11 November 2013

Scared Millennials, 'Churchy' Phrases and Authority

Many so-called 'millennials' grew up with commercial catch phrases like Burger King's® infamous motto 'Have it your way.' In fact, this blogger's fifth grade science teacher had a sign at the front of his room that read, "This isn't Burger King. You cannot have it your way. You have it my way or you don't have it at all."

Authority. It is something that human nature rails against, yet intrinsically all men know it exists and ultimately appreciate it. Without an authority to submit to, men lack boundaries, and where there are no boundaries there is relativism and chaos. Without authority, anything goes, and it will not be long before everything goes straight down into a quagmire of sin and darkness.

For the Christian, there is one ultimate authority, and that is God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is able to live in willing and obedient submission to the authority of his Lord and Savior. The Church is those who have been called out and saved by God. As the Church gathers together each week in various small 'c' churches, the authoritative Word of God is taught so that those who have been saved by God may come to know Him better and live godly lives, walking in a manner worthy of the salvation that they have been given. This weekly gathering, this time of worship through teaching, prayer and praise, prepares the Christian to walk into a hostile world and share with that world the most offensive message available: the Gospel.

The pastor, then, is an undershepherd of the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He is charged with teaching the Word of God, in all of its authority, to the flock of believers that God has given to him. His duty is not to preach what the people want to hear, but to preach and teach the truths that God has already spoken. Nowhere is this more explicit than in Paul's second epistle to young Timothy:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:1–5)
Notice that Paul appeals to the authority of God and of Christ as he orders Timothy to "preach the word" regardless of whether or not the conditions of the culture find it favorable. And in fact, the Word of God and the saving Gospel is not always accepted with a nod and a smile:
But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness. . . (1 Cor 1:23)
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Cor 2:14)
 Nevertheless, in this age of entitlement many who walk through the doors of a professing Christian church do so with the motive of being served a weekly dose of what they desire to hear. If they find the message displeasing, they quickly leave and rarely return. The Washington Post has published an article revealing five 'churchy' phrases that have 'scared off' the millennial generation. The first of these is:
“The Bible clearly says…” 
We are the first generation to grow up in the age of information technology, and we have at our fingertips hundreds of commentaries, sermons, ideas, and books. We can engage with Biblical scholars on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s impossible not to see the way that their doctrines – rooted in the same Bible – differ and clash. 
We’re acutely aware of the Bible’s intricacies. We know the Bible is clear about some things– but also that much is not clear. We know the words are weighted to a culture that we don’t completely understand and that the scholars will never all agree. 
We want to hear our pastors approach these words with humility and reverence. Saying, “This is where study and prayer have led me, but I could be wrong,” does infinitely more to secure our trust than The Bible clearly says… 
"We want to hear." At the risk of sounding unloving, it does not matter what one "wants to hear." What matters is what the Bible says. And while there may be many ideas floating about this postmodern society regarding what the Bible says, the reality is that there is only one true meaning for every biblical text, and that meaning is what was intended by the divine Author. The Christian who loves and desires to serve his Master will seek to hear what God is saying in His Word, and if that means hearing a hard and difficult truth such as is found in, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, then so be it. After all, when such verses are read in context, the message of grace, forgiveness, justification, regeneration and sanctification through Jesus Christ is not lost:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9–11)
The Washington Post article also complains about "Black and white quantifiers of faith, such as 'Believer, Unbeliever, Backsliding'" because "Millennials are sick of rhetoric that centers around who’s in and who’s out."

Whether millennials like it or not, however, the reality is that on the day of judgment, many will discover that they are "out," as in, cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; as in, cast into eternal judgment, forever to experience the wrath of the holy God whom they hated and reviled in life. In closing His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. (Matt 7:24–27)
Those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Christ and His work alone for salvation are those who have heeded His authoritative Word. They have built their house on the rock. Any other foundation is sure to crumble under the rain of divine judgment. Says the MacArthur Study Bible of these verses,
The house represents a religious life; the rain represents divine judgment. Only the house built on the foundation of obedience to God's Word stands, which calls for repentance, rejection of salvation by works, and trust in God's grace to save through His merciful provision.
When Jesus spoke these words, He was not offering them as a suggestion, rather these were words spoken with command and power. These were divine words of warning from the ultimate authority.
When Jesus had finished these words [the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount], the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matt 7:28–29)
And yet churchgoers, and the apparently all-important (to some) millennial generation, protests this authority, because the Washington Post article lists as the final scary 'churchy' phrase, "God is in control." "Chances are we believe this is true," the article says, but just because it is true does not mean that millennials want to hear it. Instead, they, and all self-serving, narcissistic churchgoers of any age, want a touchy-feely Jesus who will coddle and cater to them in any situation. But if a person purports to believe in the sovereignty of God, then he ought to live in light of the reality of that sovereignty.
Many plans are in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. (Prov 19:21)
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. (Psalm 33:11)
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, " declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Is 55:8–9)
The Lord is in control, then, and as such it is not what the wicked, deceitful hearts of men desire that ought to be indulged in the church. The church is to be a gathering of believers, and the true believer seeks to have God, through prayer and study of Scripture, align his desires with the Lord's. The true Christian welcomes the chastening and challenging of the Word of God. The man who delights in the Lord knows that ultimately, nothing in life is about himself, rather it is about God and glorifying Him with one's thoughts, speech, behavior, indeed the totality of his life. The professing Christian whose heart and mind do not reflect these desires ought to examine his life and his faith, as he may perhaps need to heed the words and warning of the prophet Isaiah:
Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Is 55:6–7)
Further Reading
Doctrine Matters
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
Witnessing to a Blank Stare


  1. Excellent! May I post this on our church blog, giving you credit as the author? Thank you!

    1. Hi Louise,
      Of course you may repost the article. Thank you!

  2. As usual, you nailed it. Thank you for your faithfulness to God's Word!


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