"Meeting Millennials Where They're At"#85-21
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 21, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Meeting Millennials Where They're At)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 1:14-20 (Jesus calls His first disciples.)
Lord Jesus, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We confess we often go elsewhere, to worldly wisdom, to our fears, to our doubts. Too often we live in lack of faith. Give us Your Spirit through the Word of Jesus and His Scriptures, so that we follow You more faithfully and trust You more completely. Lord, we believe; help our unbelief! Amen.
The title of today's message is "Meeting Millennials Where They Are At." We're hearing a lot about Millennials today, young adults between 22 and 35-years-old. In many ways, they are different from older generations. They grew up with computers and cell phones; they're called "digital natives." They tend to distrust institutions. Think about how key institutions failed them. For example, many were raised in divorced homes. Government seems to be failing them. Their generation may well inherit the massive debt that America is not facing square in the face. And our special concern in this program-many are not buying into the church. One Millennial said, "I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car, and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street. I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don't. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite."
There's great anguish in parents and grandparents who see their children and grandchildren walking away from the church. That said, this will not be a message about Millennials. This message is about a much more fundamental question. How do you and I-whatever our age-engage the Bible?
To put the question another way, how's it going with you and the Bible? On the Bible's side, it has definite purpose. That is to make you a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple is one who is learning from another. "Learn from Me," Jesus says in Matthew 11:29. John 20:31 says, "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name." The miracles Jesus did were "written" so that you might learn in your head and believe in Him with your heart and life. You haven't seen God. You haven't seen Jesus. Neither have I. The only way we know Jesus is through the teachings of the Bible. That's the Bible's purpose. How's it going on our side in this relationship? How are we engaging with the Word?
Let's go to the Bible and see how Jesus taught His disciples and how they responded. Mark describes the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. "Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:14-15). Let's unpack that. "The time is fulfilled." That is, something is happening here and now. What is happening here and now? Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is at hand." "Kingdom of God" means the reign and rule of God, here and now and forever. Next, Jesus gives a command, "Repent and believe in the Gospel." "Repent." That is, turn from your sins. "And believe in the Gospel" means have faith in the Good News of God. "Repent" and "believe" are in the present tense, do it here and now. So, we see Jesus meeting the people where they were at, with their sins, their lack of faith, meeting them with the Good News of God, and urging them to know that God's reign and rule wasn't far away, but here and now. Let's go to our own here and now. Does the kingdom of God, His reign and rule, seem far away to you? As you go about each day, do you hear the command to repent, to turn away from your sins? Can you even identify some of the sins you need to turn from? And do you believe that God is a here-and-now God of Good News for you? Two thousand years ago, Jesus met people where they were. The same today. He meets you where you're at, but He doesn't want to leave you there.
Let's see how Jesus took some of His followers into deeper discipleship. Mark 1 continues:
"Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him."
Now Jesus is making discipleship personal. He met these four men at their workplace; they were professional fishermen. To the big crowds Jesus gave ... let's call it a broadcast, not radio or TV but He preached to the crowds, crowds that grew larger and larger as people heard the Good News of God. But to these four-Simon, whom we know best as Peter, Andrew, James and John-Jesus makes it personal. He invites them into a deeper relationship with Himself. That personal relationship is made explicit two chapters later in Mark. Mark 3:14 says, "And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach." Jesus wanted these disciples to be with Him and carry His message to others. He wanted them to understand repentance and faith and the Good News of God, and then share it with others. Fast forward to today. How much time are you spending with Jesus? If we want to share the Good News with Millennials-and I hope we do-the first question is about you and me. How much time are we spending with Jesus?
But how do you spend time with Jesus? Peter and the others saw Jesus, talked with Him, walked with Him. You and I can't be with Him that way, but don't let that fool you into thinking they had it easier back then. The Word was the focus of Jesus' ministry when He was visible to people. Yes, He performed miracles, but He didn't heal everyone. Yes, He cast out demons, but not all. The focus of His ministry was, still is, words, words teaching repentance, words urging faith, words. So, for example, Mark 1:21, "He entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority." When more people wanted to be healed, Jesus said, "Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out" (Mark 1:38). Mark 2:2 also emphasizes His words. "And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them." Immediately after that preaching, Jesus healed a paralytic with His word, His Word of authority. Then Mark continues, "He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to Him, and He was teaching them" (Mark 3:13). There are many more such passages. Jesus focuses His ministry upon His Word, a word about repentance and faith and the Good News of God's rule. And it was a Word that packed power. Still does. I asked, "How do you spend time with Jesus?" The answer is when you spend time in His Word.
This is more than an hour in church, more than a quickie devotion from some little devotional book. Total life engagement. Daniel Doriani is a professor at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. His essay, "Take, Read," identifies three ways people think about the Bible. The first is this: "The reader is over the text, as a critic: The reader has the last word." We see that all the time today. A second posture toward the Bible: "The reader is beside the text, in dialogue: The reader has the last word, but hesitates to say so." This is like "God is my co-pilot." Not bad but not the best. The reader still makes the final decision. The third and best posture: "The reader is below the text, in submission: The text, or, the Lord who wrote it, gets the last word." That's the goal. It's our Lord's Word, and we should be obedient to it. But, quoting Dr. Doriani again, "There is a difficulty with this view. To confess 'I submit to Scripture' is one thing; actual submission is another. Sadly, this view can be perverted by this series of notions:
I believe whatever the Bible says.
Whatever the Bible says I believe.
I know what the Bible says.
Therefore, what I believe is what the Bible says.
Therefore, if the Bible seems to say something I don't believe, it must not really mean that."
How is it with you and the Bible? Do you profess pious things about the Bible but are you obediently engaged with it? Here the example of the disciples both discourages and encourages us. What's discouraging in the Gospel of Mark is that Peter and the others really don't get it. They don't really get Jesus' message of repentant faith in the Good News. They're taking what they like in Jesus but not submitting wholly to His Word. What are the places in your life where you're not letting Jesus be your Lord? Where in your life are you not repentant? Where in your life are you trusting sight and not relying on faith, on trust in Jesus' words? Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." That is heavy-duty soul- searching, and I'll tell you from experience, it can be discouraging.
But the example of the disciples in Mark is also encouraging. Jesus keeps trying. He never gives up on Peter and the others. In Mark 4:33-34 says, "With many such parables He spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to His own disciples He explained everything." Jesus kept meeting them where they were at, always teaching to lead them into greater repentance and faith. Do you want to know when they finally got it? In Mark 16, Jesus has died and been buried. That happened on Friday. Saturday passed and Sunday morning the women went to the tomb. The angel said, "Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you" (Mark 16:7). And Jesus did show Himself to Peter. The resurrection finally got Peter and the disciples to understand and believe all the words of Jesus. Today, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that most assures us His words in the Bible are true. Every time you seriously engage the Bible, the Spirit of the living Lord Jesus Christ is present, working deeper repentance and faith in the Good News of God. What's more encouraging than to know that Jesus meets us where we're at, with our doubts, with our lack of faith, our mistaken notion that God is far away? What's more encouraging than to get into the story of the disciples and know that the living Lord Jesus is also leading us into deeper repentance and faith in the Good News? And all this is here-and-now!
I said at the outset this will not a message about Millennials. Millennials don't want to be talked about. They don't want to be lectured to. Many Millennials do want us to talk with them, to hear where they're at, and then hear our stories. Ted and Chelsea Doering are Millennials who have written a new book, The Myth of the Millennial, from Concordia Publishing House. This book is well worth reading. They describe myths about their generation and offer suggestions. One suggestion is mentoring. When Jesus spent time with Peter and the others, He was in fact mentoring them in the faith. And Peter mentored Mark, whose Gospel we've talked about today. Ted and Chelsea write:
Why mentor? Why even try to pass knowledge on to the next generation? Because we imitate those in the faith who came before us. Scripture is full of men and women who mentored the next generation. ... Mentorship is a gift of age. The only way you get farther down the road is to have traveled down it longer. ... Being a member of the "older" generations is not at all a bad thing. ... It is a declaration that others have grown wise through the years, have the knowledge and ability to pass on what they know to the next generation."
Jesus' Word continues to meet people where they're at, and He doesn't want to leave us there. His Spirit strives to bring us all into deeper repentance and faith in the Good News of God. What young person can you meet where they are at, and tell them all that God has done in your life? Amen.
Reflections for JANUARY 21, 2018
Title: MEETING MILLENNIALS WHERE THEY'RE AT
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Dr. Dale Meyer and joining us now from his home in Texas, Pastor Ken Klaus. Hello, Pastor.
Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark. I see from the text Dr. Meyer spoke on, we are talking about the calling
of Jesus' disciples at the beginning of His ministry, how Jesus met them where they were-and how He meets us today, through His Word.
Mark Eischer: And hearing this text from Mark 1 and hearing what Dr. Meyer said, I am amazed at the difference between the immediate response of the disciples, and the somewhat reluctant reaction we see today to Jesus' invitation.
Ken Klaus: I suppose that is because Peter, Andrew, James and John were just wild and crazy guys. No seriously, it is surprising. These fellows were fishermen, as their fathers before them had been fishermen. Most certainly, these fellows were not soldiers of fortune; they were not prodigal sons who were trying to get away from the rest of the family.
Mark Eischer: I think of one other thing they were not.
Ken Klaus: And that would be?
Mark Eischer: I don't think they were fully aware of what they were doing. If you had interviewed them right that moment, after Jesus called them, none of them would have predicted where that call was going to take them.
Ken Klaus: You mean if somebody had asked, "Tell me, just what did Jesus mean when He said you were going to be 'fishers of men'?-none of them would have said, "Well, we're going to travel with Jesus for the next three years, watch Him do all kinds of miracles, reach out and heal people who had all kinds of pains and problems, hear Him say all kinds of things which would be hard to understand, and see Him bring a few dead people back to life."
Mark Eischer: Or they would never have guessed that their Rabbi would run afoul of the authorities, end up dying on a Roman cross, or that they would be the witnesses of the resurrection of the Redeemer who had sacrificed Himself to save them and us.
Ken Klaus: No doubt they thought they were signing up for a sort of post-graduate course or two with a pretty-impressive rabbi. These men, who had probably never traveled more than 100 miles away from home, could never have imagined that they would, someday, visit much of the known world-that they would stand before emperor, procurator and governor; speak in front of friendly audiences and groups that would try to murder them. None of that would have been on their radar. Even so, when Jesus called them, they went.
Mark Eischer: Put yourself in their position. You have two daughters, two married daughters. How would you feel if one day an itinerant holy man came to your son-in-laws' places of business, and they decided to drop everything and follow Him? What about that?
Ken Klaus: Now that's a good question. I'm, not entirely sure I have the answer. It's not as if the future apostles abandoned their families. According to 1 Corinthians 9:5, at least some of the apostles, Peter included, took their spouses on missionary journeys with them. All that being said, I would rather have my sons-in-laws follow the Savior than not, and it doesn't appear as if the Savior was ready to wait an unlimited time for them to reply.
Mark Eischer: Was Jesus serious about that? He needed people to follow Him, right then and there?
Ken Klaus: Serious? Absolutely! Jesus went to His boyhood of Nazareth and revealed who He
was, and they tried to kill Him. He never came back. Their opportunities to follow Him, at least at that time, were gone. When He sent out the 72, He told them if the cities they visited don't listen, shake the dust off your feet, and keep on going. Sometime the opportunity to walk with the Savior is very short; sometimes it never comes again.
Mark Eischer: Is it any different today? Is Jesus still asking people to follow, but they seem hesitant, reluctant, unsure? Why is that?
Ken Klaus: There are all kinds of answers to that question.
Mark Eischer: Well, are there good answers?
Ken Klaus: To those who hold to those answers, they are great ones. And, although I don't agree with them, it can be difficult to change the mind of someone who really believes it when they say, "Why should I join a church? I can believe in Jesus without a church. The good thief on the cross who died next to Jesus never joined a church, and he was saved. You don't have to join a church." Now, with that being said, it is a smart move, a God-pleasing action, to join a congregation of believers.
Mark Eischer: Why do you say that?
Ken Klaus: From my own experience I can share a few of those reasons. First, following the
Savior was never meant to be an individual activity. It is for teams. It is for people who have been given various gifts, to use those gifts together to glorify the Lord and be of support to others. Second reason, in the New Testament, there are very few things the Lord has asked us to do. Generally speaking, folks who don't join the church, don't do those things.
Mark Eischer: Could you be more specific?
Ken Klaus: Yes. Jesus told us to go to the Lord's Supper, and to go often. People who have no church generally don't receive the Sacrament. Jesus told His people to witness, but people who have no church membership don't generally point people to the Savior. Then, of course, there is the influence no-church-going has on children. Even if you do have a faith without going to church, it is highly unlikely your children will. Next, people who refuse to join a church often do so because they have a poor opinion of organized religion. Let's suppose they're right. If they are right, don't they have an obligation to help out those misguided church folk? Mark, before we draw this to a conclusion, we need to take a look at one more thing in this text from the first chapter of Mark.
Mark Eischer: Okay.
Ken Klaus: It would be found in verse 15 where it says Jesus came saying, "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel." I want to focus on just one word: repent. When most people think of the Baptizer and the Messiah, they say, "John preached the Law and called people to repentance and change, while Jesus preached the Gospel and accepted people just as they were." Mark, nothing could be further from the truth.
Mark Eischer: That's because both John and Jesus preached both Law and Gospel. Why would you say that it's especially important that Jesus preached repentance?
Ken Klaus: I think there is a growing feeling that Jesus will take anyone, everyone, just as they are, without any kind of change. Now, it is true that Jesus accepted sinners of all stripe and color, but it is a dangerous error to think He left them that way. He didn't. He called them to repentance and a total spiritual makeover. That means these new followers were not just going to say, "I'm sorry for the past." It also means, by the Holy Spirit's power, they would be dedicated to walking a different path, a God-pleasing path in the future.
Mark Eischer: And that speaks to those folks who think they are fine just the way they are. The truth is they are not, and nobody really is.
Ken Klaus: Absolutely. Indeed, if you think you can stay as you were, I'd say, "Take a good look at your faith. It may be you're asking Jesus to follow you, rather than you following Jesus."
Mark Eischer: Pastor Klaus, what's coming up next week?
Ken Klaus: Well, we're going to talk about why people no longer get or give respect, and why Jesus deserves every bit of respect we can give.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"O Christ, Our True and Only Light" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)