In the political world and in our culture, there is a new term called the “snowflake” generation. It has become one of Collins Dictionary’s 2016 words of the year, and it means, “the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations”1 There is a wider connotation to mean that these are young people (teens through early adult-hood) who not only are offended easily, but seem to think it’s ok to melt down in a panic when they are offended. They will boycott and join a march or literally throw a fit or give up on participating in life all together if things don’t go the way they think it should. So this is more than just idealism that is typical (and healthy) in young adults.
I’ve seen some of this trickle into the Church, but I don’t think it’s only millennials that do this as I will point out below. There are many blog posts from millennials who tell us why they are going to boycott the church for a myriad of reasons. One writer even wanted a safe space for millennials in our churches as he gave solutions to his grievances.
“Solutions: Create real and relevant space for young adults to learn, grow and be vulnerable…. Intentionally train young adults in how to live a godly life instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.”2
They say they want a real relationship with God (not religion, they say)3, and since they don’t find it they leave or threaten to leave. Even between humans, a truly deep and lasting and mature relationship develops at an almost imperceptible pace. Why should we think that it is different with our invisible God? Barna surveys say they are not so much abandoning the faith, but rather they are behaving more like nomads or exiles.4 THAT gives me some hope, because it means that they seem to be searching and want real answers. They are weighing what it really means to be in church and how to relate to the culture around them.
But this attitude of seeking is not what I’d call snowflake Christianity. It is normal for a young person to evaluate and proceed in life according to their own faith and conscience, not their parents’. However, they are in danger of becoming a “snowflake”. A seeker needs to understand that they stand at a crossroads and could easily step onto the wrong path. The snowflakes ought not to fall to pieces or give up on church when those who have taken the road less traveled urge them and pull them to their way of thinking. We traditional Christians may even rebuke a young person for some errors in this mentality. We understand that the choice is yours to make, but it is a snowflake who is offended and threatened by this whole process and discussion. Maybe there are some things about traditional Christianity that you haven’t considered. Here are some thoughts as you navigate through this wilderness that may help you not to be shattered in your faith.
If you are of the millennial generation, here’s how NOT to be a snowflake Christian.
Spiritual growth and progress is often unseen.
Just because you don’t see witnessing or discipleship happening in front of your eyes or in an organized way in the church doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And the smaller the church (like mine), the less it will be possible to form programs or specialized outreach. We rely very heavily on each member to be Spirit-filled and sensitive to the Lord’s leading….which will result in discipleship, service, and witnessing. This requires the pastor and other leadership to be discipling the believers, and that is what you will see the most happening inside church. Then the believers who have been edified and equipped will go out into the highways and byways. But you may never see that entire process happening within the walls of the church. And you have to be ok with that.
I personally believe that outreach happens “out there”. Inside is where we come in out of the rain. All are welcome, but you have to take off your wet, rain soaked garments before you’ll feel very comfortable in the pew. Helping the poor or other social programs are good, but they are not the Gospel. They are not the primary purpose of the Church. Jesus taught us how present the Gospel, how to treat people, and how to bear up under suffering, but what Jesus came to do is not what the Church is supposed to do.5
I also personally think that young growing Christian families and singles ought to plug into a small church and roll up your sleeves to do the work. I know of at least 50 churches in the lower 48 and in Alaska who would give anything if a solid Christian single or young family would take a job near them instead of a big city and plug into their church and just be faithful people, loving the Lord and serving Him. Those churches aren’t looking to add more programs. They are just wanting to be faithful where they are.
Ask yourself if you are abiding in Christ and following the burdens He’s given you, instead of pointing out whether someone else is doing it right. If you don’t see enough done for single adults in your church, perhaps, just maybe, that is the Lord tugging at your heart to serve and minister in that way. Maybe you are the answer to your own prayer!
Even good Christians are nothing more than sinners saved by grace.
I know, you’ve heard this before and you think it’s a cop out, but it really is true. We are likened to sheep (1 Peter 5:2), those self-centered, short-sighted, foolish and dependant creatures. 1 Peter 4:18 says the righteous are only scarcely saved! I think that many young adults and teens who have grown up in church usually come to a point (like I did) where we are disillusioned by our own parents and teachers and pastors whom we have loved and respected (dare I say, idolized). Suddenly these giants of the faith, like David who slew Goliath, are found to be prone to sin and wandering, and just as much in need of grace and love and growth as you are. The difference is just that they’ve been at this thing called the Christian Life a little longer than you have. The young person who can look past the old saints’ shortcomings and see Christ working in them is the “millennial” I admire. If you will bring yourself to watch an older believer, one who has fought and won many battles, and then ask them why they fought this battle and not that one, you will be blessed and will learn.
Just because mature Christianity does not require balancing on stumps on the beach like Mr. Miyagi, doesn’t mean that traditional mature believers aren’t as agile in their application of Scripture. They like to cut through the fat and wield their two-edged sword. And it’s a beautiful thing to see!
I feel like the apostle Paul when I say this next paragraph. I feel like a fool. I can’t boast in myself, because what I’m about to say is really none of my doing. But I can boast in what Christ has done in my life; I can boast in where God has led me. I can boast in a woman who has walked with the Lord for 35 years, a preacher’s wife, a preacher’s kid, a missionary’s grandchild; a friend to numerous ministry families; a Bible college graduate. Because I have moved a lot in my life, I’ve been a member of both tiny churches and large churches and everything in between, a member of many healthy churches, and watching a few church splits. I’ve seen and experienced how true spiritual growth happens from salvation through adulthood. I will boast in one who serves the church in the nursery, in Sunday School classes, in church work days, in VBS, as well as in teaching and counseling ministry. I’ve known and loved spiritual giants of the faith. I’ve wept and prayed for friends who have left the faith or who have left traditional church life. I’ve seen sin in its most horrible forms destroy lives, and I’ve seen God rebuild them. I’ve seen abuse of the pastorate, and I’ve sat under the most loving, strong and biblical pastors.
But all of the blessings of my life are only due to God’s saving grace to a little girl who knew she was a sinner. I could not have orchestrated any of it, nor did I want to in my sinfulness. He saved me in His mercy and set me on a path that He wanted for me.
Multiply my testimony and experience to extend to every other godly woman and man around you. My husband walks in his path and personality where God has led him. My parents are coming up on 50 years of faithful full-time ministry. We all have attempted great things for God and expected great things from God. And it is not just those in ministry. Look at all of the old saints in your church. Why do they resist your whining? Because every generation does it and they have seen the end result of giving up too much ground.
And you, snowflake Christian, have all the answers? You can’t find it in yourself to learn something in our imperfect, boring little classroom? Don’t be surprised when you are ignored and the focus turns to those more willing to fight on the front lines with the old generals directing and encouraging from headquarters (1 John 2:13).
Lashing out and boycotting the church is not going to get you far with the Lord.
I should know. I’m very opinionated and far too outspoken. My pride gets in the way too often. I implore you not to make the mistakes I’ve made. And I think every mature believer would say the same. It takes humility and patience and quiet observance to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, that gentle dove who uses simple preaching and reading of His Word to transform my life. It is most often those times of simple devotion and submission that I grow and can be used than in times when I think I’m big stuff.
God’s ways are not our ways. I can understand why you’d be confused why the young, talented, fashionable missionary on deputation with his power point presentation seems to be doing more for the Lord than the old missionary reporting back about his ministry after finally being able to go on furlough after 10 years on the field, who is out of his element in your church with his dated sports jacket and rickety slide projector. Give me the old missionary’s heart any day! But even he will challenge you young ones to step up to the plate and take their place when they can’t do it anymore.
This is not a problem unique to millennials, including myself. We like to talk and debate and fine-tune our views, but in the end I have to stand before God all by myself and tell him why I thought listening to that music was ok, or watching that movie was profitable, or spending time at that craft or hobby was so important, or why fighting for my “right” to drink or dance or smoke or fill-in-the-blank was so helpful to my Christian walk. Safe-spaces for controversy isn’t what is needed. Obedience and holiness before God is what is needed. Final Exams are coming, in other words, and the Lord isn’t going to excuse our poor grade at the Bema Seat (2 Cor. 5:10) so that we could express ourselves outside of His classroom.
I am concerned for you, snowflake Christian, that you may be hurting yourself more than helping. I am concerned that your testimony in the world is hurting the name of Christ rather than helping.
We’re not going to spoil you and hold your hand through everything. But we also won’t leave you to sink or swim. We will disciple you if you will avail yourself of all the tools we’ve built up for you. God has given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
You are so much more than these tantrums. And there is so much work to be done. Just remember that the work is in hearts where you can’t see it. You set up the chairs and staff the nursery, and I’ll study and prepare the lesson. We’ll both pray and ask God to use us, and we will trust that He will multiply our meager bag of loaves and fishes. And when the fruit begins to grow who can say if it was my teaching or your humble faithfulness in the small things that spoke to someone’s heart?
No, it will be God who worked all things for good to those who love Him.
- “Top 10 Collins Words of the Year 2016”. Collins English Dictionary. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why”. FaithIt.com. February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
- See my post “It’s a Relationship AND a Religion”.
- “Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts”. Barna Group. Research Releases in Millennials & Generations • November 15, 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- Jesus came to present the Kingdom to Israel (a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on the throne of David). He came to be the Messiah. Israel as a nation rejected their Messiah, because first Jesus had to solve the sin problem by dying on the cross for sinners (the Gospel), and most of them didn’t want that. Today, most people still don’t want that and still reject the Gospel. Because the Kingdom was rejected, the Age of Grace was launched. The Church is God’s institution for the Age of Grace in which true believers worship corporately and make disciples which begins with the Gospel but doesn’t end there (Matt. 28:19-20). Therefore, the Kingdom is not equal to the Church, and not all concepts we find in the Gospels that Jesus taught are directly applicable to the Church, though they are applicable in indirect ways. Read Rick Shrader’s article “The Kingdom of God in the Gospels” at Aletheia Baptist Ministries.