“No one does something for nothing” – words repeated often by Dr. Baker, professor of behavioral psychology during my graduate studies. He considered that statement primary for every clinician. What does the client benefit from what they are saying and doing in your office? It may seem an odd question of someone suffering from depression. What does someone get out of their depression? But Dr. Bakers’ question always made me look deeper. It isn’t that depression itself has a benefit, but sharing one’s depression with another person is intended to generate a response. Perhaps a cry for help or a desire for acknowledgement.
I thought of this today when I read the Christian Post article: 43% of millennials 'don’t know, don’t care, don’t believe' God exists: study. I wondered, “What do millennials get out of their unbelief? How does it benefit them? Perhaps it frees them from religious or moral constraints. Maybe it offers a larger community and sense of belonging than the local church does. It could be the intellectual satisfaction of feeling woke or enlightened. Or maybe it is just that old simple enticement: If it feels good, do it.
After an article like the millennial study, it is typically followed by editorials or opinion pieces trying to make sense of the research. It is typically blamed on the liberal media, the churches lack of teaching basic biblical principles, Hollywood, unrestrained sexual expression, or the dysfunction of the family. This is generally followed by “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” or Jesus is coming soon. Perhaps it is all true, but the greater challenge is how it affects our confidence in God and how we represent him as the light of the world.
Our confidence in God may be easily shaken if we equate the demise of a “godly America” with the defeat of God himself. Being defeated, out-voted, or canceled by our culture can be easily mistaken as a sign to roll up the clouds and go home, similar to the prophet Elijah’s request when feeling defeated by Israel’s evil. Elijah could not see beyond his own defeat and fears amidst a godless nation. But what Elijah perceived as defeat, God saw as an opportunity and sent him back to Israel.
I don’t know what millennials are getting out of not believing in God, but I do know what they aren’t getting. They aren’t experiencing the meaning of Christ’s resurrection relevant to their needs and desires; the message is like water bouncing off a rock. They either aren’t ready to hear it or aren’t able to.
But who is born ready to hear? All sin and fall short of the glory of God. We all have a past of snubbing God for our own self interests. We all “benefited” in our own minds by not believing or following Christ. It is the story. A fallen world and a God who pursues us with a love and patience beyond comprehension.
If millennials live long enough they will experience the things Christ carried on the cross. No one is exempt from the burdens of life. And if one day they are ready and desperate to take Christ’s yoke upon them and find rest, what will they hear and see?
If Christians are in the minority, will they see a Church that appears defeated and angry? Will they find bitter Christians fighting one another? Will they hear shallow social psychology sermons indistinguishable from the woke philosophy of the age? Anyone with a general knowledge of the Bible knows that God loves to demonstrate his power through the minority, not the majority. He shows victory in David not Goliaths, the weak not the strong. It is God’s model of evangelism to demonstrate power through the Creator, not the created.
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong….For the message of the cross is foolishness to those perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18; 27-28)
Christ’s defeat on the cross is the paradox of victory when outnumbered by unbelievers. Christ did not come to earth to create the moral majority, a kingdom on earth, or earthly utopia. His victory was not in the number of believers, but in their zeal and faithfulness to Him.
When millennials are ready to listen to the Word of God (and there will be many) let us show the God who loves them. Let them find the Jesus who leaves the flock of sheep to find the one who is lost and alone. The God who knows every hair on our head and wishes none to perish but all to come to the knowledge of life. (2 Peter 3:9)
Dr. David Zuccolotto is a former pastor and clinical psychologist. For 35 years he has worked for hospitals, addiction treatment centers, outpatient clinics and private practice. He is the author of The Love of God: A 70 Day Journey of Forgiveness.