As a millennial, I fall into the category of the age group of people that are leaving the church in droves. But as a millennial, I also have the drive, passion, and zeal that describe this generation to reignite the church family.
In the Korean-American church, specifically, the 1st generation of immigrants who built churches in the native tongue are experiencing an aging congregation and a disconnect from younger generations. So much so that many immigrant churches are closing.
The 2nd generation Korean-Americans who are in their 40s and 50s now found themselves trying to build an English-speaking ministry within the Korean-speaking church. These English ministries were established 20-30 years ago, when the 2nd gens were young and hip. Many of these ministries then grew in size, and eventually moved out of their Korean-speaking church building, and sought their own.
Now, a few decades later, millennials are in their shoes, and there is an overwhelming sense of apathy, disconnect, and dissatisfaction.
But, I don’t want this post to be about how millennials are awesome, and how churches need to listen to us. I don’t believe that. I believe that the misunderstanding or reservations from both sides need to be overcome to bridge the gap.
I want to use Acts 2:42-47 as our anchor. I may not highlight anything revolutionary, but when you look through the lens of a millennial, you’ll see what you can do to reignite the church.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
1. There must be authenticity.
vs42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”
Part of reigniting the church family is to return to God’s Word. Without God’s Word, there is no foundation to our lives. When we see that pastors and leaders are preaching truthfully, honestly, authentically, then there will be a revival.
On a related note, there must be action that comes with the authenticity. If we say we’re going to help the poor, but refuse to give donations, then that makes no sense. If we say we want to see trafficked humans set free, but won’t go to prayer meetings about it, do we really believe in God’s saving grace and power?
To be authentic, we need to be acting out of God’s Word. We need to believe it as true, living, and active as much as it is today as it was thousands of years ago.
2. There must be transparency.
vs43-44: “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who beileved were together and had all things in common.”
Millennials who grew up on AIM, Facebook, and other social media outlets are used to putting up a front, an “away” message to block and avoid people who don’t agree with us. We find it easy to portray just one side of who we are, so that we don’t have to risk you seeing all of us.
Older generations (especially the immigrant generation) who’ve worked hard to build a life in America admonish the younger generations for being lazy and unaware. But the truth is, we have had to struggle with different things. Whereas my parents struggled with job and financial stability, acclimating to a new country, and sacrificing for their family, my generation struggles with deeper heart issues. Who are we? Why do we exist? Why is the world messed up?
When there is more understanding and transparency about our struggles and stories, hearts will be reignited. I urge churches to regularly incorporate testimonies during services, or small group time, during prayer meetings, wherever you feel they are appropriate. Millennials need to know that there is such great hope in God. And the older generation needs to know that their struggles were not in vain. Wouldn’t it be great to really see vs 43-44 happening in our churches? Where all of us are in one heart and spirit? Having things in common?
Related to this is the idea that church leadership also needs to be more transparent. Millennials are distrusting of corporations, organizations, and the same is true of churches. Extend the mantle of leadership to those who are in the millennial generation to train them up for church leadership. Be transparent about the vision for the church, how finances are used, and why certain decisions are made.
And millennials, there are “bad” churches out there, and there are also good, genuine churches. It’s up to you and God to discern which is which, but when you’ve found a good one, pour yourself into it. Don’t be afraid of leadership. There is so much to be gained from the wisdom of the older generation.
3. There must be generosity.
vs45: And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
My immigrant parents knew nothing about savings. Not because they were naive or didn’t want a savings, but they knew that nothing they owned was theirs, but God’s. They were still wise about how they spent their money, but they had no problem treating people to dinner, donating to missionaries and good causes, and tithing.
I believe that the millennial generation has so much to learn from this example. We experienced a great recession in 2008, so we’re even more likely to stock up on savings, and ensure a good financial future. Most of my friends do not tithe, not just because they’re not members of the church, but because of point #2 about transparency, and the fact that they don’t want to give money or possessions.
You would think that losing a job, a home, your livelihood would make you more empathetic and generous. Instead, it’s made us more selfish. And then if we do give, we’re choosy about it. It’s like a grant-giving foundation who doesn’t want to give money to overhead costs, but for programs. But you need the overhead money in order to do the programs!
Verse 45 says that they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing everything, as any had need. They weren’t choosy about who got what possession. They didn’t have people vie or apply for need. They gave willingly without question.
Wouldn’t the church family be reignited when we are truly tending to each other’s needs? I love that at my church, when there’s a new baby to first-time parents, we set up a meal train so that people can sign up to bring meals (Meal train is used for so many other purposes, but this is just one example of how our church uses it). What a great idea so that those parents can spend more quality time with their newborn, or to get some much-needed rest? What about someone who just divorced his/her spouse was kicked out of the house? Will someone step up and offer a spare bedroom? What about a sick child with a rare form of cancer? Who will help babysit the other kids in the family? What about someone who’s lost his/her job and needs something just to make ends meet? Is there someone who can extend a temporary job to help him/her out?
Whatever age generation you fall in, great generosity will lead to a reignition of hearts. Because true generosity is fueled by the Holy Spirit.
4. There must be fellowship.
vs 42, 46-47: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In college, my Christian fellowships was called “Koinonia Christian Fellowship”. I didn’t realize until later that “Koinonia” also means “fellowship”. So we were really all about fellowship!
I’m no Greek scholar, but I’ve learned that Koinonia is a special word that means a community, a communion, a relationship, intimacy.
I like how in verse 46, it’s emphasized that they “attended temple together” and broke bread “in their homes”. I imagine families driving into the church parking lot together. Having lively conversations as they walk through the front doors. And then afterwards, grabbing some lunch and spending time in each other’s homes. It could also be in a small group setting. But that intimacy of being in someone else’s home, is so important.
Praises were also sung at the temple, but also in the homes. How many of you sing songs before your small group time? You may not sound like Jesus Culture or Hillsong, but the praises filling up someone’s home is so incredible! You are inviting God’s holy presence into the home, and what could be better than that?
Many of my millennial friends go to church service, and immediately leave afterwards. They want to grab lunch at the new place. They want to get home and binge on Netflix. They want to avoid real (and sometimes awkward) conversations, and just be with their friends. I’ll admit, there are Sundays that I want to do that, too. Remember how much I abhor small talk?
Older generations with kids and other responsibilities have no energy to meet up with people outside of church and small group. Any free moment they have, they’d rather spend it at home or doing something they enjoy.
Well, then you’re all missing out on the Koinonia kind of fellowship that’s being described in these verses. You’re missing out on the reigniting of hearts that is happening because of the authenticity, transparency, and generosity of God’s people. Millennials are so obsessed with FOMO, right? Well, this is something you definitely don’t want to miss!
Lastly, I want to end on the last part of the passage which says that “…the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” GOD added to the numbers. Not the people. Not the pastors. Not the praise band. Not the minimal-looking website. Not the cool warehouse-looking building. GOD did that work.
Similarly, if we want a true reignition of our church family, we need to pray for God to move mightily. We can work on authenticity, transparency, generosity, and fellowship, but without God’s grace, all of it will be in vain.
I pray that this is the year where millennials return in droves to the church, and that the bridge between generations closes!
*In this post, I make a LOT of generalizations. I don’t mean to say that all Korean-Americans, or millennials, or older generations are a certain way. These words are written from my personal experience with the Korean-American church growing up, and currently.