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The New Religious Fundamentalists: Millennial Christians?

  • John UpChurch What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2013 Aug 09

 I came at this Millennial faith thing the wrong way. Unlike many of my generation, I didn’t have fundamentalist parents to scorn or Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes to rebel against. No one told me that the Bible was without error. In fact, I learned the opposite. No one cast aspersions on beer or banned tattoos or howled about dancing.

In general, Sunday mornings at the UpChurch house meant the last chance to sleep in before school started back. Matters of God rarely bubbled up beyond a few choice curse words. We lived in a secular bubble, safely tucked away from arguments about what Scripture says on this or that topic.

When God finally yanked me out of my atheism and depression, He used people who might be called good old-fashioned Fundies. They taught Inerrancy. They didn’t drink. They preached Christ.

In that regard, perhaps I let my Millennial brethren down. Or perhaps, as poet and writer Jefferson Bethke says in a recent post on the Washington Post site, we Millennials have missed our own blindness about those who came before us:

My peers and I have too quickly caricatured “fundamentalists,” without realizing we are eerily close to becoming what we say we hate. We can think fundamentalists only wear suits and play boring Christian music, or we can address fundamentalism for what it is—an issue of the heart. An easy way to define fundamentalism is adding rules to the Bible, or elevating things beyond how Scripture elevates them. It’s an attitude of pride. It gets in shouting matches (or tweeting matches) with anyone who disagrees. And in American Christian culture, I still see a lot of that.

There is a weird subsection of young Christians today who are almost reverse fundamentalists, but they are still fundamentalists. They look at the older generation who say in good conscience Christians shouldn’t drink beer, and they respond, “We are definitely drinking beer. Freedom in Christ!” Or they see those Christians who say you have to dress up for church service, and they say, “We are only going to wear skinny jeans and v-neck T-shirts in church.” They are better defined by what they are against than by what they are for. They are doing the exact same thing as what they are defining themselves against. They are elevating behavior, clothing, and other secondary issues as requirements to gain access to heaven. It’s a sickness in all of us to put our righteousness and dependence in absolutely anything except Jesus, and if we think we aren’t doing that, it usually means it’s even worse.

I’m certainly guilty here as well. For years, I refused to go to any church that wasn’t trendy or tailored toward my preferences. They had to have this type music, that style preaching, this kind of pastor. Only recently did God smack me with my own hypocrisy.

While great music and sweet lights aren’t wrong, per se, the core is Christ, not my desire for comfort. That’s why you’ll now find me worshiping in a multi-generational church with Millennials lifting up holy hands beside older “Fundies.” Together. In Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10). Do we always agree? No, but we all know why we’re there, and we know that we need each other. God’s helping us all deal with the idols of our hearts.

Pastor Joe Thorn hit on this idea as well in a recent blog post. He asked the Millennials in his church why they came:

First up was Brad and Katie. I asked them why they haven't given up on the church in its institutional/formally organized sense.  They aren't just attending a service. They are already plugged into a Community Group, have recently joined two of our ministry teams, and are covenanting with us (we take membership seriously at Redeemer). Why? They emphasized two things: real community and serious bible teaching. As they began to look for a church after getting married they wanted to surround themselves with believers who were seeking the Lord together. They wanted to be a part of a community. They said they were warmly received by our people, and made to feel welcome quickly and naturally. They also emphasized the expository teaching at Redeemer that emphasizes the gospel and experiential theology. Brad and Katie said they need the local church for a number of things, but most important to them is a healthy community to belong to, with strong teaching from leadership.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think Millennials are being blind to their own weaknesses? What makes them come/not come to church?

John UpChurch is the senior editor of and You’ll usually find him downing coffee at his standing desk (like a boss).