The FAQs (as in Frequently Avoided Questions): A Millennial Update

2019 EPA UMC Laity Address | June 13, 2019

Krystl Johnson
Krystl Johnson

Good Morning, everyone.

I’d like to start by reading a few verses related to this year’s Annual Conference theme—Tell the Coming Generations. The book of Psalms, Chapter 78. Starting at verse 2. It reads this:

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter insightful sayings of old, which we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children but will tell the coming generation the praises of the LORD, and His strength, and the wonderful works that He has done.

Ok. Let’s pray!

[Prayer]

Now, let’s get started!

I am so happy to be here with you all in this season. Just a few days ago—on Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost. The church’s birthday! It is the day when God poured out His Spirit on the disciples, His people. In this season, we remember our baptism when we became drenched with the good news, and forgiveness, and a new life that came to us in Jesus Christ. We also celebrate the permanent presence of the powerful spirit of God. Jesus has gifted within us an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and has promised it to our children and to our children’s children. What is known as ‘that loud and sudden moment during Pentecost’ continues to impact generations!

It’s so exciting to think about what all ‘that moment’ during Pentecost has allowed us to do as a church. During Jesus’ time on earth, it was promised that as his followers we would do greater works than he did. And Almost immediately after the spirit of God came from heaven and fell onto the disciples, Peter then preached to a crowd, telling them, ‘you have rejected the Messiah; you handed him over to be killed’. In return, three thousand converted— one sermon saved thousands. That same fire of tongues—that same way with words and talking to people that rested on the disciples—never dwindled. As promised, it tricked down through the church from generation to generation. The church, today, still has that kind of power. And it makes me want to shout! It should make you want to dance! With worship this week, we should turn this place out with praise because Pentecost is the commemoration of who we are and our coming together into the fullness of whom God called us to be.

You know what? If this past Sunday was the church’s Birthday Party, that would make Annual Conference the After Party. Thank you, Mr. David Koch, our Conference Lay Leader, for allowing me to be your party host.  I’d like to spend my time with you talking about ‘After the Party’. What are we to do now that the liturgical celebrations have ended? What happens now that we have been reminded of who we are? Five days have passed, and we are still God’s church. We still have a great commission to fulfill. And it is still the standard and the expectation that we tell the coming generations of God’s great deeds and mercy.

But if you ask a millennial like me or someone from one of the generations trailblazing behind us about what it is that the church is doing, one might respond, ‘The church is hating us!’ The church hates us! Why does it hate us?

I have stopped counting the meetings attended where young people are trampled for not being present and not being pleasant. It’s Kids this, its kids that, its kids these days. That clanging chorus of complaints is the sound of a church that is running and hiding from its responsibility to tell, teach or show the coming generation anything.

  • When we override the coming generations advocacy interests by ignoring the social and economic injustices within our own conference and communities, or by failing to take up platforms to challenge them, we are running and hiding.
  • When we choose not to mentor and train up our young people because “he” doesn’t do anything without earphones around his neck and “she” is always twerkin’, tweetin’, or talkin’ on her phone, we are running and hiding.
  • When we don’t maintain personal and spiritual accountability for the actions, behavior, and mindsets of our younger brothers and sisters in Christ, we are running and hiding from our responsibility to tell, teach and show the coming generation anything.

And it is to our detriment! The next generation is supposed to bring regeneration. Yet, after the party, the church is still dying. We have become our own silent killer. I am calling us out because silent killers aren’t that silent. They can’t even hide in plain sight. We all know what the problem is— the church has been running and hiding from its responsibility. It’s time we address it. How many of us are ready to face these tough questions—What did we do to lose the younger generations? What is it about us that keeps the coming generation from coming into fellowship with the United Methodist Church? 

The church is not holding people accountable for their actions and it has failed to practice Christian correction. When I think of what causes silent killers like drug addiction, HIV, and human trafficking to run rampant in our communities, it is because people choose to be hush hush, when they could be helping and holding people accountable to their available resources, rights, and responsibilities. We can’t run and hide from the truth. Psalm 78:4, the Word of God, tells us that we are to be helping and holding our young people accountable through discipleship. 

Despite the descent of the Holy Spirit and its divine power that fell upon us, it seems the church has backed away from accountability. 

  • Is it because instruction is now considered exclusion? 
  • And because rebuke has been classified as a form of discrimination? 
  • Or is it because receiving correction is just not fair, and we don’t want anyone to have hurt feelings? 
  • Mentorship, training– all obsolete because we’ve allowed society to empower our children to walk before they can crawl. 

Proverbs 13:24 tells us that if you don’t discipline your child, you hate your child. After the Party, the church needs to assert its Biblical authority and accountability. Let’s look at our theme verse again. Psalm 78:4 reads: We will not hide things from our descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. Because this appears in the Word of God, it means that it was important to God that His great mercy was made known to the coming generations. In context, the 78th chapter admits that their forefathers were knuckleheads—unfaithful and unruly. But God had a bigger vision for the coming generation. They needed instruction; they needed reproof, correction, and training so that they didn’t repeat the same mistakes. The forefathers were not supposed to stand by silent and hide the truth. It’s a scriptural expectation that older generations love the coming generation enough to discipline them, to disciple them, and to speak the gospel truth to them with compassion and grace.

Telling, teaching and showing the coming generation calls for a church to love its young people enough to speak to their unruliness and unfaithful hearts. It is the church’s job to build the coming generation up in the Christian faith. It is the church’s job to correct them. The coming generation wants to be in a church that will provide them with community and acceptance, that will love them for who they are, and that will give them opportunities to serve and to change the world. But they, also, need a church that will challenge them to be more than what they are; a church that will encourage them to grow into the people the Lord wants them to be. Telling, teaching and showing the coming generation requires an intentional combination of true love and tough love. We can’t run and hide from this truth.

Our children are God’s Workmanship. He has a big vision for them. This grants big responsibilities and great opportunities for the church. God has entrusted us with giving the coming generation the gospel because apart from Christ, it will be impossible for them to please Him with their lives. God intends for his church to be a fellowship of bold spirit-filled believers that understand His great mercies, especially the redeeming mercy which justified us through Christ’s cross. 

  • It is required of us, as His church, to make disciples of his son, Jesus. 
  • He expects us to uphold the truths of scripture. 
  • He desires to see His power passed down; God wants sincere faith to trickle down. 
  • This means that within God’s church, there should be a sharing of the truth of God and the experience of God from one generation to another. 

Our assignment is a big one. So big— because have you tried talking to a teenager lately? Whenever you tell them something, their responses are usually, ‘huh?’ They send calls straight to voicemail. Because the modern world of communication is all about messaging. The universal language of the coming generation is a compilation of textable and tweetable accents and images known as emojis, memes, snaps, and gifs. Our young people can go an entire day communicating without ever using anything we, as an older generation, would recognize to be a real word.

So, how can we ‘tell and teach the coming generations’ anything if they don’t even speak English? Emoji-icon dialects are not languages recognized by the institutional church. However, I believe that this famous quote can level communication barriers: Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words. Foremost, we should be proclaiming the gospel with our lives, living faithfully and in ways that point to the cross. Then, we are to invite others into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is when it becomes necessary for us to use real words. We should not be the only Bible people are seeing and reading. Articulating the gospel requires the use of the true, absolute, and relevant Words of God.

We need God’s law to show the coming generation its sin, we need the law to call them into repentance and faith. We need the law to show them the love of God and to witness to Jesus’ atoning death and his victorious resurrection. Each of us has been given God’s spirit, which means we are all ordained to enliven young people with the Word of God and Biblical truths about who they are in Christ. I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of tongues God granted all of us when His spirit rested upon His people during Pentecost.

The gift of getting through to young people is in you because that sudden moment during Pentecost that enabled the disciples to speak in tongues binded-up miscommunication;  it gave the church a way with words and the courage to engage in spirit-filled ministry with young people. So, if the church speaks truths over the lives of its youth, the church will raise up a generation that has the confidence and obedience to complete the good works God created for them to do.  And when the church uses the word of God to make and shape disciples of its youth, it will release into the world a generation of confident young adults that are capable and willing to fulfill God’s big vision for their lives. 

The coming generation is between the ages of 6 and 23 years old. They are in the process of discovering and claiming who God has called them to be. It is, also, a life season of correction and occasional reproof. They may not like hearing that certain actions are a rejection of the Bible and the Messiah—but it’s to their benefit. And it’s because we are practicing our love toward them. I believe the coming generation will do greater works than we; greater things for the kingdom that is beyond what we could ever think or imagine. 

If the Church agrees, if we believe that God has a big vision for the coming generation, then we need to commit to practicing accountability and Christian correction, providing loving and intentional instruction, as well as extending exciting invitations to discipleship and to the beautiful way of life God has prepared in advance for them.

My hope for the church is that it will know what to say and have the courage to say it. May this charge to tell and teach the coming generation compel you to intentionally and purposefully create safe spaces for young people to spiritually grow and wholeheartedly surrender to the sacrificial love of Christ. Because the world needs them— and we need them to join us in God’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

Thank you!