[I wrote that yesterday’s Catch was worth at least three. So I’m going to give everyone another day to digest it. Plus, our volunteer editor has gone over it and corrected many errors I missed. As I mentioned yesterday, we think of this as a manifesto (a public declaration of policy and aims) regarding our commitment to millennials as those who will preside over the next spiritual revolution. For the Catch ministry to live on, it is vital that we learn to understand one another.]
Our dear friend found John’s recent BlogTalkRadio interview regarding the millennials with Deborah Mullan and Elizabeth Shirk to not be too different from the answers he would have given had John interviewed him some 50 years ago while attending Wheaten College.
He is right that the millennials are currently undergoing the same societal stresses and asking many of the same questions those of us alive in the late 60’s and early 70’s asked about the deep, unresolved needs of our generation for love, meaning, community, peace and justice. We “Jesus freaks” of the “Jesus Movement” melded the freedom of the ‘60s and the Jesus of the Gospels into a new way of looking at Christianity. We were considered the Transformation Generation, living between the promise of a fairy-tale future and the possibility of the perfect storm.
Fifty years later, many of the same people who rallied around the message of Jesus are now members and leaders of a new church that has gained cultural significance as a moral and political force in society ― an issue-oriented message that has overshadowed the gospel message that once rallied us around Christ. Christians today are a cultural and political force to be reckoned with. The radical Jesus music they championed in 1969 has now become standard fare as worship music in most churches, and their early efforts at a contemporary Gospel have now morphed into an industry that provides everything Christian for a conservative culture eager to pay for a safer alternative to the sex- and violence-laced entertainment offered in the secular marketplace. What was once a message for the world is now a mantra for a subculture.
The Catch Ministry, on the other hand, was organized in 2012 to connect faith to the culture or marketplace, always building bridges from outside the walls of the church to the world we live in. We recognize that cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which we are developing a flourishing faith in both the young and the old. This means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of the body — that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.
Because the Catch Ministry wants to be the voice of Christ to more millennials, one of John’s primary questions during the BlogTalkRadio interview was to ask Deborah and Elizabeth what barriers the Catch Ministry needs to overcome to be Christ’s voice to this century’s generations.
Deborah and Elizabeth cautioned the Catch Ministry to be mindful of the level of loneness and anxiety the millennials in general are experiencing today.
“Today is not yesterday,” they explained. Millennials do not have a problem with the issue of trust when relating one to another, regardless of age. What they do not appreciate is not being recognized for who they are and the valuable insights they bring to the table. They know, even though you and I might resist it, that the world is becoming smaller, and a whole lot more connected. As a result, we are all being pushed into being trailblazers again, whether we like it or not! On a daily basis we are all entering uncharted waters. We are all going where none have gone before. There is no precedent for today. There is no history we can look back on to gauge the future or find comfort in projectable trends. We are surfing a tsunami of change that is wiping out reality, as we perceive it, and leaving in its wake a world of chaos and confusion, and yet a world of opportunities and possibilities. There is no going back. We are past the point of no return.
The millennials know this, and the non-churched Christians know why.
Some of us — like when we were 20 — will refuse to accept the fact that we must become innovators or pioneers again. Others will believe they can do something to catch up and they’ll be OK. Others believe change is finite and will choose to ignore the truth that change is infinite and accelerating rapidly. Like satisfied and contented settlers refusing to face new frontiers, they will want to stay put and watch the ship depart. Not a bad proposition until the tsunami rolls in. It’s coming, and it’s coming fast! It’s time to prepare together and brace for impact.
Non-churched millennials are harbingers of hope. However, they do not know you, our disenfranchised Christians who know more about truth and justice than most Church leaders today. You might remember the churches that would not open their arms to you unless you changed to suit the congregation. Consider yourselves today what Chuck Smith was then. In spite of his congregation’s objections, Chuck opened his doors for not only the Jesus Freaks but the Black Panthers, hippies, Yippies, Diggers, student activists, Weathermen, women’s liberationists, etc. Some stayed. Some left. But all were welcomed and accepted for who they were and not who they might become.
You know what it is to see over the horizon to what could be, what must be. You are also a realists to a degree. You recognize the challenge, but know there is no going back. You know that it is your job to encourage the millennials to forge ahead to find a new home, a new life, and a new beginning.
You know about having a vision of the future worth living for … worth dying for. Ask a millennial, “What is your hope; what is your vision?” And then, as both Elizabeth and Deborah said often, “Stop talking and listen.” While maybe not willing to climb a mountain yourself, reconsider. You must consider if the mountain is worth climbing and then encourage and walk alongside a millennial to encourage each other that every journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step, and that change is to be embraced to find the opportunity. Which is another recommendation on the part of Elizabeth and Deborah: “Walk alongside. Encourage. And keep walking together.”
Unfortunately, many seniors are more like dislocated settlers, longing for the good old days. They tend to live in the past. They are convinced of what cannot work and what is not possible. Every mountain is too high, every step too far, and every opportunity a potential disaster. They can hardly wait until things get back to normal. Not gonna happen.
So yeah, many millennials cannot relate to us Boomers. But when they find out they love the same music we do, and enjoy many of the same apps, then millennials are pleased to teach us immigrants to function in their realm as natives on the internet. Yet, most of us just check in with Facebook and learn what their “friends” had for dinner. While definitely a useful social media tool, few millennials are there.
Elizabeth and Deborah helped us understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media. Loneliness was rising even before the pandemic. Modern progress has brought unprecedented advances that make it easier for us technically to connect but often these advances create unforeseen challenges that make us feel more alone and disconnected. Social media, said Elizabeth, “can bring people together with mutual interests or make it easier for friends to make plans, but it also amplifies disagreement and siphons people into increasingly divisive echo chambers.” Because of these divisions, many millennials are just hunkering down. They’re not necessarily happy, huddling in their tribes. Many millennials are disturbed by all this, so you see levels of depression and anxiety going up in the population.
“If you’re lonely, almost the last thing you want to do is reach out, but you have to make yourself.”
“And the issue of anxiety?” John asked. The world, as we know it, will not exist in 10 years, maybe not even in 5 years. The top 10 jobs a decade from now do not even exist today. This would cause any one of us to be anxious. But these are small issues to the millennial. Knowledge on planet Earth is currently doubling every 72 hours. Everything is changing; people, information, technology, communications, economies, even the way our brains and bodies function. The world is shrinking, challenges and opportunities are growing, and change is accelerating. I think you will agree, there is reason to feel more anxious than perhaps we might feel. Life today, as the millennials currently know, is rapidly becoming a distant memory and tomorrow will stretch not only our imaginations, but also our ability to adapt and survive.
If we choose, we can be pioneers in the 21st century and its global shift and what it could mean to the billions of people now inhabiting our world of accelerating change.
Now allow me to ask you a question, How great was it to be invited to a home-cooked meal when you were 20? But shortly after the dessert, you could not wait to return to the dorm. This is because the hosts probably did not come alongside to discover what you might share in common. We need to stop being the know-it-all generation but genuinely enter into each other’s lives — not as mentor/student but as partners in this thing we call life.
You might think you are retired — but the Lord is tapping you on the shoulder to wake up those from the early ‘70s who experienced transformation to provide — as older, wiser pioneers — opportunity to ensure the millennials, the new pioneers, are equipped to handle what is at hand in their new frontier — and you know and they know it isn’t pretty. Elizabeth and Deborah told us how to do this, “Stop talking. Listen and encourage.”
It is the opinion of the millennials, and they are exceptionally anxious, that we are about to experience a significant transformation, maybe more than since the beginning of time. How we help them manage these turbulent years directly as we walk will determine their fate.
Some of us will resign ourselves to routines and rituals to escape the information overload. We will not adapt by learning how to communicate through their form of communicating. If we are too old to want to ask a millennial for help in navigating this unknown language, then we are too old. And, I am sorry, but you do not get to be old fuddy-duddies. These people need you to know their language just like we asked the immigrants to our country to learn English — not an easy task. But strangers to our language are doing it. We need to do the same.
Others will charge ahead, at home in the chaos as we were in our early days. Millennials will need (and the Bible tells us so) a new set of survival skills on how to adapt, learn, and grow in Christ and bring others along their side. They are not getting this at their local Church. If they do not get this kind of caring and compassionate understanding from us, then from whom will they get it? Someone who is trying to sell them something or take advantage of them in some way?
You and I are, as I said earlier, the Transformation Generation living between two realities. We must simultaneously prepare the millennials to take advantage of miraculous breakthroughs while hedging their bets against catastrophic breakdowns.
As older and wiser pioneers, we know the need for transformation on the personal, organizational, and community levels. Personal, organizational, and community transformation includes survival skills that address personally managing change with the ability to simultaneously prepare for the potential downside of what lies ahead.
We can help millennials see a bigger picture. You know and they know that you cannot understand what is going on in the world around you based solely on our limited perceptions of reality. You can’t see the whole on the basis of your part. You can only understand your part in the context of a bigger picture. Seeing the bigger picture includes understanding that:
- Change is beginning to accelerate exponentially. Reality will become hard to grasp. By the time you hear about the next major breakthrough, it will be history.
- Miraculous breakthroughs on every front offer a real and viable opportunity for a fairy-tale future that borders on science fiction and immortality.
- Catastrophic breakdowns at every turn are emerging simultaneously across almost every facet of human existence, creating a potential for the perfect storm, impacting everything from food and water, to gas and electricity.
- We are running out of time. Everything is connected and everything is converging. There is a finite time limit to how long “life as you know it” can continue. Science offers the cure to aging, machine consciousness, and a 1,000-year lifespan within twenty years. Global wars and designer weapons, economic corrections, water pollution, food shortages and super solar storms could change everything much sooner. It is our job to help the millennials because they find themselves in a rapidly-closing window of opportunity for a positive transformation.
Of course the millennials are responsible for their own future. No one else can secure their future today. However, can you imagine the strength one would feel if you and other people like you walk alongside them? You see, the issue of loneliness is far greater than anything we have yet to experience.
They need a new set of survival skills to navigate the uncharted waters that lie ahead. They cannot rely on their seniors’ model which looks a lot like working harder and doing more. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Amen.
There is hope. The kind of hope we own but millennials do not. Besides, alone they are limited. But consistent scientific evidence confirms that by working together we can change the world! It’s time to join forces. Time is running out. There is no going back, and we are now past the point of no return. The future of the millennials is in our hands. We must change. We must think and act differently if we are to achieve a positive outcome.
This is our wakeup call. I would like to be writing something that would free your mind and suggest you enjoy your last days. But reality is not for the faint of heart. If you want to know more, then prepare for the end of reality as you know it. Step into a millennial’s life and look through their eyes and see what they see.
Millennials are experiencing issues of loneliness and anxiety. You will see it in a mirror’s reflection of yourself — but on steroids.
Is the church addressing loneliness and anxiety? Did they in the sixties and seventies? Are they now?
Deborah and Elizabeth were entirely too polite to John during their interview. It might be because they respect him greatly. But the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “Do we respect them? Do we really care about the issue of their loneness and anxiety? Or do we speak and address millennials from our outdated understandings of ourselves?”
As the body of Christ, the church on the internet — in the millennials’ domain and within their vast fields from this country to every country worldwide — let’s continue what we began as the Transformation Generation. Let’s live between the promise of a fairy tale future and the possibility of the perfect storm and be — together as the Catch Ministry — the voice of Christ to the millennials today.