Good News on Millennial Christians--They're Friends With Non-Christians
But blogger Keith Giles observes Barna is, “emphasizing one set of results over against another set which is much more positive.” Giles claims, “What the survey also reveals is that these Millennials are MORE equipped than other age groups to actually share their faith with others.”
Barna found, “Millennials in particular feel equipped to share their faith with others. For instance, almost three-quarters say they know how to respond when someone raises questions about faith (73%), and that they are gifted at sharing their faith with other people (73%). This is higher than any other generational group: Gen X (66%), Boomers (59%) and Elders (56%).”
Millennials feel more confident than other generations in answering questions non-Christian neighbors may have about their faith.
Barna also found, “Younger Christians tend to be more personally aware of the cultural temperature around spiritual conversations. Among practicing Christians, Millennials report an average (median) of four close friends or family members who practice a faith other than Christianity; most of their Boomer parents and grandparents, by comparison, have just one.”
Millennials are also friends with more non-Christians than those in other generational cohorts, which means they have more opportunities to invite those around them into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
Nevertheless, Barna still found, “Millennials are unsure about the actual practice of evangelism. 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%).”
Millennials understand the Christian imperative to evangelism, they feel equipped to share their faith, and they are in relationship with friends who do are not Christians. And yet, they are reluctant to share their convictions toward the end of conversion. Why?
“The question is about evangelism. That word conjures up arguments around the dinner table about who is right and who is wrong. It evokes bad memories of “Us vs Them” confrontations that usually end in tears and someone being told they will burn in hell for their unbelief. This is what Millennials are not interested in doing. . . This is very good news for the future of Christianity, in my opinion. I am very excited to learn that this next generation of Christ-followers is more interested in listening to people who think differently and less interested in having arguments about who is right or wrong. Love is their mission. Actual relationships are their goal. Friendships with people of other faiths, or even with no faith whatsoever, are more important to them than being right.”
But is this a proper understanding of evangelism? Is evangelism concerned with making arguments, proving another person wrong, and establishing oneself as right?
No, it is not. While Giles is right to say that Millennials understand well how to be “salt and light,” living in relationship to those who do not believe and modeling the way of Christ, he is wrong to neglect that the calling of Jesus also includes extending an invitation to others to change their mind, turn their heart toward a new affection, and live their lives in service to a different person, Jesus.
Evangelism is sharing the good news. It is to be done in a way that is gentle, non-coercive, non-manipulative, and, above all, loving.
That’s the message we need to send to Millennials. They’re already doing well by being in relationship with others who are not Christians. They are loving their neighbor, regardless of creed. Now, we need to encourage them to share their faith in love.