The following are my personal views and do not necessarily represent those of my “institution”. 😊 I am grateful for these findings. They build for deeper reflection and conversations, and for that I rejoice! Let me say first off that, by and large, I found myself agreeing with many of these observations of the Millennials. But, perhaps, they are more symptomatic than diagnostic. For what we have may not be so much a Millennial issue, as it is a human issue. I found three interrelated frames helpful for myself…
The ultimate reality is a personal being living in loving relationships just as our Triune Creator does. Created in His image, likewise we long for such intimacy, community and relationship. I champion this human longing, for at the heart of redemption and reality is relationship. Having said that, we must also acknowledge the need for “organisation” even within an “organism”. We see this in our cells (e.g. mitochondria, nucleus, cell membrane, etc.) as well as in our body (e.g. skin, liver, lungs, etc.).
Indeed, such systems are constituted and organised into ONE “Body” (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:20). The question is then not whether there should be any organisation or institution. The question is how the organisation or institution can enhance the “life” of the Body. Yes, we need deeper relationships. In the same breath, I would say we also need a certain kind of organisation that promotes such deepening realities.
We live as fallen creatures creating fallen cultures. Two points to note here:
1. The PACE of living in our modern city is not conducive to the formation of our souls or relationships. Indeed, that is not the primary question of our societies. So why such a pace? This leads to our second point.
2. The MARKERS of success are primarily material/economic. Sadly, it is true that often churches are caught up with such cultural colours (e.g. KPIs, size of church as indicator of success, etc.) Having said that, we also acknowledge that our LORD requires some measure of fruitfulness and accountability (e.g. Mk. 4:20; Matt. 25:14–30).
So, once again, the issue is not whether we measure. Rather, how do we measure what’s really important to GOD? Indeed, can this even be measured while on this earth?
This third frame attempts to incorporate the two above. If we are created for relationship and the culture we live in does not afford us such luxury, should we then run away to live in monasteries? In fact, throughout history, men and women have done so. This brings me to the notion of calling.
All of us as disciples of our Lord are called to maturity, not merely spiritually, but as a whole—physical, emotional, mental, and social maturity. Yet the LORD also has different callings, giftings, and plans for His children. There will be those He will call to the monastery or to the countryside or villages to minister. There, the pace and space will perhaps afford for such deepening intimacy. Yet, for many of us living in busy Singapore, we are called here to be salt and light in a less-than-ideal environment. Perhaps that is our greater discipleship, to work out such a relational reality, in the midst of the blistering pace and lack of “space”.
Calling is important because there is a tendency to compare. I often joke that it’s probably easier to live as a Christian on a deserted island than to live in the city. Yes, the Church should address contemporary matters such as LGBT and social inequality. Yet, at the same time, she should recognise that not all congregations might be gifted equally to address such matters. On a smaller scale, for example, I believe that most parents want to be good parents. But perhaps we lack the skills or encouragement. We can learn from other parents to parent better. I view the churches in the city as one whole. We are ONE BODY in Singapore. That is what some of these movements and events hope to grow (e.g. Jubilee Day of Prayer, Celebration of HOPE, etc.). Within this diverse Body, God has deposited different gifts and strengths to different congregations. We do not all have the same gifts, so we humble ourselves and learn to trust and learn from other congregations.
My own church has been so blessed by the generosity of other churches that have opened their hearts to us, so that we can learn from them and grow together as ONE! So, rather than comparing that this church is better or that my church is not strong here (or this YouTube speaker is better than my pastor), it is to celebrate the strengths of each congregation and its contribution to the local Body.
There is this tension we ride. The issues are complex and perhaps we wonder what can I do? We celebrate that we are created for relationships. We celebrate God’s calling for us to be His salt and light in our city (albeit very challenging!). We celebrate the gifts and callings of different congregations in our city (including your own! 😊). And mostly we celebrate that GOD has not given up on His Church and He is doing a new thing in the midst of the pandemic (Isa. 43:19).
Allow me to share a bit of my story. I am an introvert, a very private person. I feel awkward and do not know how to relate well to others. Much of my life had been primarily about getting things done—transactional, if you will. I believe I am not alone on that journey. Gratefully, the LORD brought me on a redemptive journey with my own family. He opened up my heart to know and to be known. I am still learning how to love another. That is the journey we all desire—our deepest longing for not just intimacy but deep acceptance. There are no easy answers to the troubles the institutional church faces. But if we each (Millennial, Boomers, Xers etc.) make that decision to humbly walk that journey with JESUS and then give space to encourage others along that journey, perhaps we will move more into being the Bride our Lord intends! And by this, may all men know we are His disciples, because we love one another (Jn. 13:34–35).
This article is in response to last week’s commentary Millennial Christians and the Institutional Church and is part of the Graceworks Generations Project. Through this series of commentaries, we hope to invite honest conversations that will lead to greater unity through deeper empathy for one another in the body of Christ. If you are a Boomer, or from another generation, we would love to hear how you think the church can begin to build bridges. Leave a comment on our Facebook page GraceworksSG or email firstname.lastname@example.org.