My personal reflection on what Passion meant to me this year will come later in the week. In the meantime, I made a few observations about my generation of Christians this year that I found telling.
Every year I go to the Passion Conference in Atlanta, one of things I come away with is a renewed sense of hope and a greater burden for my generation. This year was no exception.
There’s nothing like standing in a huge arena overflowing with thousands upon thousands of your peers, who, for the most part, have the same love and passion as you: Jesus. Lifting hands and voices high with praises for our amazing God, you feel that you really are part of a global Church– one that exceeds barriers of distance and ethnicity and is very much alive, even in this country. There are still differences in theology and preferences, but why should these pull us apart when there is Jesus holding us together? Passion provides a beautiful string of moments brimming with unity.
But it also provides a glimpse of some generalizations that could be made about the believers in my generation, some good and some not so much. I think Passion and conferences like it give us an interesting look at the Millennials who are still part of the Church: who they are, what they do, how they think and act. Here are a few things I noticed this year:
1. We love to worship through song.
Maybe it’s the flashing lights, loud music, and the fact that at Passion it’s the cool thing to do, but I think that deep down, most of us really love to worship our Savior together. I know it’s one of the highlights of Passion for me. Being able to let loose and be able to sing as loud as you want, jump as high as you want, raise your hands as much as you want– or do absolutely none of the above– is a freedom I honestly don’t feel throughout most of the year, even though I should (and have gotten a lot better). I think a lot of my peers would back me up on that.
But beyond taking advantage of the atmosphere and anonymity, there is also the fact that if you give us good songs about Jesus, we could worship for hours and never want to stop.We are an expressive, emotional group, and when you put Christ at the forefront, we’ll unleash that expressive emotion in boisterous or tender praise with everything we have. While I was ill and my energy was waning as the Hillsong United set lingered into the post-midnight hour, it seemed that those around me would’ve been content to “stand with arms high and heart abandoned” for hours. I love that.
2. We are able to unplug.
At one point during a message, I was sitting in a section of seats that allowed me to easily observe half of the people sitting on the floor as well as the people in my vicinity. I was extremely surprised to look around and see absolutely no one on a phone or other mobile device. Let me say that again: thousands of Millennials sitting in arena while someone gave a sermon… and I saw no one on their phone. I almost felt weird getting mine out to take notes. Clearly, there were probably many exceptions, but I still found this refreshing. Except, of course, for the one moment when a guy in front of me took a selfie during worship. That’s right– a worship selfie, rawkfist and all. He deserved my photobombing look of disgust.
3. We are entitled.
Complaints. Impatience. Wanting to get the best seats. Not wanting to have to wait in line. We’re of the mindset that in a group of thousands of people, we should get the preferential treatment. It’s real.
4. We are generous.
We may be entitled to some degree, but we’re not completely narcissistic. In previous years, poor college students at Passion have pooled their resources to raise millions of dollars to combat modern-day slavery, among other causes. This year, we gave enough to send 33,500 Bibles to Iran! We care about others. We’re not indifferent to the problems and injustices in the world. We’re ready and willing to give what we can so other people can find freedom in Christ.
5. We need someone to believe in us and call us to be better.
The speakers at Passion don’t just dole out feel-good messages. When you’ve got John Piper and Francis Chan on the lineup, that’s just not what you’re going to get. And we love that! We want someone to call us out, to give us a good “don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young” talking-to, to show that they believe this generation can be more than entitled quitters when we’ve got the Holy Spirit animating our bones. We want someone to talk to us like intelligent adults, not extended adolescents. For every person who falls asleep in Piper’s message, there are at least two more soaking up every word, trying to sort it all out and apply it to their worldview.
6. We love Jesus.
That’s why we come. That’s why we sing. That’s why we listen. That’s why we unplug. That’s why we give. That’s why we embrace transformation. If that love could be as well expressed during the rest of the year as it is at Passion, there’s no telling what we could do. I pray that we’d let it spread through our whole lives. With all the awesome worship songs we sing these days, my prayer for my generation is still, “O God let us be a generation that seeks Your face, O God of Jacob.”
There are still Millennials in the body of Christ in the United States. Don’t let anyone fool you.