Last week, during class discussions, two bright young male students helped me understand why many millennials are down on doctrine. The first student, a recent grad from a secular university, told our class about the pushback he experienced every time he attempted to communicate Christian doctrine to nonbelieving peers. These nonChristians see our faith as heady knowledge that reeks of arrogance and insincerity. They are more moved by experience and a faith that makes the world a better place. To them Christianity misses the mark because, in their eyes, it's more about head knowledge than loving people. His words have been swirling around in my mind since. Is there truth in their accusations, and if so, how do we reach people with these misconceptions about Christianity?
Then, on Saturday, in my weekend course, the second male student told our class that his nonChristian friends see churches as cold institutions, run by men who make church more like a school than a home. We were discussing the advantages of men and women partnering together in ministry, and his comments were an "Aha moment" for me, and I'll bet for some of the students in the course.
I agree that too many ministries are like single-parent families. Healthy faith families, just like biological families, need both men's and women's ideas, gifts, and perspectives in order to thrive. Single parents will testify that it's tough being both mom and dad. Children need a mother's tender touch and a father's guidance and protection. But, again, many ministries today are like single parent families. The male presence is strong but the mother's touch is missing. And sadly, in some places, the female influence is so dominant that the father's guidance is absent, and that lack skews ministry decisions and effectiveness. Neither is healthy.
But I wonder if the charge that church is a cold, doctrine-focused institution can be leveled more in ministries that allow only male voices and perspectives. In my experience, women tend to bring a caring and warmth that is often missing when their voices are silenced. They brighten up a home with beauty, color, and relational tenderness. They add these qualities to ministries where their ideas are sought and considered. Would ministries create an ethos that seemed as much like a home as a school if women were given more opportunities to participate and speak up? I expect they would.
Certainly sound doctrine is vital to every truly Christian ministry, but so is love. Jesus referred to His Church as a family (Matthew 12:46-50) and Paul instructed Timothy to create a family ethos where ever he ministered. Do not address an older man harshly, but appeal to him as a father. Speak to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters--with complete purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NET Bible)
These two thoughtful young men are wrestling with how to reach their generation--a group who are marking Christianity off their list, assuming that it cannot answer their search for a warm home-like community with answers to their big questions. Many of my young students are concerned about the lack of spiritual interest their peers exhibit toward the Christian faith, and they should be. It's no secret that we are losing young folk in record numbers. I wonder if we might reach more of them if men and women partnered together more in healthy ways, within biblical parameters, to make ministry more like both a home and a school, maybe "home-schooling"? Jesus' tender touch reached many who were looking for both love and truth. Either gender without the other is not a true representation of His Body on earth. Maybe we should consider how to emulate Him by creating ministries that look as much like homes as they do like schools, with as much emphasis on love as doctrine. Maybe then doctrine wouldn't be such a dirty word to Millennials.