Nearly Half of Millennials Think Evangelism is Wrong
There is a new crisis in evangelism. Millennials believe that sharing one’s faith is problematic and maybe even wrong, though they do believe that Christianity calls them to be a witness. That’s a tension that will prove difficult to overcome.
A Barna study found:
Almost half of Millennials (47%) agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. This is compared to a little over one-quarter of Gen X (27%), and one in five Boomers (19%) and Elders (20%).
Here is a visual breakdown of Barna’s findings:
Why are Millennials averse to sharing their faith? It could be a higher perception of social cost among Millennials. According to Barna, “three out of five Christian Millennials believe that people today are more likely than in the past to take offense if they share their faith (65%)—that’s far higher than among Boomer Christians (28%). Millennials are also either two (Gen X) or three times more likely (Boomers and Elders) than any other generational group to believe that disagreement means judgment.”
To a lesser degree than previous generations, Millennials may fear losing status by sharing their faith.
Here is some further reporting on the Barna research findings by Kate Shellnutt of Christianity Today. Shellnutt writes, “While this statistic could easily bolster stereotypes of a lazy, distracted, and increasingly unaffiliated generation, the minority of millennials who have stayed active in their churches also show higher markers of commitment in other areas, as well as a savvier sense of the religious pluralism and diversity they were raised around.”
That may be true. But evangelism is imperative to the Christian faith, and if the church is to fulfill its God-given mission, then emerging generations will need to be equipped and open to sharing their faith.
In his book The Kaleidoscope Effect: What Emerging Generations Seek in Leaders, Pastor Scott Chrostek writes this about evangelism:
Evangelism is the study of the practice of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. An evangelist is nothing more than a person who is known for her or his ability to share the good story or the good news. Throughout Scripture, we see this word or one of its derivatives approximately forty-one different times, and from its use one thing becomes clear: Church leaders are called to be evangelists, to be known by our propensity for sharing the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection...We tell stories so that others might meet God.
Telling the good story of Jesus includes living a good story, embodying the message Christians proclaim. But it also involves speaking, sharing, explaining, and inviting. While it is good that Millennials are more sensitive to present day pluralism and more deeply committed to sharing the gospel in other ways, it would be wise to still encourage them to share the story of Jesus with others, and to invite them to come along.