I was recently listening to the “Youth Culture Matters” podcast where the hosts were interviewing David Kinnaman, the President of the Barna Group. Barna is a research organisation and has written extensively about the intersection of faith and the generations, particularly Millennials/Gen Y (born ~1980-2000).
In this latest interview, and off the back of Barna’s most recent research, the conversation centred around the view of Millennials and evangelism.
To the question, “Is it wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith?”
- 47% of Millennials (born ~1980-2000) agree.
- 27% of Gen Xers (born ~1965-1980) agree.
- 19% of Boomers (born ~1945-1965) agree.
- 20% of Elders (born ~1925-1945) agree.
While this isn’t particularly earth-shattering it is interesting to have this information in data form. We can see that nearly half of Millennial believers are not comfortable with thinking about sharing their faith in order to have someone from another belief system converted. Interestingly, at least 1 out of 5 believers of the other generations also have the same view.
Anecdotally, I think I would affirm what this data seems to be saying. I know plenty of people my age and younger who are not particularly willing to share their faith for evangelistic purposes. And there are no doubt a few reasons for this.
First, the purposes of sharing faith these days seems to be more about expressing our beliefs and portraying our values to others, it doesn’t seem to be for the conversion of others. Holding to our own values and holding to our own beliefs is now something taught at a young age. Culture seems to say we can pick and choose from a variety of belief systems and therefore whatever we have in front of us is our own truth. This has certainly seeped into the church and so faith becomes more about what we value of faith rather than keeping to a particularly orthodoxy.
Second, whenever there is talk of evangelism I know a lot of people cringe. They begin to think of Billy Graham rallies, which were great for a certain group of people but not the way we think of healthy evangelism in this era. There is also the thought of missionaries overseas who through Christianity has influenced plenty of cultures, some in poor ways. The cultural adaptation of the gospel hasn’t been applied and soon enough it has become a Western faith, rather than a global faith for all. The thought of evangelism and telling people there is one way and that way is through Jesus is looked on poorly.
Third, the training of people in evangelism hasn’t been high on the agenda. While the church and mission organisations may well have been speaking about the need for evangelism the training of the people is lacking. I’m not talking about sneaky techniques to try to persuade people and twist their arm into becoming Christians. I’m talking more about how we can foster faith conversations, and encourage people to invite friends into faith conversations and groups. It is one thing to hold a particular evangelistic talk, program, or group, it is another to have people who are confident enough to strike up conversations about religion and faith.
There seems to be plenty of work for those of us in the church and in mission organisations as we seek to see the gospel go forth through the generations.