Millennials, Media, and Christian Hypocrisy

Three months ago, I ran across a video on Facebook. A family, running a website called Five Take Flight, was selling their home and traveling around the world with their 3 children. They needed a nanny for their travel venture and created a video asking for applications. I have no idea how many people watched the video, but 24,000 viewers applied.

I’ve followed Derek and Kenzie’s social media as they weeded through the applicants. I regularly checked their website, Five Take Flight and admired their gusto and ambition. I want a lifestyle like they have, the willingness to abandon the traditional workforce and prioritize experiencing the world.

People call this the millennial attitude. The abandonment of the ‘American Dream’. A generation that prizes our idealism above money, political clout, and tradition. A generation that fights for equality, adopts twitter hashtags for justice, and scorns our parents media usage.

People like to complain millennials are addicted to media.

But are they? 

Media is an entertainment tool. Cable, Youtube, and Netflix provide hours of distraction. I recently read Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman writes that man has an infinite appetite for pleasure and that television created and feeds that appetite.

I disagree. Americans, and all mankind, certainly have an appetite. Solomon wrote, “Hell and destruction are never full, so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”

Humans are looking for satisfaction in something. For revolutionary Americans, they found satisfaction in seeking liberty and equality. For 19th century Americans, fulfilling a sense of Manifest Destiny and conquering science filled the hunt for satisfaction.

And in the 20th century, Americans conquered space, liberated Europe, and fought for civil justice. For baby boomers, there was very little left to conquer. They dabbled in politics, protesting injustice in Vietnam. But the political establishment outmaneuvered idealism and left a drifting generation.

Enter television. The country was ripe for an entertainment addiction.

And millennials have inherited this addiction. But they aren’t willing to keep to the traditional mold of media.

While previous generations of Americans were content to simply consume media as entertainment, millennials want to use media as a tool to shape their world.

Millennials create media – inventing Facebook, creating viral youtube channels and using the internet world to back a trip around the world.

Studies show that Baby Boomers use media more than millennials. I’ve heard that parents are more likely to check Facebook over a meal than their millennial children.

Both baby boomers and millennials spend an inordinate amount of time using media. But I think millennials are weary of using media as entertainment. But this generation has no idea how to redeem media from the entertainment chokehold.

This is where the church must step in. Believers must understand how media has trapped our culture in an entertainment mudslide.

While millennials try to reconcile media with their generational idealism, the church needs to focus on reaching this generation with a message of true satisfaction.

Believers should ask themselves – How am I seeking satisfaction?

If necessary, you may need to weed out the hypocrisy of claiming Christ while being addicted to entertainment media.

Christ said, “For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

The church often doesn’t recognize our own hypocrisy until it’s too late. We preach about only finding satisfaction in Christ, while unable to sit through a service without checking Facebook or scrolling through our emails.

Millennials recognize the self-satisfaction of entertainment media. They don’t want a cool church that relies on media to reach an audience.

 This paragraph from the Washington Post sums this generations attitude towards church much better than I can:

“Recent research from Barna Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network found that 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one, and 77 percent would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium.” While we have yet to warm to the word “traditional” (only 40 percent favor it over “modern”), millennials exhibit an increasing aversion to exclusive, closed-minded religious communities masquerading as the hip new places in town.

For a generation bombarded with advertising and sales pitches, and for whom the charge of “inauthentic” is as cutting an insult as any, church rebranding efforts can actually backfire, especially when young people sense that there is more emphasis on marketing Jesus than actually following Him”

Millennials desperately need a church that preaches the true message of Satisfaction only in Christ. 

A church that not only preaches, but lives this message.

How do you live this message? Here’s some ideas that come to my mind.

Don’t read your Bible on your phone. 

I know it’s convenient. But it’s not wise.

For one, if your kids view your phone as an entertainment device, the Bible becomes merely entertainment. A toddler doesn’t grasp the difference between you reading the inspired Word of God and the times you play music videos. Instead of seeing your Bible reading as something special, a child will just think of church as an entertainment time for parents.

And you know, you don’t just read the Bible while on your phone. That notification is getting checked. If the sermon’s a bit tedious, I’ll just open Twitter for a small moment. I’m guilty of this. That’s why in January, I turned my phone off in church. After using Bible Gateway for a year, I opened my paper Bible again.

Timeline Relationships

The church is supposed to be a community. My pastor recently talked about the Biblical meaning of the word fellowship. Apparently in the 1st century, fellowship meant partnership. Not just a coffee time break chat. If you were fellowshipping with someone, you were investing in something together. Maybe it was a business. If you opened a business with someone, you needed to talk about that business.

Today, we forgo the partner part of fellowship and just enjoy the coffee. And media has made that easier than ever. A post on a timeline, a birthday meme, tagging someone in a picture.

Drive by fellowship.

When you get together at church and read the commands to show fellowship, and don’t follow through, it’s exhibit A hypocrisy. Liking someone’s FB status is not investing in a relationship.

Would a business survive from merely timeline conversations? Of course not. And neither can the church survive on FB relationships.

Throw away the media in your relationships. Maybe don’t even friend a fellow church member on FB. Cultivate a friendship and know a person from something other than their social media.

Use Media, but Not to Satisfy

In January, I went off all media for two days. I was challenged to think about why I wanted to use media. To entertain? To connect? To distract?

Why do you use media? 

Millennials want to use media differently than baby boomers. Both groups are addicted to media.

But millennials are disillusioned with the church and entertainment. If you primarily use media to keep boredom at bay or mask a sense of loneliness, than that is hypocrisy.

Christ says He is the well of living water. A life with Christ is a promise of fulfillment, of purpose. A believer shouldn’t be bored following Christ. A believer has a constant friend in Jesus.

When media replaces the promises of Christ, religion is empty and hypocritical.

Redeem Media 

While millennials try to reconcile media with their generational idealism, the church needs to focus on reaching this generation with a message of true satisfaction.

Throw away phones, and dig into relationships.

While media can be used to reach people, it should be not be our primary tool.

Use media as encouragement, not as your main outreach. John Piper does this affectively with his Desiring God podcast. This summer, my team leader in Philadelphia team leader played a youtube video – a short sermon on running from John Piper. Not only was it an encouraging message, but it was rooted in Scripture. The visuals weren’t flashy or focused on entertainment. We watched the video, opened our Bibles and encouraged each other while reading Hebrews 12 together.

I grew up listening to the radio, sermons from Chuck Swindoll and the Moody Church. These radio messages didn’t replace our family devotions. Today, I sometimes listen to podcasts, Christian music and follow Christian stuff on Facebook. This doesn’t replace my one-on-one time in the Bible, the time I need to spend praying, and ministering through Sunday School.

Media cannot and should not replace our calling to live out our faith in Jesus. When it begins to drown our calling, the church slides into hypocrisy.

We don’t need to shun media. We do need to shun our focus on entertainment and distraction.

 

A Redheaded Texas Gal. I love the woods and thrive where there’s green grass and room to grow. I dream of living in a used book store and wearing period costumes to work everyday. In the meantime, I’m studying Journalism and Political Science, and trying to follow Jesus wherever He leads.

  • Susan Woychuk

    Wow! This is an excellent article. Thanks for describing the problem and giving a cure. Susan