“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?