The Internet lit up recently with outrage when a 20-something woman complained about how hard it was to live in San Francisco, because her job didn’t pay her enough. The post, directed toward the woman’s employer, Yelp, caused many to point out that Millennials are, as a generation, lazy, self-obsessed and entitled.
The controversy caught my attention because I tend to hear similar things within the church directed toward Millennial Christians. I don’t feel qualified to speak to the general group psychology of the entire generation of Millennials, but I have spent most of my time for the past decade or so around Millennial Christians, and I think the nasty caricatures of them are just not true.
Within the secular culture, the Chicago Tribune’s Rex Huppke has called for a halt to “Millennial bashing.” He rightly notes that every generation in recorded human history sees the next as spoiled, lazy and selfish. I agree. And every generation in church history tends to see the next as carnal, unorthodox, unevangelistic and uncommitted. But it’s just not so.
I know my impressions here are anecdotal, but so are the stereotypes on the other side. Are there lazy, entitled, narcissistic Christian Millennials? Of course there are. But I see no evidence that there are any more of them than there are lazy, entitled, narcissistic Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers or any other age cohort. In many ways, I see just the opposite.
Most of the Millennial-age gospel Christians I know are far more theologically rooted than their parents’ generation. Most of them are far more committed to reaching outside of Christian subcultures to share the gospel with people not like them. Would some of them rather discuss theology than evangelize? Yes, just as many in the last generation would rather discuss evangelism than evangelize.
On the whole, though, I find the Millennial generation’s grasp of gospel Christianity far better than what we’ve seen in a long time. They tend to be better at articulating a Christian vision of life, because they’ve had to do so all their lives, never able to count on a pseudo-Christian culture to do pre-evangelism for them.