In the age of the Internet, countless interpretations of the Bible are easier to access than ever. Sites like Amazon boast thousands of published religious books. Bloggers write post after post about religion in the modern age.
Some of these are über-conservative, while others offer a looser interpretation of Scripture. Articles like this New York Times piece embody this contradiction by comparing two Christian men and their opposing views on homosexuality.
While not all biblical arguments are this divisive, different opinions regarding Baptism, heaven, and even Jesus abound online. With all these contradicting views, how can your church ensure the millennials in your congregation don’t misinterpret the Bible?
First, you have to be up front about hot issues. Avoiding topics like homosexuality, abortion, and feminism only encourages people to look elsewhere for answers—such as to uninformed writers who don’t have a clear understanding of the Bible.
Start conversations online through your blog and social media. This will encourage millennials to reach out to you with questions or a topic on which they’d like to get your take. Addressing these issues head on will show a desire to help your members understand what God says about the world in which we live. Check out this previous blog post about how to effectively reach millennials.
Be informed. Your members (especially millennials) are going to ask tough questions because they are being asked the same ones. It’s imperative that you, the pastor or youth leader, are up-to-date on the issues people are facing.
Young people will likely have heard conflicting ideas from friends, family, or classmates already, so they’ll be armed with a multitude of questions. If you don’t have the answer, tell them so, do some research, and get back to them.
People can sense wishy-washy answers pretty easily, so be honest. Don’t beat around the bush. It’s easy to give the Sunday school answers of “love everyone” and “Jesus” (which aren’t always wrong), but sometimes the whole answer to a question is more complicated than that.
Provide Bible references to support what you say, and don’t gloss over big issues or gray areas. If people are asking you tough questions, they’ve probably already done some research on their own and may have rebuttals to your arguments.
These ideas don’t just apply to one-on-one interactions with millennials; your sermons or Bible studies should be relevant, honest, and clear as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard—and promptly forgotten—a sermon on a topic that felt outdated or irrelevant, but I can recite the main points of a sermon I heard six months ago that was up front about controversial issues and supported everything with Bible verses. Taking a strong, biblical stance on issues will inspire your congregation to do the same.
As a college student, I’m confronted every day with people who think Christianity is a judgmental, antiquated, and hate-filled religion—and I know that view won’t end when I graduate. I hope I can meet and learn from leaders in the church who are willing to take a risk and address these issues head on so I can rely on what they have to say rather than on the opinions of a random person on the Internet.