Some common perceptions of millennials...unable to submit, conform or answer to authority.
Social media, in many ways, is the new segregation. Social media has become our forum for politics and opinions of all sorts. We live in a global world full of sarcasm, sharp witted comments, memes and satire that in all reality serves to make us more isolated. Everyone and everything is fair game in the age of Facebook and millennials have become the butt of the joke. I addressed this in the previous post, Making Missionaries of Millennials: The Prejudice.
Though generational stereotypes can sometimes be funny, they are often developed in response to our need to navigate a culturally diverse world, to compartmentalize. The results of our stereotypes seem to do more to divide than anything else. For millennials there have been many stereotypes that have flourished over the years. Common perceptions include the idea that they are “entitled”, convinced of their own uniqueness. They are seen by older generations as unable to submit, conform or answer to authority.
Another perception about millennials is that they have no direction. A culture of young people who were raised to believe that they could be “anything they want to be”, but their reality has been drastically different. From the outside, millennials appear to lack direction, lack commitment and have failed to “launch”.
...seen as having big ideas and little ambition.
Millennials are also believed to have a false sense of reality. Millennials own an average of 7.7 connected (internet-based) devices (Turkle, 2017). According to the Nielsen group, the average millennial spends 27 hours a week (5 hours less than Gen-Xers) connected to media of all sorts (Fortune, 2015). This, combined with the inundation of video games, movies and social media, has led people to believe that millennials heads are lost in the clouds.
Time for Self-Assessment
Now look young people, let's be realistic, while we all know that stereotypes can be harmful, we also know that they can often carry a grain of truth. There are some things within the stereotype of today’s young people that are worth your critical consideration. This article is intended to invite millennials to personally assess if they are blameless as it concerns the character of a man or woman of God.
For young adults, it is important to recognize the challenges of the age with the intent that we choose to pursue the great commission regardless of culture’s obstacles. While notions about your generation may be pervasive, it is important to recognize that the Christian isn’t obligated to be in bondage to them. Because of biblical truth, the millennial Christian can live without being controlled by other people's thoughts.
The question becomes: what does it mean to be a millennial that personifies Christ more than their culture? How does a young person break the mold that has been set for them? The answer can be found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy.
When Paul invited Timothy to follow him and become a missionary, he was approximately sixteen years old. By his early twenties he was pastoring the church in Ephesus. Paul recognized from an early age that Timothy had the ability to lead and shepherd, but according to his first letter not all the people in the church were as convinced. In 1 Timothy 4 we find Paul encouraging Timothy to refuse people’s unwarranted perceptions of him and in verse 12 he exhorts this young man to bolster his confidence in the Lord.
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth;
...a pattern of consistency that refutes other people’s perceptions of you
When I was 23, Sam Miles asked me to work with the handful of high school and middle school kids that were attending Midtown Baptist Temple at the time. I was resistant but believed that God was using our pastor to guide and lead me in a way that was profitable. This meant I had a responsibility to teach every Sunday, organize events, delegate to counselors and, scariest of all, speak with parents. In those early years especially, I knew that people considered my age a sign of novice and some struggled to respect the position God had placed me in. I mean, honestly, I was absolutely clueless and completely unqualified, but that didn’t keep God from using me. “Let no man despise thy youth” is a powerful statement, even for me today. In seasons of doubt or condemnation, I have to be reminded of this verse. If God blessed me with the privilege of ministering in a leadership capacity, then age is a non-issue.
So, if you are a young person growing in leadership, first and foremost you ought to refuse people’s harmful views related to your age and experience. Second, Paul commanded Timothy to overcome people’s prejudices by being an example of a good leader.
An Example Of...
Your life communicates, so let it communicate a pattern of consistency that refutes other people’s perceptions of you. Paul continues here by giving Timothy a series of instructions on ordering his life so that it glorifies God and creates an archetype for other believers, both young and old.
1Ti 4:12 ...but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1. Be an example in word by letting the content of your words be Christ-like
James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion [is] vain.
2. Be an example in conversation by letting your lifestyle model Christ
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
3. Be an example in charity by displaying love and sacrifice
1 Corinthians 13: 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
4 Be an example in spirit by letting the passions of your life exemplify Christ
John 4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
Romans 12:10 [Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
5 Be an example in faith by putting your trust in Christ in every situation
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
6 Be an example in purity by letting your life be an example of holiness
2 Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Paul takes a moment here to tell Timothy that he needs to continue focusing on growing his knowledge of God’s Word. If we desire to be mature in Christ and in the eyes of those we minister with, we must also give ourselves to the structures of learning and growth that Living Faith Fellowship affords: Discipleship, Discipleship 2 & LFBI. Don’t just pursue learning in order to check it off your “spiritual to-do list” or to appear knowledgeable but to genuinely know Christ.
With that said, take your academics seriously. If you say that Christ is your everything, then you ought to strive to learn the content at a mastery level. Your grades in LFBI are not a “necessary evil”; they are absolutely a reflection of how serious you take what is taught to you. Striving for an "A" is a noble ambition, but ultimately your knowledge of God’s word should result in ministry growth and maturity.
1 Tim 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
“God has made me to do this!”
Timothy was instructed not to neglect his gifting. Paul himself laid hands on Timothy to ordain him for the pastoral work. Paul recognized Timothy’s gifting and that he was proven, so he commissioned him for the oversight of the Ephesus church. His advice here is, “don’t neglect the gifts that have been given you”. Acknowledge what Christ has done in you and be confident that he will use you as you yield.
1Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful [is] he that calleth you, who also will do [it].
Don't waste what God has equipped you to do and don’t throw away the opportunities that have been afforded you in ministry work. Mature faith says, “God has made me to do this!” What have you been commissioned to do in the context of church ministry? How devoted are you to your Bible Study? Evangelizing and studying with the lost? Discipling? Serving? Are you living in such a way that your testimony before God and man is that of faith and submission to authority?
Remember: Timothy was a missionary by the age of 16, giving up everything he knew to follow Christ by following the Apostle Paul. By his early twenties he had oversight of a church. Nonetheless, he was still learning; he was mentored by Paul, growing in his knowledge of scripture, daily proving his testimony in Christ. Like Timothy, are you proving yourself in the ministry through your lifestyle? Are you resolved not to be the stereotype people have determined you to be? Are you someone that people in the church see as profitable to the ministry?
15. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Brandon Briscoe is the pastor over C&YA. He has a wife and three children, and he has worked in youth and young adult ministry for many years. In this second of three posts, Brandon shows the challenges millennials face, the areas they must grow in, and how they must follow the biblical example of Timothy to defy society’s stereotypes.
Turkle, S. (2017). Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.