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A Church out of touch?

Millennials value strong message, not flashy medium

Is the medium the message or is the message the message, regardless of medium? As social and new media exerts its ever-increasing influence, what does that mean for the Church and preaching the gospel? In particular, what does it mean for the Church and its effort to reach out to young non-Christians?

Barna Group, a faith-based research company, says it is not uncommon for young people to think the Church is an out of date, out of touch institution that doesn’t reflect their values. As a result, 59 per cent of young people disconnect from the Church, either permanently or for an extended period of time.

In an effort to reach out to the younger generation, many churches have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and perhaps Instragam. They might incorporate lively music on Sunday mornings and the pastor might wear jeans. While these ideas are a good way to reach out to some 20-somethings, those initiatives focus on the medium and not the message.

“I think it’s the followers who haven’t done a good job of portraying Jesus, but if you think about young people and their values—justice, inclusion and more—those are all biblical values,” says Andrew Mills, a pastor at Plattsville Evangelical Missionary Church in the Waterloo region.

“I don’t think (young) people are against Jesus, but repelled instead by the Church.”

It would seem then that it doesn’t matter if a church tweets every day; if the message isn’t right, it’s not going to resonate. As a result, churches that want to reach out to young people need to rethink Christianity within the context of modern culture.

“We are living in a personalized world and therefore we will be more individualistic in how we appropriate Christianity and our Christian lives,” says Charles Price, lead pastor at The Peoples Church in Toronto. “I think every medium can be harnessed for the Christian message and every medium should be.”

Those born in the post-modern era have grown up with a set of values that seem to contradict the common (if misunderstood) messages of the Church. With these new values, there is a social shift and that means spiritual expression is changing.

Mills, 30, says this is a great time for churches to reflect on their role and rethink their representation of Jesus on earth.

“There has been a cultural transition and it’s a chance for us to work within in this culture. The biggest thing for the Church is we need to get back to actually living like Jesus Christ.”

This new culture includes new ideas, asking difficult questions and being okay with not having answers. When the teachings of Jesus are properly communicated, young people will find that the core messages align with their own values. God will speak to them regardless of the medium.

“Focus on the deepest needs that young people have and don’t try to put them into a box or make them conform to anything. Deal with issues of the heart. I think that’s what Jesus did,” says Price. “If God is real, then He is real, and He will meet them in that deep area of their hearts. If we address those issues and not recruit people into a system, but love people and bring value into their lives and I think that will resonate with a lot of people.”

Do you agree? Should the Church be doing more to meet the needs of younger demographics? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

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About the author

Special to ChristianWeek

Caitlin McKay is a writer from Toronto. She covers a variety of topics including international development, politics and religion.