Christian Millennials

February 28, 2019

On Christian Millennials Who Believe Evangelism is Wrong

(This post originally appeared on the Faith & Chelsen blog on Patheos, and is reprinted with permission.)

As a busy February is finally coming to a close, I decided now is a good time to catch up on the religion news stories I’ve missed over the last month. One bit of initially unsettling news I discovered is a Barna Group study released on February 5 revealing nearly half of Christian Millennials resist evangelism.

The study examined how different generations of American Christians approach the Great Commission from Jesus Christ instructing his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Barna’s data shows 96 percent of practicing Christian Millennials agree a crucial aspect of their faith is to be a witness for Jesus, and yet 47 percent believe it is wrong to share one’s faith with someone of a different religion.

Even so, 96 percent of my peers agree the best thing that could ever happen is for someone to come to know Jesus, according to the Barna Group’s Reviving Evangelism” study.

Most surprising to me is that the data shows Christian Millennials overwhelmingly agree (86 percent) they are equipped to respond to questions about the faith and 73 percent feel gifted at sharing the Gospel with others.

So in one sense, younger Christians believe it is essential for others to know Jesus, but then a significant chunk sees no urgency in Gospel-sharing with others who disagree with them. How do you possibly reconcile the two?

Despite conflicting responses, there is a bright spot here I want to highlight. Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised so many Millennials desire to convert others. The majority of Christian Millennials believe it is important for people to know Jesus and believe their lives should be a witness for Jesus.

So what about those who think it is wrong to share the Gospel with sinners in hopes of conversion?

The disconnect here, I think, stems from younger Christians’ desires to demonstrate the love of Jesus through acts of Christian compassion. Christianity is nearly acceptable in broader society when we are rightly helping to alleviate poverty, feed the poor, and care for widows and orphans. Because despite age, when Christians start to discuss topics of sin, judgment, Hell, and eternal suffering, secular society’s haranguing begins.

Acts of charity is an easier evangelism route for Christian Millennials who are unlikely as confident in their evangelism abilities as they might say (or think). But this tactic often undermines the grim threat to eternal souls.

Recently I listened to an “Ask Pastor John” podcast titled, “Should Hell Motivate Our Missionaries?”  This particular recording is a clip from a panel discussion including Pastor John Piper that took place at the 2019 Bethlehem College and Seminary conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering,” Piper said. “Christians care and will show that they care about all human suffering, especially eternal suffering. So if your life is marked by compassion for all suffering except eternal suffering, you’re a defective lover.”

To say that people are going to Hell if they do not confess their sins and accept Christ as their Savior is an unpopular and uncomfortable statement. And yet true.

I confess that I sometimes question myself if I really care about people spending eternity without God. How does that play out in my evangelism and personal relationships? Do I share about what Christ has done in my own life? Do I recognize the urgency of eternal suffering and Christ’s imminent return?

This study is insightful, but I hesitate to express irritation with 47 percent of Christian Millennials. While my initial temptation was to write a cantankerous article complaining about the state of Christian Millennials, my conclusions circle back to a renewed sense of urgency to better disciple those around me and a bit of conviction for personally failing to prioritize eternal suffering. Because if we’re honest, don’t most of us need improvement in evangelizing to the lost?

Even while we strive to maintain a faithful Christian witness and care for others’ needs on earth, we all must remember to look forward. Homeward.

5 Responses to On Christian Millennials Who Believe Evangelism is Wrong

  1. Bill T says:

    “but then a significant chunk sees no urgency in Gospel-sharing with others who disagree with them. How do you possibly reconcile the two?”

    Good book- The Coddling of the American Mind”. One point is it is the teaching, in college, of removing anything that makes someone uncomfortable. If you disagree with someone be prepared to be labeled hateful since you hurt them and did violence to them. Most students walk on eggshells not to offend and that stays with them after they leave college.

    That was readily apparent at the Special Conference where the proponents of the Traditional plan were labeled hateful and hurtful because they disagreed with those who wanted the other plans. They did not debate but relied on emotion and how much they were hurt and harmed. This, BTW, was a planned tactic which I heard from our Bishop well before the Conference.

    We are living in two separate worlds and are allowing the minority to capture the language. Read the book.

    They also only understand good and bad as either/or and they are on the side of good hence we are evil.

    They are literally mental infants and have not grown up. Just look at their tactics at the Conference- stonewalling, lying (stand against but give a speech for), screaming at others, disrespect, and on and on. They did not come out well.

    As far as evangelism, just teach the Millennials what Wesley taught- faith and works are a unity as well as separate. Feed the soul and the body. Usually if you feed the body the soul will follow. Which is what you said.

    • Bruce says:

      I agree, Bill. I was especially disappointed in how our Bishop Bard reported the Conference. It seemed that to follow the scriptures was “hurtful” to those that disagreed. My impression, from the reports I have read is, that the LGBTQwhataever are being hurtful to the rest of us because we believe what God said. Just makes me sad.

  2. Bob says:

    We recently left our beloved UMC church family because of the actions of the liberal members. (Our last 2 church pastors were appointed specifically to change the direction of our once-conservative congregation). One of them stated with great assurance that we shouldn’t be making an idol of the Bible, that we shouldn’t take it literally and that it is just another “tool” we use and doesn’t have any more authority than tradition or reason. Then Bishop Oliveto was assigned to our conference and proclaimed that we shouldn’t be making an idol of Jesus, because he was a flawed person. And we need to be inclusive and not hurt the LGBTQetc. people in our midst. However, one of the progressive faction said right to my face that “this church will be a whole lot better off when the last conservative walks out the door.” How is that not hurtful? How is that inclusive? I guess the case for “inclusivity” is only acceptable in one direction.

  3. Lyn Thomas says:

    It would seem that the governing is doctrine of Scripture and the presenting issue is sexuality inclusiveness. Redefining Scripture has been liberalism’s tip of the spear for nearly a century.

  4. Lucy says:

    I’m not sure if this is an important difference or not, but the survey didn’t ask whether it was wrong to share faith—it asked if it was wrong to share faith with the hope that the other person will convert to your religion. The same survey also asked if disagreeing with someone was the same as judging, and a high percentage of millennials also agrees with this. Other surveys also show data that millennials actually speak about spiritual topics more than other generations. All together, I think this means that this generation only has an aversion to the condemnation of sin, not to sharing faith as a whole. And, we are well acquainted with the image of evangelism. When someone talks to us with the intention to convert us, we can always tell—100% of the time. And then, especially among non religious groups, we mostly tend to shut down. We’ve already heard every argument they could throw at us. We’re saturated in it. We can tell when someone’s not listening. So beyond just a reluctance to confront sin, I think this is also a rejection of what evangelism has come to represent to us, that car salesman-type attitude or scripted conversations from door to door people interrupting your dinner. And I’ve definitely noticed this almost pathological fear of expressing disagreement with anyone about anything beyond what flavor of chips you like. It’s taken as a moral judgement, for sure.

    I’m not sure what to do with all this information; I just notice that in almost all the coverage of this particular statistic, that “with the hope that they will convert” part is left out, when I really think that is the exact part that makes them say no.

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