal multimedia screens, the latter of which are broadcasting a montage of video clips and announcements featuring an overly hyperactive dude in skinny jeans and a muscle shirt. In-between his cheesy dance moves and horribly scripted dialogue, he encourages everyone to snap a selfie with their neighbor and post it to Instagram using the hashtag #JesusRocks.
There’s not a wooden pew in sight. No, they’ve been replaced by luxuriously padded chairs or even by the sort of seats you would find at an expensive movie theatre in your city. Come to think of it, this might actually be a renovated movie theatre, or at least an imitation of one. Everywhere you look, the church’s sleek and contemporary logo is staring back at you because, as they say, “Brand identity is everything.” A lady on stage grabs a mic and announces that before the service is over, one lucky attendee will win a lifetime’s supply of free Starbucks coffee and an autographed copy of the pastor’s New York Times bestseller. The crowd roars. Just when you think the buildup can’t possibly get more intense, the so-called “worship band” takes the stage and begins performing something so indistinguishable from the Billboard Top 100 that you have to honestly wonder whether you’ve stumbled upon a rock concert, a televised gameshow, a shopping mall, a church, or some weird amalgamation of all four.
The picture that I’ve just painted for you might seem outlandish and utterly farfetched. But, anyone who has attended a few of our nation’s millennial-minded megachurches — or, even worse, a small local church pretending to be a millennial megachurch — is likely familiar with at least a few of these elements.
Of course, my generation has come to see right through much of this inauthenticity. Over 59 percent of millennials have already left the church and it’s not because they hate the idea of organized religion. It’s not because they hate values, morals, or even Jesus. It’s because they can smell a phony a mile away. A church that places more emphasis on entertainment than relationships; more value on the pastor’s public image than the Gospel; or more focus on hype than authenticity will stick out like a sore thumb every time. In other words, a church that is trying to be something other than a church comes off as shallow, disingenuous, and completely bogus. Millennials already see enough nonsensical marketing and consume enough hollow entertainment in other aspects of their lives. As far as they’re concerned, church should look and feel different than the rock concert or sporting event they attended the night before.
Moreover, recent data from the Barna Group, in conjunction with the Cornerstone Knowledge Network, found that some 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church as opposed to a “trendy” or contemporary one, and 77 percent would rather worship in a “sanctuary” than an “auditorium.” Although I was a bit surprised by how high this number was, I found myself in agreement. Attending a church service so large that it has to meet in a basketball stadium or a shopping mall doesn't quite have the same feel of authenticity or intimacy as the congregation of 200 or less meeting in the 1970's-style building that boasts decades of stories and history. To be clear: The Holy Spirit may indeed be present and honored in both locations, as He is obviously not bound by such physical barriers. But, millennials have their preferences like anyone else.
Maybe the answer to millennial church attendance, then, isn’t more fog machines, more lighted columns, more lattes, and more beard oil for the worship leader. Maybe the church doesn’t have to feel “cool” or be “woke” to cultural fashion trends. Maybe the church should just be the church. You know, reach lost people, engage the local community, and build authentic relationships. What a novel idea. Someone should write that down in a book that will last for all Eternity. Oh wait, never mind.
In regards to their approach to millennials, this will mean a few things for the modern church:
1) Keep your message content theologically accurate and rich in content. Remember, we hate that whole empty and hollow thing. We see right through it every time.
2) Stop lying to us about who you are. Be real, even if it means having to shrink your entire program, restructure everything you've done, or break up into small "multicampus" churches.
3) Provide us with a genuine worship service rather than the sort of pop or alt-rock concert faux experience you’ve been told we want. I think I speak for many millennials when I say: You’ve been gravely misinformed.
Maybe if we start with this, we’ll slowly return to some vague semblance of what the church was meant to be. Maybe.
In perhaps one of the most blatant displays of utter hypocrisy in modern day politics, South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg recently challenged the authenticity of President Trump’s Christian faith and accused him of being a “hypocrite.” Of course, this is rather interesting — not to mention ridiculous — for a couple of reasons. First, Buttigieg is openly gay and married to a man. Secondly, he’s also a staunch abortion enthusiast and pro-choice advocate.
Now, anyone who’s followed my work, my blog site, or my commentary on social media for any length of time knows that I’m perfectly fine with doubting Donald Trump’s salvation. I would like to think that he is saved. I pray that he is. Like some of you, I’ve seen and read reports about influential pastors and evangelical leaders who have met with the president concerning spiritual matters. Many of them have left those meetings with mixed reactions. Some do not think Trump has actually accepted Christ as personal Lord and Savior, while others believe he might be in a sort of “spiritual infancy” or “baby Christian phase.” Regardless, God alone knows the current status of President Trump’s eternal soul.
Sure, it’s easy to see why someone would challenge the legitimacy of Trump’s salvation and Christian faith. A simple look at the man’s past — full of extramarital affairs, divorce, degrading rhetoric toward and about women, shady business deals, and scandals — and even his current unpresidential mannerisms all certainly lend credence to that theory. But no one is arguing that Donald Trump is some sort of exemplary, ideal Christian whose face should be etched onto Bible covers across the nation. He’s not a Christian superstar for conservatives, and he’s never claimed to be. He’s not the next Billy Graham. He’s not the Pope. He’s just the president.
For progressives, however, an interesting phenomenon has occurred with Mayor Buttgieg, recently illustrated by CNN’s Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, who penned an article titled “Buttgieg is a symbol for a rising Christian left.”
USA Today also offered their own zealous support for Buttgieg’s beliefs and for his accusations against Trump, while remaining totally oblivious to the irony of the mayor’s own hypocrisy, even going so far as to refer to him as a “devoted Christian.” I guess the paper and Buttigieg both overlooked (or chose to ignore) the biblical truths found in Genesis 1:28 concerning God creating men and women in His own image for the specific purpose of heterosexual reproduction, as well as the countless verses which refer to God’s personal involvement in the creation of every human life in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16, Job 10:8-12, Isaiah 44:2) And then there’s that pesky little issue about spilling innocent blood (Jeremiah 7:6) and murdering the innocent (Exodus 20:13). It should be noted, however, that there is always grace and forgiveness available to all through Christ’s death on the cross.
You know something has gone drastically wrong with your political party if you’re trying to pawn off an openly homosexual, fanatical pro-abort as a new “symbol” for the “rising Christian Left,” as if there even is such a thing. And therein lies the problem: “Christian Leftism” simply doesn’t exist because they are two diametrically opposed belief systems. They cannot exist on and within the same plane anymore than darkness and light can do so. Saying “Christian Leftism” is like saying “cold fire” or “liquid smoke” or “well-groomed Bernie Sanders.” This isn’t rocket science, folks. This is 2,000-plus years of unchanging Scriptural truth.
Moreover, Christianity is a religion consisting of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, while Leftism is a political ideology consisting of a set of worldly beliefs and practices, many of which — like abortion and gay marriage — are, ironically, at odds with the Bible and the very teachings of Christ Himself. This is why it’s not only brazenly hypocritical for Buttigieg to question Trump’s faith, but even more ironic for anyone to cast him as a “symbol” for “Christian Leftism.”
Even if Christian Leftism could exist in some sort of strange form, which it can’t, Mayor Buttigieg certainly would not be its poster child. One cannot be a symbol of something while simultaneously defying and denying the most sacred beliefs for which it stands. This why, until or unless the Democratic Party changes many of its political and ideological platforms, it is essentially impossible to be both a modern Leftist and a professing Christian in today’s culture. Modern Leftism and its leaders — like Mayor Buttigieg — have willfully and purposefully chosen to adopt and inherit unbiblical practices and beliefs.
And, sadly, there is indeed nothing Christian about that.
I’ve been a PK for 33 years now. (PK = pastor’s kid for those of you who were fortunate enough to grow up without the stigmatization of overtly demeaning two-letter acronymic labels by which we are categorized as a subspecies set apart from average humans in society.) During this time I’ve watched as my dad has transitioned from student pastor to Bible class schoolteacher to single mom’s ministry to assistant pastor to senior pastor to nonprofit executive director and everything in between. In case you’re wondering, he’s actually still juggling the latter two simultaneously. Don’t ask me how. It’s quite the balancing act from what I can tell. Somehow he manages to pull it off every day without suffering a complete psychotic breakdown.
Personally, I would’ve cracked during the student pastor phase. Or maybe the single mom’s phase. (No offense to screaming teenagers and overburdened single mothers.) Either way, I certainly would’ve died long before becoming the lead pastor of a local church. I just don’t have the patience for it. Somewhere my father is nodding in agreement.
Speaking of local churches, I’m sure you’re aware that they’re chock full of opinions and assumptions. Of course, this is true of people everywhere, not just those who “go to church.” But, when you’re a pastor’s kid, you tend to grow up hearing nearly every attendee’s viewpoint, speculation, lamentation, thought, and theory — no matter how trivial or serious — including the thoughts directed at or about your father and your family.
One of the many common — yet terribly inaccurate — assumptions about PKs is that we’re all destined to work in some venue of full-time church ministry. Even worse, many folks assume that we want to work in ministry or that we enjoy it. I’ve seen this, heard this, and experienced this time and time again. I guess the groupthink tends to be “Well, your dad does it, and you’re a lot like your dad, so you must want to do it too.”
And then there are others who assume that, although we may not go into full-time ministry, we should at least be in some sort of volunteer or leadership role because “your dad is the pastor.” Whether it’s teaching a Bible study or playing in the worship band, we should supposedly be doing something that separates us out from the “average” kid in the church. You know, because we’re a “PK” and PKs are special. God forbid that we just be normal.
Now, I know that what I’m about say might come as quite a shock to many of you, so take a deep breath and try to relax. Allow me to set the record straight, once and for all, on behalf of PKs everywhere: Not every pastor’s kid wants to work in full-time ministry. Moreover, not every PK even wants to volunteer in ministry on a regular basis. And you know what? Who cares?
Crap. Grandma fainted. Someone help her back onto the pew.
The simple reality is that some — dare I say many — pastors’ kids (of all ages) just want to attend church without having to worry about fulfilling any sort of leadership roles, lofty expectations, or ministry requirements. There’s a freedom in that. There’s a tranquility in it. As PKs, we’re already immersed in the church’s culture, news, gossip, and drama even when we’re not on campus because it’s often the subject of household conversation. Not only do we know almost everything about the worship music, the ministries, the current sermon series, and the upcoming events, we’re also keenly aware of a plethora of complaints from congregants; the latest marriage to crumble; the most recent power struggle amongst the staff or board; the last person who spouted off and insulted our father; and the newest rumor about Brother So-And-So’s secret sin. We often know who’s leaving the church for no good reason, who’s struggling financially, and who’s in the hospital facing the possibility of entering Eternity.
If these issues exhaust us as PKs, how much more do they drain our dads? Thank God that they’re spiritually equipped for the role of pastor. Otherwise they would surely suffer that nervous breakdown I mentioned earlier.
The truth is that when people in the church see the PK fail to meet a so-called “expectation” — like ministry involvement or leadership — the outrage is often completely fake and unjustified. No one is authentically upset. It’s all a game. It’s just a theatrical production. They think they’re upset, but they’re really not. They have no reason to be, whether they're aware of it or not.
There was a time when I worried about those opinions and expectations, but now I honestly couldn’t care less about them. The Lord can use anyone in any career field, and PKs are certainly no exception. So, if you’re a pastor’s son or daughter, don’t allow other people to forcibly impress their wants and desires onto you. Don’t succumb to outside pressure to go into ministry. If it’s not for you, then go find your passion elsewhere, embrace it, and carry on.
Mocking millennials is certainly one of America’s greatest national hobbies. I imagine millions of citizens are doing it right now. Some of them are probably even making future plans to do it. They’re literally scheduling their days or weekends around it. “Hey, baby. You free Friday evening? I thought we could go to dinner, take a nice walk, and make fun of millennials.” Somewhere, in some place, someone is making fun of millennials right now.
I admit that, even as a millennial myself, I’ve enjoyed partaking in this particular trend from time to time. After all, when it comes to my generation, there’s certainly no shortage of things at which to poke fun. We’re spoiled. We’re selfish. We’re entitled. We’re lazy. We’re narcissistic. We have expensive tastes for things we can’t afford. Most of us can’t even change the oil in our own cars or boil an egg without asking a Gen-X-er or Boomer for help.
And now, we’re apparently stressed out. Like, super stressed out. And we demand that everyone know it and believe it. In fact, we’re more stressed out than anyone else on the planet. Or so we think.
Yes, in what seems to be one of the most absurd and altogether pointless surveys ever conducted in the history of human civilization, a CBD oil company known as Endoca, in conjunction with OnePoll, recently polled 2,000 individuals in the infamous 23-38 age demographic and found that over one-third of today’s millennials believe that their lives are more stressful than the average person’s life. Furthermore, almost 60 percent of millennials think that life today is more stressful than it ever has been at any time since the dawn of mankind’s existence.
But, what’s the source of all this stress? Where is it coming from? Gone are the days when Americans were concerned about random outbreaks of polio or the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviets. The Great Depression is over and the smallpox scare is a thing of the past. Those were the sort of worries that weighed on the minds of our parents and grandparents. The Greatest Generation stood strong in the face of death, chaos, economic uncertainty, breadlines, gas lines, and other societal horrors we can’t even fathom. This is 2019 for God’s sake.
By contrast, today’s millennials seem to be worried about their own brand of apocalyptic disasters. You know, really frightening atrocities like “losing my wallet/credit card” and “arguing with a partner” and “traffic delays.” And there’s also the nightmarishly terrifying possibility of “cracking my phone screen” or, wait for it, “slow WiFi.” Dear Lord. It’s truly a wonder that these folks manage to make it through the day in one piece. These persecutions and challenges make the Gulags of Lenin’s Russia look like the Ritz Carlton. It’s simply mind-boggling that millennials are not an extinct species by now.
I suppose one could argue that these things are micro-stressors that contribute to an overall increase in stress levels, which then lead to negative health reactions and side effects. Maybe this is the case. Maybe not. Regardless, someone should really sit a lot of the lunkheads from my generation down and have a chat with them about what it was like to fight against Japan in World War II, endure the Vietnam draft, or struggle to put enough food on the table to feed your family. If nothing else, it might, at the very least, make them more appreciative of the era in which they live.
Truly, the egocentric individualism of today’s millennials is incredible. Compared to the America of old, we practically live in a modern-day Garden of Eden where nearly every resource, want, and desire is within arm’s reach. Think about it. With our iPhones alone we can buy movie tickets, purchase clothing, request an Uber ride, summon a corporate staff meeting, instantly send messages and photos to friends and family, order coffee before we arrive at the local Starbucks, have dinner show up at our house, download hours of music, watch endless amounts of movies and TV shows, and read any book, newspaper, or magazine we want. The entire world is literally in our back pocket.
And yet, here we are in one of the most prosperous and technologically-advanced times in U.S. history, whining like spoiled brats about having to wash dishes or go through the sofa to find our phone chargers. (Yes, seriously. Go back and look at the list.) Sure, our generation experienced the 9/11 terror attacks, the war on Al-Qaeda, and violent civil unrest in places like Ferguson. But, in the big picture, most of us were not directly affected by these events on a personal level.
Today’s young people will never know the frustration of searching their pants pockets for enough change to make a long distance call from a phone booth or trying to remember what time their favorite TV station will be “signing off the air” every night, much less be intimately acquainted with the horrors of war and death. Stressed out? Give me a break.
If you’re a millennial and you’re stressed, odds are you’ve created the source of the stress yourself; or you’re letting your emotions control you, rather than the other way around. Either way, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Yesterday, The Daily Mirror — a British tabloid newspaper headquartered in London — ran a story about a “married lesbian couple” from Florida who are now apparently “husband and wife after one became a man.” That was literally the headline of the article. The subtitle notes that they couldn’t care less about genders because “they are madly in love.” In other local news, a man and his soft taco are now a team of salsa dancers after one of them transitioned into Desi Arnaz and began singing Babalu.
Anyway, a little background: Tay and Anayah Kennedy were (and are) both females when they started dating about five years ago at the ages of 17 and 14, respectively. Now at 22-years-old, Tay has undergone hormone replacement therapy and wants to have gender reassignment surgery because she apparently feels that she was meant to be a male. Anayah says she has no problem with this and added, “I am attracted to Tay as a man just the same as I was as a woman, maybe even more.”
Alright, that’s enough for now. If you’re interested in the remaining history of their relationship, you can read it for yourself by visiting the embedded link, which I don’t particularly recommend. Besides, that’s all we need to know in order to arrive at a few sane and logical conclusions.
I admit that, after reading Tay and Anayah’s story, I initially sat down at my laptop to furiously type out a scathing rant against gay marriage. I was ready to list all of the reasons why gay marriage and transgenderism are a fundamental threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage and to society in general. I was ready to cite all of the biblical and logical arguments against these two disastrous cultural monstrosities. And the truth is that if I wanted to do this, I certainly could. Moreover, I would even be right in my assertions. Gay marriage and the entire LGBT agenda have indeed wreaked havoc upon our culture and devastated countless individuals and relationships. But, then I remembered a blog post that I wrote back in July of 2014 about a trend called “beta-testing marriage.” It was about people — mostly millennials and young adults — who were taking marriage for a test drive as if it were a new car. This was around the same time that so-called “divorce parties” were also popular. Perhaps you remember those. Hollywood even churned out a divorce party movie last February. These “ceremonies” were designed to “celebrate the end of a marriage or civil union and usually involve one or both of the separating couple” — as if divorce was something to be happy about before moving on to another marriage or the next phase of life.
If this is true, then we must be one of the most ecstatic, jubilant, and overjoyed nations on the planet. After all, nearly 50 percent of our marriages end in divorce. There are literally over 46,000 divorces per week in our country. For those of you who are keeping up with the math, that roughly translates to one divorce every 13 seconds. Huzzah! The answer to eternal happiness and bliss has finally been revealed: Just divorce your spouse! What’s not to be celebrate? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. An alarmingly high number of Christians seem to be giving up on marriage as divorce has become increasingly common within the church, even among leadership and staff. Young believers in their twenties and thirties have all but given up on ever tying the knot. They quite literally want nothing to do with it. And who can really blame them when our society is utterly saturated with these sorts of statistics? Combined with issues like gender identity confusion and same-sex relationships, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason for a young person to even consider pursuing marriage these days.
In the midst of all this turmoil and chaos, I believe some differentiation and clarification is needed. You see, I don’t think the question is just “What are we going to do about transgenderism ideology and gay marriage?” though this is still certainly worthy of our attention, both as Christians and conservatives. However, I think the more significant and pressing question that we should be asking ourselves and the culture, particularly as Christ-followers and truth-tellers, is: “What are we going to do about marriage?” In other words: What are we going to do in order to ensure that the true, right, moral, biblical definition of marriage — one man, one woman — is cultivated throughout our society? If we were to answer this question with our own actions, the other issue would take care of itself to a large extent.
Traditional marriage is, quite literally, the very bedrock and foundation of our civilization as it is the only form of marriage in which procreation is possible. Without it, there would be no human race and we might as well end the conversation here. We should constantly assert this point when confronted with debates on same-sex or transgender “marriages.” Do it in love, but do it with boldness because you actually believe what you’re saying.
Let’s also be clear on another point and the reason why I place “marriage” in quotation marks: There is no such thing as gay “marriage” or transgender “marriage.” They do not exist because 1) marriage only has one definition and 2) transgenderism is a scientific and biological impossibility. It’s all utter nonsense to which our culture and our politicians have simply assigned their own terminology. Giving something a different name does not make it something else. If I were to walk into my den and refer to my dog as a cat, it would not make it so. It just makes me a crazy person who doesn’t know the difference between a dog and a cat. What our society refers to as “gay marriage” is simply a relationship between two people who happen to be of the same gender. But, it’s not marriage, no matter how much they wish that it was or how many laws they attempt to pass. In fact, it is the opposite of marriage. And what they refer to as “transgenderism” is, well, nothing at all.
So, what can we do? For starters, let’s model biblical marriage to a culture that obviously doesn’t understand what marriage was designed to be. Blog posts, Facebook statuses, and sermon series are great, but they only accomplish so much. Live out what you say you believe. Furthermore, take a strong position against divorce, even at the risk of offending those who have endured it, while simultaneously offering comfort to those who have been on the receiving end of it. Clearly marriage is not easy, no marriage is perfect, and in some horrific and extreme cases, divorce may even be morally justified or legally necessary. However, this doesn’t mean that we can or should ignore Scriptural principles about divorce or cease to speak of the terrible effects that it brings on families and on our society as a whole.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should teach our children and the next generation that their personal security and identity will never be found in another earthly individual, in a romantic relationship, or in trying to become something or someone that they are not. These are utterly worthless and trivial pursuits. Their security will only be found in Christ. The biblical and scientific truths of marriage, gender, and identity need to be desperately guarded and bravely defended in order to guarantee that this is even possible. I have dedicated much of my writing, blogging, and social media posts to doing just that. I have chosen not to give up, even though there often seems to be no point in trying.
Sadly, many Christians and churches have surrendered on these topics and fallen silent for fear of being labeled “insensitive,” or “mean” or “homophobic” or “bigoted” or “hateful" or whatever. This doesn’t make me some sort of hero, but it does illuminate the unfortunate reality that thousands of Christians — including some pastors — have chosen to skirt these issues and run away from them with their tails between their legs. And to that I say: So be it. Let them run. If they are too concerned with their own popularity, or are too fearful of repercussions, then they do not belong in this particular battle. As for me, I will not back down or join their cowardly withdrawal. And if you’re still reading this, then I hope you won’t either. After all, our culture’s very soul is at stake.