The Millennial Generation

The Millennial Generation

Are you a Millennial? (Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What is a Millennial?”) If you were born somewhere between 1980 and 2000 you are classified as part of the Millennial generation (a.k.a. Generation Y). You’ve grown up in a very different time and place then your parents and it has shaped the qualities and personality of you and your peers. It happens to every generation. Every generation has its own characteristics.

If you were born between 1961 and 1980, you are part of Generation X. Those born between 1943 and 1960 are Baby Boomers. The Silent Generation are those born between 1925 and 1942. Before that, there was The Greatest Generation, those who came of age during the Great Depression and fought in World War II.

Over the last few years, there have been a lot of studies and statistics that have helped to define the characteristics of the Millennials. At 80 million strong, they are the biggest age grouping in American history. Millions have been questioned and analyzed and the cold hard data tells us that this generation is self-centered, self-absorbed, lazy, entitled, shallow and narcissistic. They are defined by the “selfie”.

I want to talk about the Millennials because I just can’t seem to escape stories about them in the news. Over the last few months, something of this nature has frequently caught my eye or perked up my ears.

  • Last October, National Public Radio, ran a spot entitled, “For Millennials, It’s Kids First, Marriage Maybe.” along with another one called, “Getting Some ‘Me’ Time: Why Millennials are so Individualistic.”
  • In April, CNN published an article on Millennials attitudes toward marriage called, “Ready for the Marriage Apocalypse?”
  • In May, a press release came from San Diego State University with the headline, “The Least Religious Generation.”
  • USA Today joined in on June 1 with the editorial, “Marriage is going out of style, and that could hurt.”
  • Time magazine had the jump on all these news outlets when back in May 2013 they had as their cover story, “The Me Me Me Generation, Millennials are lazy, entitled, narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they’ll save us all.”

It’s important for us to understand the dynamics that are happening in our society because they inevitably effect our ecclesias. In fact, I think it is already at work. This is not to single out and judge any one generation. Attitudes like this have been percolating for a long time. It’s simply now that we are seeing the eroding and debilitating effects of previous generations. The problems we face today are ones nurtured in the past. That’s what we want to talk about first. Let’s understand first what the Bible has to say about generational responsibility. Then we want to identify clearly, what this generation is promoting in terms of marriage and individualism and counteract that with what our Creator wants of us so that God may be “all in all”.

The Generations in the Bible

It’s interesting that psychologists and sociologists today recognize different generations because the Bible has always recognized the important distinction of the generation. Perhaps the best verse in this regards is Judges 2:10. After Joshua’s death, it says,

“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”

This was a tragedy. The loss from generation to generation of the knowledge of God and the works he had done for Israel. Who was at fault? It’s easy for us to look back in hindsight at this one verse and point the finger but is something similar happening to us today? Are we effectively passing on the heritage that we have received from our fathers? Is the generation today seeking to learn, willing to accept, honor and pass on their heritage?

Did you know that even scientists have this problem? They’ve found, for instance, in the fisheries that the experts of a new generation would shift the baseline of what was normal for a fish population. Whereas before the seas were teeming with fish they would only consider the decline in populations from the start of their careers. Environmental scientists have a name for this. They call it “Shifting Baseline Syndrome”. The shifting baseline syndrome is the situation in which over time knowledge is lost about the state of the natural world, because people don’t perceive changes that are actually taking place. Between generations, there is an amnesia, a forgetfulness, which shifts the accepted norms to a new baseline. While they use this term in a natural sense about the impact man has had on the environment it struck me that the term is useful in a spiritual environment as well.

Do our ecclesias have a shifting baseline syndrome? We, as Christadelphians, have a rich history and ancestry in the things of God. It has stood the test of time. It would be the greatest of tragedies to see the attitudes of this world change the baseline of our ecclesial life. If you’re part of an up and coming generation you have to ask yourself, “Am I unknowingly shifting the baseline of the standard of truth in our ecclesia?”

What is to be done? Turn with me to Psalm 71:17-18,

“O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”

Those of the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation Xers have a great responsibility to pass on to the next generation what it means to be a Christadelphian. I’m not just talking about Bible knowledge. You notice in this verse what the “grayheaded” Psalmist wants to show, not just tell, to the next generation. It’s God’s strength and his power. He wants to pass on what it means to live a life in Christ. Share your personal stories of the ecclesia and its history. Let us know what it used to be like. Show it to us. Create the same expectations for the generation to come.

Psalm 78:1-8 has a similar message:

“Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

It starts with the previous generation to show to the next generation the power of God in their lives. The next generation must not be rebellious but honor the past, seek it out, understand it and keep it. It is a monumental task for the upcoming generations to be able to look past their time and realize their heritage and preserve it.

We are to look at ourselves as a history of generations. The Bible starts that way. Genesis is the book of the generations. In the span of the first six chapters of Genesis, we see such a degradation of the generations that only Noah is left. God said of him, “thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” While the psychologists and sociologists of today talk about a pattern or cycle that works through generations the Bible gives us rather a picture of a downward spiral that happens. It is to be expected, yet we have to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen.

It happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness.

“Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” (Psa. 95:10-11)

Likewise, John the Baptist and Jesus cried against their generation as “evil and adulterous” (Matt. 3:7; 11:16; 12:39). Peter would later say, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Upon their generation would come the judgments of AD70.

God has made us aware that there is a time to come, a generation, which will be so out of touch with God that he will once again bring judgment. Everything seems to indicate that we are rapidly heading in that direction. For the Millennials, the studies show there are two troublesome areas: Marriage and Individuality.

The Marriage Apocalypse

Marriage is in trouble. God instituted marriage on the sixth day of creation between a man and a woman. Today it is not only being redefined, in defiance to God, but it is becoming marginalized. In a CNN interview, the anchor starts by saying, “Talk to any millennial and you can envision an America virtually marriage-free, with everyone happily single.”

That may be media hype but here are the statistics:

  • According to the Pew Research Center, the American marriage rate hit a rock bottom of 50.3% in 2013. Compare that to 1960 when 72% of Americans married.
  • The Pew Research Center also reports that the median age of marriage for women is 27. Fifty years ago it was 20. Some might see that as a good thing but consider the next fact.
  • Unmarried mothers account for 40.6 percent of children born in the U.S., according to recent Census data. That’s 2.5 times as high as 1980 and 19 times as high as in 1940. In the African-American community, the rate is 71.6%.
  • Americans are also having fewer children --- nearly half of child-bearing age women did not have kids in 2014, the most since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking this stat in 1976.
  • All this comes from a culture rich in divorce. In the United States, almost 42 million adults have been married more than once. That’s up from 22 million in 1980 and 14 million in 1960. Percentage wise that means that among adults who are currently married, roughly a quarter have been married before compared with 13% in 1960.
  • Unless we think this is just the U.S., the numbers are the most drastic in Scandinavia. In Norway 82% of couples have their first child out of wedlock. The numbers are similarly high for Sweden and Denmark. It’s clear in parts of Scandinavia that marriage is dying.

The good news is that there is increasing emphasis in the politics and the media on the importance of marriage. The bad news is it’s not for the same reasons. It’s economic, not moral. In a USA Today article entitled, “Marriage is going out of style, and that could hurt” the author says,

“Marriage may not be for everyone but the statistics tend to prove that it’s a strong predictor of healthier lives for the couples themselves and for their children especially. It’s also a better path to financial well-being and good for the overall economic health of the country.”

It’s not surprising that God has given us the gift of marriage that we might flourish. Following the ways of God brings blessings. However, beyond this, it is obvious that our society has lost the sense of the moral commitment in marriage that makes for a stronger society, family and individual. Above all, there is absolutely no sense of the higher calling that our marriages are to reflect the sacrifice and love of Christ for his bride the ecclesia and her corresponding mutual love and respect. Our marriages have so much more meaning, so much more importance when they are in Christ. The world doesn’t understand this so naturally marriage is dying. We have a higher calling. We should not see marriage as something that is inconvenient for the individual.


This brings us to another disturbing trend among the Millennials: Individualism. This ideology believes the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society or group. It is the actions or attitudes of a person who does things without being concerned about what other people will think. This spirit is not only causing the Millennials to be the least married generation but to be the least religious generation.

Here are the statistics:

  • The National Study of Youth and Religion found the guiding morality of 60% of millennials in any situation is that they’ll just be able to feel what is right.
  • A National Institute of Health study found 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.
  • Just this year, what may be the largest study of its kind with 11.2 million respondents, psychologist Jean Twenge found that millennials are the least religious generation of the last six decades and possibly in the nation’s history.
    • Compared to the late 1970s, twice as many 12th graders and college students never attend religious services.
    • 75% more 12th graders say religion is “not important at all” in their lives.
    • Compared to the early 1980s, twice as many high school seniors and three times as many college students in the 2010s answered “none” when asked their religion.
    • The author of the study said, “These trends are part of a larger cultural context… one context is rising individualism in U.S. culture. Individualism puts the self first, which doesn’t fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires. As Americans become more individualistic, it makes sense that fewer would commit to religion.”


These are the trends, brothers and sisters. We are facing an increasingly secular society which is preaching the very opposite to the foundation principle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat. 16:24-25)

Could it be any clearer? God loves each one of us but he is asking us to give up our individuality and be part of the larger body of Christ. He is asking us not to live for ourselves but for the one who died for us. The whole idea of individualism would have been abhorrent to the apostle Paul, who said,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

He took the “I” right out of it. It wasn’t about himself. He wasn’t going to take any selfies. He wasn’t going to promote himself on Facebook. It was about Christ. So it should be in our lives, brothers and sisters.

God All in All

The grand overall purpose of God is that he might be “all in all”. You are no doubt familiar with the phrase “all in all” but have you ever stopped to ponder what that means. This simple Greek idiom is so against the spirit of self and individualism.

Come with me to Ephesians 1:22-23 to see one place where this is used.

“[God] hath put all things under his [Jesus] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”

Paul has given us a beautiful picture. An amazing powerful absolute that the ecclesia is Christ all in all. The very essence of Jesus’ prayer, “I in them, and thou in me, that they be made perfect in one” (John 17:23). The phrase “all in all” comes again in the context of the body of Christ in Eph. 4:6 and Col. 3:11.

The reality is often different, isn’t it, brothers and sisters? We do not allow Christ to be our all, even though that is what we would theoretically like him to be. There are times in our lives where we ignore him, we forget him, we rely on ourselves, we think we can make it on our own. In that case, God is only “some in some”. To say it like that sounds so sad and pathetic. God’s purpose is frustrated. We need to make him our everything. We need to cast away this notion of self and devote ourselves to him.

It’s that yearning for God to be all in all that motivates us for we know there is a day coming when it will be realized. In 1 Corinthians 15:28 it says,

“And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

What will that be like? It is something so incomprehensible to us while we are in these bodies of flesh and blood but it must be so wonderful. To be at that place where we totally loose ourselves in him and God is fully in us. Think of that. God all in all.


What are the takeaways for this morning?

  1. When it comes to the bigger picture, we have to be aware of the different generations in the ecclesia and not develop an amnesia to the past. The elder generations have a responsibility to pass it on and the younger generation must take up the mantle. We must be careful not to establish new baselines for the truth but preserve what previous generations have upheld.
  1. There are some disturbing trends among the current generation towards marriage and promoting self. We have to be on guard against such ideas seeping in among ourselves and eroding the fabric of our ecclesias, our families, our marriages and our individual devotion to God and Christ.

It is a bit ironic, I suppose, that this current generation is called “the Millennials” because that is our hope. Our desire is to live and reign with Christ for a thousand years, a millennium. We would then be the true Millennials, helping to bring about the final purpose of God that he might be all in all.


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