“Where’s the Beef?” A Missing Ingredient in Traditional Church. (Warning: Millennial Perspective)

The church is facing a great dilemma, especially the Fundamental Baptist Church: we’re right, we’re godly, we’re biblical, we’re separated, we’re holy, we’re doctrinal, we’re conservative, but we’re shrinking! “We’re losing the millennials! What are we going to do?” This is a question I have been asked on many occasions since I am a millennial, and because I have had the opportunity to serve in dozens upon dozens of churches in evangelism. Many answers on blogs and social media have been given to solve this conundrum: change the music, drop the ties, use media, speak their language, focus on their needs, have cooler activities, connect on their level, preach topically, preach expository, be vulnerable, be real, have fun, be funny, be serious, focus on social issues, involve them in community outreach, get them active in community service etc etc etc… While some of these are good, many churches do these things and still fail to reach this generation.

Some men don’t want to reach the millennials. They’d rather attack anyone who builds a church by doing something different than what the preachers of the 1960’s did. They believe most millennials are carnal, selfish, narcissistic, shallow, and ignorant. They think all we care about is lower standards, more fun, and novelty. While this may describe a portion of this generation (and many in their own), I don’t believe it describes the majority of conservative Christian millennials. I have many friends who passionately love God, but are searching for His presence in a church. A lack of teaching on standards, less conservatism in the culture, lack of dedication, and wrong music are ultimately not what is hurting this generation. The problem is much deeper.

Do you remember that old Wendy’s commercial with three short old ladies standing around a huge hamburger bun? It’s about a foot in diameter and they can’t stop commenting about the size, “That’s a big bun.” Another says, “That’s a very big bun.” The first replies, “That’s a fluffy bun.” The taller one answers bewildered, “That’s a very big fluffy bun.” Then she removes the top with a gasp, and inside there is a patty so small it’s hidden under the pickle slice. The third lady, who is the shortest and crankiest of the three, chimes in for the first time and angrily asks while looking around the room, “Where’s the beef? WHERE’S the beef? HEY, where’s the BEEF?” The announcer then confidently compares McDonalds to that measly excuse for a meal and promotes Wendy’s more fulfilling version.

The main ingredient and substance of a hamburger is not found in the bun, a hamburger is nothing without the beef. The attraction of the early church was not social reform, music, activities, or cool buildings. It was the power of God (Acts 1:8). From my travels in evangelism over the past four years, and studying and conversing with Christlike millennials, members, and pastors, what we are all wondering is, “Where’s the POWER?”

We’ve heard of the great preachers in the 60’s and 70’s. We’ve seen the great church buildings and Christian schools so many sacrificed to build. We know that this older generation loves God! Yet, for THIS generation we have been left asking, “Where’s the power?”

John the Baptist preached with the power of Elias (Luke 1:17). The church was filled with miracles. It had incredible prayer meetings where God answered and filled men with His Spirit (Acts 2). The Christians prayed for boldness and went into the world seeing thousands receive Christ (Acts 4:33). Stephen was full of faith and power. When they had a problem they didn’t make excuses, they prayed down the power of God. Paul’s preaching wasn’t about homiletics, illustrations, and alliteration, it was “In demonstration of the Spirit and in power.” Read the book of Acts. Read 1 Corinthians. It was the power of God that brought people to Christ; not gimmicks, not tricks, but the felt, seen, and heard power of God!  1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. If there’s one thing the millennials I know are asking, it’s this: Where’s the POWER?

Growing up in a Bible preaching, conservative, separated movement I remember hearing at camp, in church, and in Bible college of the evils of CCM, liberal, and just less conservative churches. I was taught very clearly from an early age why I should be an Independent Baptist, and the reasoning made sense! These “compromising” and “backslidden” churches were obviously a great distress to a holy God. Sure they saw people saved and had powerful services, but that didn’t matter because they never grew to be as spiritual as us. They didn’t comprehend biblical separation and holiness.

I understood and was told that those people lived “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”  They had hype, but they didn’t have true spiritual power. They were full of sin and worldliness, while we were separate and holy. Yet, as I was reading through 2 Timothy recently and trying to be honest about myself and where I need to grow, I was surprised to see how many evidences of “powerless religion” are found in my own life, and in our churches.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:from such turn away.Where's the beef?

Take a second to look at those verses and compare them to yourself and your family. Take a look at those in your church and see if these qualities don’t exemplify the daily lives of your friends and congregation. If you read this list and honestly consider yourself, it may convict you about how many of those sins are in your life.

Could it be, that in our conservative churches, we read these verses thinking of a church down the road, when most of these sins are found in our own? Could it be that we have churches full of people who love themselves too much to sacrifice time to lead souls to Christ; or are too busy to encourage others around them; or are too worried about their reputation to eat with “publicans and sinners” so sinners might know the love of God?

Could it be that Christians in the most prosperous nation of the world are unthankful for multiplied blessings, while continually wishing we had better cars, more clothes, nicer homes, and bigger TV’s? Do we not have hearts full of covetousness towards those who are more wealthy, respected, or talented?

Are we not full of pride because of our Bible knowledge and conservatism? Is there not boasting of how great our families and our churches are? Are there not numbers of young people leaving our churches and teens rebelling because, since their youth, they were disobedient to parents?

Could it be, with all of our “dedication” to the Word of God, that we still get more pleasure out of hours of March Madness, TV shows, movies, sports, hunting, fishing, shopping, and hobbies than we do time with God or preaching (although we would never admit it)? Are you a lover of pleasures more than a lover of God?

Could it be that we have a form of godliness with our ties, suits, hair, dresses, choirs, conservatism, and haughty Christian verbiage, yet we don’t have the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace etc..?

Could it be, in spite of all of the righteousnesses found in our positions, we also lack the power of God in our lives? Aren’t many of our services attended out of duty, and not pleasure because we sense the presence of God? I have been in churches across the country which have as much of the Spirit of God working in them as you’d find in a catholic mass. The preaching is as convicting as the reading of Scripture in Latin. There’s no joy. The hymns are dead.

We’ve been doing the same stand up-sit down routine since we were born and can’t remember the last time we felt the presence of God. We don’t know what it is to personally see lives transformed through the gospel. We have never experience a moving of God in corporate prayer. We have no expectations of experiencing the Holy Spirit at church, it’s just a religious duty. Where’s the power?

One of my professors in college often said, “The greatest problem of our day is that the times are desperate, and we are not.”

We see anger and fighting between spouses, dads aren’t involved with their kids spiritually, and being a mom is less attractive than a career. This is because of a lack of natural affection. We frequently enjoy movies that blaspheme the name of God and which idealize pride, rebellion, sexuality, and materialism (it’s ok to watch just not in a theatre). We have all the same problems as “the church down the road” but we’re better because our services haven’t changed in a hundred years. Sure, our services aren’t like the early church, but we’re better than most.

Could it be that we have so lost the power of God that we think He is pleased with us just because of our standards? Meanwhile pride, envy, anger, impatience, lust, ingratitude, gossip, lack of compassion, and jealously reign unchecked and unconquered in our hearts and homes. Are we religious, but powerless over the flesh? Are we “Christian,” but nothing like Christ?

It seems to me that this is the case. We have raised a generation that knows not God, nor His works (Judges 2:10).

So, how do we bring back the power? Most importantly, we must be humble enough to admit we have a problem. We must quit judging every other church and be broken over the condition of our own lives and homes (James 4:6-11). We must realize that what God wants from us is to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; not just to check off Christian duties (Matthew 22:37-40). Is there anything you’re holding back from God?

We must compare ourselves with Scripture, and not with the church down the road (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Be like Christ and not any man (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). Let the Holy Spirit have control of your life and services (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). PRAY PRAY PRAY (Luke 11:8)!  Be desperate for the power of God in your life (2 Corinthians 12:9)! God’s power comes with God’s presence (Psalm 63:1-2), and God’s presence comes after we have made peace with man and peace with God (Hebrews 12:14). We can not have God’s power if we no longer seek to be right in His presence.

The number of nonbelievers is a growing group in this generation. I hope to see an outpouring of God’s power in my life and my generation. Do you? Where’s the POWER?

31 thoughts on ““Where’s the Beef?” A Missing Ingredient in Traditional Church. (Warning: Millennial Perspective)

  1. I could tell that we’re from two distinctly different Christian traditions – even so, some elements of your words show me that how you are taught limits your understanding. Take Acts 2 – if only men were filled with the Holy Spirit, then “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” would not be true. Very conservative churches tend to have a way of picking and choosing which verses to emphasize and which verses to ignore to teach their preferred interpretation. What many of us outside of conservative churches plainly see is that the power of God that he gave to women (usually the majority) have been ordered to sit out the game and watch the guys (usually the minority) have all the fun. Worse yet – unchurched millenials show up at church and don’t understand why they can’t do anything and the church does nothing.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I just really want to see men and women walking with God and dwelling in Christ. This world needs to see Jesus not religious people. I hope you will continue to reach out to millennials and show them the Love of God! This is a needy generation.

  2. As a former Independent fundamental Baptist, I agree wholeheartedly with every word you just wrote, Micah. I appreciate your thoughts, your honesty, and your insight. Thank you.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I am not intending to shoot at any group of people. I just believe we need a revival of humility and the indwelling Spirit in general! I just want my generation to see the power and love of God.

  3. Very interesting, as I finished this article, my 16 year old daughter came to me and asked me this question, “Mom, what would you say about this….How can we get America back to God?” I answered her by saying, “humbling ourselves, repenting of sin in our lives, and soul winning.”

  4. It’s interesting to me that you wrote what I perceive to be a decent article, but you confined the misdoings of the article to the fundamental crowd (in particular Fundamental Baptist), but in reality the missing power of the Holy Spirit should well have addressed the Emerging church and Contemporary movement, and any other church that is attempting to “do Christianity” without the limitless power of the Holy Spirit of God (to include fundamental groups).

  5. What a great perspective my friend. I love reading Bible minded authors. Keep at it and may God solve our problem, as we seek Him. I am inspired to inspire others to have a heart for God after reading this.

  6. Keep writing and preaching. You will face criticism and obstacles, I’m sure of it. However I know you well enough to understand that your main focus is Christ. God will bless you tremendously. I endorse you and this post.

      • BRO. Micah, thank you for your outstanding message. Every word is true. May God use you in your travels to get this message out to the churches. If we will do what the scripture says we will see God move again in our land. God Bless you my brother. Praying for you and Brother Dave as you preach the gospel.

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  8. This article is so true. And it’s exactly what God has been putting on my heart the past few weeks. Thanks Micah, I really appreciate it! I’ll be praying for you and your ministry.

  9. A very Biblical perspective and well stated. I could not agree more with what you said. I have seen and experienced that power and so long to see and have it again, not only for the sake of my children my wife and my church family, but for the generations that are to come. I want to pass on what was handed down to me. I want to see the smoldering embers turned back into a mighty blaze for the Glory of God, (not the praise of men).

    What you say is truth and I can testify that as a pastor, I’m tired of the Form with no Function! It is only when I am willing to “lay aside every weight and the sin…” (Heb.12:1) that the power to see GOD move is available. A wise old mountain preacher once told me, “Son, God does not fill garbage cans.” What wisdom he had. Love you and what God is doing in and through you. Keep hungering and thirsting after rightness my friend!

  10. Pingback: “Where’s the Beef?” A Missing Ingredient in Traditional Church. (Warning: Millennial Perspective) | A disciple's study

  11. Thank you for speaking the truth. It’s all about the power of God and not just a religious check list. We will only fail when we operate/live in the flesh. Well done.

    The Grace of our Lord be with you.

    Amen

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