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Culture Q&A

Trevin Wax

Millennial mission

A call to young adults, with advice for their parents

Millennial mission

Trevin Wax (Handout)

Trevin Wax is a book publisher (LifeWay Christian Resources), a Gospel Coalition blogger, and the author of a book published in March, This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel. Here are edited excerpts of an interview in front of students at Patrick Henry College.

Why is this the time for This Is Our Time?

We might look back over history yearning for a different time the Lord might have placed us in, or we might begrudge certain aspects of the challenges we now face. It’s time to fix our eyes on Jesus and move forward in faith, not bemoaning the problems of our culture but seizing the day for the mission of God. Now is the time to be faithful.

Who is the “Our”?

This is the time for millennials to step up and move forward. I was born in 1981, on the older side of that cohort, but I wrote this for Christians in my life group who feel a bit overwhelmed.

Are you older
not only by age but also by psychology, in that you married at 21?

When it comes to marriage, maybe people in my generation think they need to wait on marriage because maybe they’ve grown up in homes that were unhappy or had divorce. They have seen the fallout of that and want to make sure they’re making the right decision.

Don’t many millennials say, “Shouldn’t I wait and already have a career underway? Shouldn’t I be more mature?”

Marriage matures you. It’s one of the ways that God reveals to us our own selfishness and begins to grow us up in the faith. Romantic comedies a lot of times end with the wedding as if that’s the ending, the summit—but the mountaintop is a marriage of 50 years, a couple who look more and more alike, who have the fruit of their union present in their kids and grandkids, and have the joy that ripples out over time from a healthy marriage and family.

Your oldest child is 13 this year, so you also became a father while young.

There’s something about raising children young that ages you and also keeps you young. You’re never prepared to have kids: It’s a bit of divine anarchy in your life. If you think, “I don’t have enough funds to raise happy kids”—kids don’t need a lot. They’re resilient. That’s more in our minds than in the kids’ minds.

So God in His kindness actually throws us into the swimming pool before we’ve had ample lessons—and we learn?

That’s right.

What else do you think more millennials should know?

With the swiftness of cultural change, many people in my generation are unaware of their unexamined assumptions. They think about things a certain way, and have a certain moral intuition, but they don’t really have reasons why. It’s not that they’re asking or answering wrong questions, it’s more that they don’t know what questions even to ask, so they make certain assumptions and don’t know to question them.

What’s one crucial assumption that many millennials make?

Eighty percent of Americans, including millennials, believe enjoying yourself is the highest goal of life. Not one goal, not a goal, but the highest goal of life. The number of practicing Christians who go to church at least once a month is in the high 60 percent. So the idea that the goal of life is enjoyment is the dominant framework of thought for people all across our country, including in our churches. In church we sing the same songs and listen to the same sermons, but one person may have the idea from the Westminster Catechism that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, with worship foundational, and others see enjoying life as the highest goal, with the church a help for them to fulfill their own dreams.

I’m in my 60s, and lots of Christians my age seem pessimistic, wondering what to do in a culture that’s moving away from them.

We have to be faithful anyway. We’re called to win people, not just arguments, so we need to uphold the value of civil discourse and debate, and at the same time seek to win over people. Regardless of whether we can succeed or not, we are to try, and the Lord calls us to witness, not always to win.

One of the big divides concerns sexual ethics and response to LGBT pressures.

We need to showcase the beauty of Christianity’s sexual ethics in such a way that we can silence the slander of critics who would say you’re just hateful or bigoted. How do we simultaneously show our love for our neighbor while also opposing ideologies that we believe are destructive to the human person? That is one of the strongest challenges of our time.

I’ve interviewed about 200 Christian leaders over the past decade. Many in their 50s or 60s have kids in their 20s or 30s. Many who have had three or four children say privately that maybe one or two are walking faithfully, and others are drifting. They’re puzzled about how to communicate with these drifters: They want to talk about deeper questions, but when they do so, a barrier goes up. They don’t want their kids to avoid talking with them about important things for fear of getting a lecture. How would you advise parents to talk with their millennials?

The context has to be unconditional love from father or mother to son or daughter, regardless of whether they wander from the faith or begin to question the historic truths of Christianity. It’s not always about morality. It could be skepticism on other foundational truths. I generally tend to lower the expectations from a conversation, but multiple conversations within a certain context over time could work together with other aspects of life to convince those going astray.

Multiple conversations, and multiple factors are at work.

Parents with children who have drifted should know that a hundred different factors, only three or four of which you’re actually aware, have led to this place. Some of them may be the parents’ fault, many of them may not be the parents’ fault. Understanding this can take some of the pressure off and lower blood pressure so the conversation might be more fruitful, because the parent doesn’t expect so much to be riding on it.

I’d suggest also: Don’t spend a lot of time talking about politics intergenerationally. If the discussion might get heated, at least make it on the basics.

Yes: fundamental stuff, not what’s currently happening. We need spaces in our lives where politics does not interfere. I’m worried that those spheres of life are fewer and fewer as politics becomes more ultimate in a secular society that has traded God for government. Whether it’s sports or retail, all sorts of things are now infused with the political in ways detrimental long term to civil discourse. That holds true in the family as well.

For Wax’s comments on “The Benedict Option” and how pastors should preach to millennials, please go to wng.org/wax_benedict and wng.org/wax_millennials

Comments

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  • Dick Friedrich
    Posted: Tue, 05/02/2017 08:47 am

    There are many elements of this discussion (the most important ones) that are timeless and not limited to a discussion about the current generations. Divine anarchy is a precious term. 

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Wed, 05/03/2017 10:53 am

    I find the advice to avoid politics to be detrimental on a number of fronts. Part of training up our children is for them to think biblically in all aspects of life. One of those aspects is the political where biblical principles play a key part. For example, we are to be responsible individuals working as stewards faithful to the Lord in all things. We should not promote utopianism, which is based on the assumption that man is basically good. Communism is one example where people tend to work less when they are not rewarded for their efforts. 

    Another, moral issue is abortion, which takes the life of the unborn. We should appose those who promote abortion. There are many other areas in politics which have a clear moral dimension.

  • Janet S
    Posted: Wed, 05/03/2017 09:11 am

    My take was that we should be teaching our children a Biblical worldview then they have the foundation on which to make decisions in their world.  Also our children should know where we stand on issues but "heated" political debate will not sway them only a firm Biblical foundation will. I am not called to change someones politcal views I am called to share the gospel then God can work on their worldview.

     

  • socialworker
    Posted: Wed, 05/03/2017 09:54 am

    I see where it's valuable to discuss what underlies the assumptions in politics.  The abortion debate is really over who do you reverence and obey?  Our own wants and desires or God's?  Does our Creator want us to respect ALL of His creation?  And discussions about communism as opposed to capitalism.  I've had those discussions with my millennial kids.  There's many reasons capitalism doesn't honor God but for reasons most people can think of, it gives people the most freedom to honor God if they choose to.  I can see staying away from the budgetary and legislative debates.  But what concepts should ideally guide those indeavors?