Ministering to Millennials (Part II – Who Are They and What’s Driving Them Away?)

(image credit to philosophybistro.com)

(image credit to philosophybistro.com)

Last week we said that the research suggests Americans are less frequently labeling themselves “Christian” and those who are have lost a great deal of Christian orthodoxy in beliefs and practice, i.e. basic Apostles’ Creed truths and regular public worship. The Millennial generation, by far, is the one that is disengaging from Christian churches most, and in historic numbers.

So who are these difficult-to-please “Millennials?”

Technically, someone of the “Millennial” generation was born between 1980 and 2000. However, as mentioned previously, when it comes to worship habits and other areas involving engagement in Christian faith, there is generally a large behavioral difference starting during the college years. So, while as of today, a 15-year-old is technically a Millennial, the faith engagement of a 15-year-old is comparatively quite good in our country. For our purposes here, when “Millennial” is used, it’s primarily then referencing an independent adult somewhere in the ages of early twenties to late thirties. Many generational researchers consider that the better categorization for Millennials.[1]

These Millennials are currently getting a pretty bad rap in the media. In his YAHOO! FINANCE column, Rick Newman notes that CNBC’s research has discovered a general impression of Millennials in the workplace as “narcissistic, godless, precious, lazy.” But Newman makes the case that Millennials are simply products of their Boomer parents. At least in our country, Boomers, rapidly increasing the nation’s debt and emptying the coffers of Social Security and Medicare, will never be remembered as careful stewards of the institutions they inherited. Furthermore, the tremendous institutional skepticism that Boomers birthed, Millennials have now nurtured. Newman says, “Why is anybody surprised Millennials are turning out to be cynical, untrusting and mercenary? In the world they see, those traits are necessary to survive.”[2]

Cable television entrepreneur Bob Buford discussed the uniqueness of Millennials in a fascinating interview he conducted with researcher David Kinnaman. Noting the shift in the self-assessment of various generations, he said that, in his surveying, when the Elder generation was asked to describe themselves, the most commonly used words/phrases were: “World War II and Depression, smarter, honest, work ethic, and values and morals.” Boomers described their generation using terms like “work ethic, respectful, values and morals, and smarter.” Busters (or Gen X) used terms like “technology use, work ethic, conservative or traditional, smarter, and respectful.” And then he noted Millennials. The phrases they most commonly used? “Technology use, music and pop culture, liberal or tolerant, smarter, and clothes.” He concluded, “Where has ‘respectful’ gone? Where is ‘work ethic’? To me, this shows that the next generation is not just sort of different; they are discontinuously different.”[3]

Scott Hess is the VP of Insights at TRU, one of the most respected and influential generational marketing consultants in the world. Hess has been quoted by major periodicals as a foremost authority on American youth. In his San Francisco TED Talk in 2011, his presentation “Millennials: Who They Are & Why We Hate Them” chronicled the major differences between Millennials and the generation before them, the Busters or Gen-Xers.[4] Citing some clear and drastic generational differences, Hess says that where Busters were lean-back slackers, Millennials are lean-forward engagers. Busters were cliquish and judgmental. Millennials are inclusive and tolerant. Busters were anti-corporate. Millennials believe in commerce guided by conscience. Busters perceived parents as authority figures. Millennials perceive them as friends and helpers. Busters consumed mass media. Millennials prefer personal media.[5]

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the nature of Millennials is by deconstructing their favorite brand for five years running – Apple. Apple is a premium commodity in its genre, yet still accessible to almost all. There is no such thing as “high end” Apple. Everyone gets the same one, everyone starts in the same spot, but then you can go crazy with templated personalization. The technology is both fun and massively practical. Constant innovations and updates are applauded, not seen as frustrating change. Finally, the Apple brand also feels a bit like a movement. They have added philosophy to form and function, the perception that they are advancing humanity. More than any brand, Apple embodies the spirit of Millennials.

What’s Driving Millennials Away?

We’ve already established that Millennials are leaving churches and that Millennials are “discontinuously different” in their outlook on life from previous generations. But what is driving them away? To simply say “this is a wicked and godless generation” and “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:3) might apply here, or it might simply be dismissive, failing to acknowledge that we have yet to do the humbling, difficult, personal-preference-sacrificing work the Apostle Paul alludes to when he says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:22-23) In other words, while acknowledging that they, like us, are sinful and naturally resistant to the truth of God (Rom. 8:7), perhaps ministering to Millennials is primarily a matter of acknowledging that they think differently, not inherently better or worse, but different, from many of us.

For starters, Millennials had a massively different upbringing than previous generations. Kids today are eight times more likely to have come into the world without married parents than were Boomers.[6] Understandably, without the influence of a healthy, functioning parental unit, they are then slower to grow up. And because the two figures (i.e. parents) that humans are created to trust most intrinsically cannot fully be counted on, not as a unit/institution anyways, these young adults are tremendously skeptical. Because their God-given authorities have often proven themselves untrustworthy, Millennials have had to navigate a different route to find authentic authorities. Authority tends to come only after personal investment and communal accountability, i.e. genuine connection, has been established. In other words, don’t expect Millennials to willfully submit to long-standing systems or structures of expertise. Traditional structures have largely failed them from birth. They feel very little sense of obligation and therefore care far less about pre-existing “rules” than their predecessors. Diana Butler Bass states the shift in the perception of authority like this:

“In the post-World War II period, Western societies underwent what philosopher Charles Taylor calls ‘an expressivist revolution,’ whereby obligatory group identity – whether of nation, family, or church – was replaced with a new sense of individual authenticity and the ‘right of choices’ based in personal fulfillment. External authorities gave way to internal ones, as we moved away from conformity to social structures toward the authentic self in society. Whether the switch is good or bad is beside the point. This revolution has happened.”[7]

Without question, personal choice now trumps social obligation. Consumer mentality wins over organizational loyalty. This has significantly shaped the landscape of American church. What is a congregation to do if they try to enact church discipline? Only 59 percent of Americans currently believe in hell and far fewer think there is any chance that they, their loved ones, or the neighbors they don’t even know, would ever go there.[8] This young American “under church discipline” will simply find a new church that will be more accepting of their behavior, beliefs, or desires. Much like the average coffee chain that literally has nearly 100,000 possible options for drinks, the Millennial who doesn’t like some things that his/her church teaches will simply determine that this church “isn’t for me.” Unfortunately, the desperation for growth and survival has led many churches to accommodate. As we’ll see later, this is ironically one of the things that Millennials claim they dislike about churches – they are too shallow and unable to change lives.

Currently, Millennials don’t see much difference between Christianity and other religions, or more specifically, between the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Book of Mormon. Nearly 60 percent of them believe these works offer the same basic spiritual truths as compared to only 33 percent of adults over sixty-four.[9] As disheartening for Christianity is the fact that so few Millennials (less than 1 in 5) consider any sort of spirituality to be important in their lives.[10] In some ways, this is the scariest possible news. If more young adults were actually antagonistic about Christianity, then they’d at least have it on their radar, investigating its claims and considering the cause of their animosity. But they’re default is distrust. They’re agnostic about everything. They have so much difficulty untangling who in their lives they can really rely on that something like supernatural religious claims almost seems too undecipherable.

Consequently, Millennials rely heavily upon what feels right. What seems fair is more powerful to them than what someone tells them is objectively right. Since so many truth claims are scientifically untestable, and since Millennials grew up hating the relational dissolution they experienced with their parents, they are constantly pushing for unity. Boomers were often skeptical of others but caustic in their attitudes. Millenials want to get along. They are forgiving and relational and have great difficulty understanding why other generations don’t feel the same way. They love family. They long for togetherness. They hate constant negative speech about other political parties, have no time for comments that suggest racial bias, and will opt out of any Christian church that is obsessed with pointing out the flaws in other Christian churches.

Perhaps surprisingly, in light of all that that’s been said, Millennials still largely believe in God. While Millennials tend to be the most unbelieving in the United States, still only 1.6 percent of the overall American population claims to be atheist. When you add together the percentages of Americans who are certain of God’s existence with those who say they have some doubts, you get to approximately 92 percent of the population.[11] That number is fairly historically consistent with previous generations.

So why are so many Millennials leaving churches? David Kinnaman says:

“When someone uses this idiom (“You lost me”), they are suggesting that something hasn’t translated, that the message has not been received. ‘Wait, I don’t understand. You lost me.’ This is what many (Millennials) are saying to the church…it’s not that they’re not listening; it’s that they can’t understand what we’re saying…The transmission of faith from one generation to the next relies on the messy and sometimes flawed process of young people finding meaning for themselves in the traditions of their parents….But what happens when the process of relationships and sources of wisdom change? What happens to the transference of faith when the world we know slips out from under our collective feet? We have to find new processes – a new mind – that make sense of faith in our new reality.”[12]

Are Millennials a lost cause? Of course not. Let’s not forget, the Holy Spirit’s basic work is to take those who are dead and make them alive (Eph. 2:1-5). It’s no less miraculous that God awakened believers in previous generations where universal morality, recognized authority structures, and belief in biblical inerrancy weren’t in question. God can and will accomplish what he desires with this generation as well. However, he has tasked us with the unique, beautiful, messy responsibility of mission work to this “discontinuously different” generation.

The things that obviously don’t change? First, we continue to recognize that our true power to make impact for God’s Kingdom is the dynamite of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). Second, we come before God’s throne in prayer, asking for wisdom, opportunity, and blessing (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Third, we approach mission work to Millennials with the humility that comes from having applied the gospel to our own hearts, understanding that the only reason we count ourselves as God’s children is because, by sheer grace expressed through our Savior Jesus, while we were dead in sin, God rescued us (Rom. 5:8). We can unabashedly and accurately admit to Millennials (and mankind) that we are all fundamentally more alike than we are different – we are all sinners gifted with salvation by the grace of Christ Jesus.

With that in mind, we can work to overcome the most common negative perceptions that Millennials undeniably have about churches and the Christians who attend them.

….

What are those negative perceptions? I’ll have 8 of the most important ones for you next week. Thanks for reading! 

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(image credit to aldianews.com)

[1] Jason Dorsey. “The Top 10 Millennials & Gen Y Questions Answered” http://jasondorsey.com/millennials/the-top-gen-y-questions-answered/

[2] Rick Newman. “If Millennials Are Jerks, Blame the Baby-Boomers” http://finance.yahoo.com/news/if-millennials-are-jerks–blame-the-baby-boomers-200028612.html

[3] Kinnaman, pgs. 37-38

[4] Scott Hess, TEDxSF – “Millennials: Who They Are & Why We Hate Them,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-enHH-r_FM

[5] Another way of painting the generational difference is to look at late night television. Millennials largely now prefer Jimmy Fallon in contrast to Busters/Boomers, who prefer David Letterman (or Jimmy Kimmel). Many Busters/Boomers consider Fallon a little flaky and Letterman witty. Millennials see Fallon as funny and Letterman as kind of a jerk. Letterman is combative and exclusive. Fallon is self-effacing and inclusive. Who is “better” is largely an issue of generational perception. Consider John Walters’ “Fallon Is the King on YouTube but Not on the Night’s Talk Shows”, http://www.newsweek.com/fallon-king-youtube-not-nights-talk-shows-305629

[6] Kinnaman, pgs. 46-47

[7] Bass, pg. 141

[8] Ibid., pg. 42

[9] Ibid, pg. 51

[10] Rainer, pg. 22

[11] Bass, pg. 49

[12] Kinnaman, pg. 39

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Ministering to Millennials (Part I – Do We Have a Problem?)

(image credit to huffingtonpost.com)

(image credit to huffingtonpost.com)

Do we have a problem?

Across our country, the general impression appears to be that Christianity is on the decline. Is membership waning? Is the median age of worshippers increasing? These are different questions, but related. Even if membership numbers remain static, a church (or church body) could be aging in such a way that spells disaster for the next generation. Do we have a problem?

It’s fairly common knowledge that mainline Protestant churches have been bleeding slow deaths for the past forty years.[1] But independent scholar, Diana Butler Bass, who has written extensively on culture and religion, also suggests:

“Churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and the conservative Presbyterian Church in America are reporting losses that resemble declines their mainline counterparts suffered in the 1970s. New megachurches spring up and are successful for a time – until they are forced to close down and sell their buildings. Even the Catholic Church has barely maintained its share of the population, mostly because immigrant Catholics offset the massive loss of U.S. born members.”[2]

Furthermore, numerous studies seem to suggest that Americans drastically overreport their church attendance when polled. Researcher Philip Brenner from the University of Michigan says that Americans generally overreport church attendance by 10 to 18 points. On the basis of actual behavior, Brenner found church attendance for the past decade to be around 24 percent of the general populace (weekly) and falling, considerably lower than the 1970s.[3] Likewise, sociologists Kirk Hadaway and P.L. Marler, authors of Did You Really Go To Church?, after carefully tracking denominational church attendance statistics for years, have suggested that from 1961 to 1996, actual church attendance fell by half, despite the fact that self-reported attendance has remained the same.[4]

Whatever statistics one takes, the trends are the same. Church attendance is becoming less common, especially amongst young adults.[5] The current numbers indicate that two out of every five adults in the United States attends church at least monthly. Keep in mind, however, how this contrasts with the self-identifying of adults, i.e. two out of five is probably over reporting. Still, nearly eight out of ten adults in the country consider themselves “Christian.”[6] In other words, twice as many people call themselves “Christian” as attend church on any given month. For half of Americans then, involvement in regular church activity has ceased to be part of the definition of Christianity.

No matter what current numbers are discovered regarding Christian participation in the country, the data is consistently always worse for young adults than it is for adults in general. For instance, only 35 percent of adults in their twenties and thirties currently attend church…ever. Only one out of five of these young adults ever engages in Bible Study.[7] And even among those who do participate, orthodoxy – faithfulness to even basic Apostles’ Creed truths – is sparse. Some recent research has even indicated that only about three percent of those born between 1960 and 2000 fully believe basic biblical concepts, e.g. God as an all-knowing Creator, the Bible as fully authoritative in unchanging moral truth, salvation coming as a gift through the perfect God-man, Jesus.[8]

Somewhat paradoxically, but not surprisingly then, our country has a generation of “Christians” who have little to no conviction about Christianity. They are not necessarily antagonistic against religion, but they simply see faith as unimportant and irrelevant. They just don’t care about faith much. In fact, amongst self-described Christian young adults, only 18 percent say their faith is important to them.[9]

The next natural sociological domino to fall would be Americans who even self-identify as Christian. Since 1960, the number of Americans claiming “emphatic” belief in God has gone from 97 percent to 71 percent, a 26-point drop. Young adults today feel significantly less obligation to religion than their grandparents. Consequently, somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of adults under thirty today claim none.[10] A fifth of all adults and a third of young adults are now commonly referred to by researchers as “nones” (i.e. not religiously affiliated).[11]

All of this has led some of the more influential Christian voices in America, like noted Southern Baptist, Al Mohler, to conclude:

“A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us. The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered….Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society.”[12]

Today, our country appears to possess a largely nominal, cultural Christianity, a haunting remnant of what was. The evidence, from declining numbers to altered beliefs to self-attested disinterest, all undeniably points to Christianity’s fading presence in the country. If we as a nation are indeed “post-Christian”…then yes, clearly, we have a problem. Denial only prevents us from addressing the issue.

….

Does this all sound too bleak? Don’t worry, it’s not all bad news. And prayer is more productive than worry anyways. The gospel is good news that trumps any possible bad news. I’ve got some thoughts. Keep checking back weekly for more on reaching Millennials. 

(image credit to alanrudnick.com)

(image credit to alanrudnick.com)

 

[1] ARIS, “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population,” Trinity College, http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/08/NONES_08.pdf

[2] Diana Butler Bass. Christianity After Religion, pgs. 19-20

[3] Philip S. Brenner, “Exceptional Behavior or Exceptional Identity? Overreporting of Church Attendance in the U.S.,” Public Opinion Quarterly 75, no. 1 (spring 2011).

[4] Bass, pg. 54

[5] Interestingly, this is a uniquely American issue. Global affiliation with churches and worship attendance are actually on the rise, most significantly in Africa, China, and South Korea. James Emory White, Rise of the Nones, pg. 18.

[6] David Kinnaman, You Lost Me, pg. 50

[7] Thom Rainer, Millennials, pg. 47

[8] Gabe Lyons, unchristian, pg. 75

[9] Rainer, pg. 111

[10] Bass, pg. 46

[11] David Brooks, “Building Better Secularists,” Feb. 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/opinion/david-brooks-building-better-secularists.html?_r=0

[12] John Meacham, “The End of Christian America,” April 3, 2009, www.newsweek.com/2009/04/03/the-end-of-christian-america.html.

The Most Humble Guy (or Girl) in the Room

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What creates greatness? Well, it depends who you ask.

In his research for The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation, Thom Rainer cites research that suggests approximately 60 percent of the Millennial generation “strongly agree” that they will do something great in their lives. Another 36 percent “agreed somewhat.” Tallied up, that creates a whopping 96 percent of Millennials who believe they are on some pathway to greatness.

Here’s the catch. Previous generations tended to define greatness in terms of fame, wealth, and personal power. Millennials, however, if they find these things, seem to want to use their achieved status as a means to bring about greater good rather than seeing a lofty social position as an end in and of itself. In other words, they want to serve humanity.

This is one piece of information that gives me a great deal of hope for America’s soon-to-be most influential generation – their definition of greatness is closer to Jesus’. Jesus’ definition of greatness always involves humble service.

The proof? Let’s take a look at a couple of Jesus’ disciples, who are requesting that Jesus grant them greatness.

In Matthew 20:20-28 (and Mark 10:35-45), the brothers James and John come to Jesus with their mom asking for a favor. (And yes, as grown men, it IS a little weak to bring your mom along with you when having a potentially awkward conversation 🙂 )

So what is the request? James, John, and mom want the boys to sit at Jesus’ right side and his left when he ushers in his coming Kingdom. These disciples, at this point in time, clearly don’t understand the gospel. As they lobby to sit at Jesus’ right and left, they “don’t know what they are asking.” (Matt. 20:22). Their ignorance stems from not understanding that when Jesus is at the pinnacle of his Kingdom-bringing, on his cross, he indeed has someone at his right and his left – criminals being executed with him. NOT what James and John had in mind.

Jesus then gathers his disciples together, recognizing that he needs to teach them a lesson on greatness. And his words in this account give us…

3 Ways the Cross Brings Humility and Greatness

1)    Humility of Intellect

In the verses that lead up to this section of Scripture, Jesus has just told his disciples for the third time, three chapters in a row, in explicit detail, that he’s going to be mocked, flogged, tortured, and crucified, and then rise. Third time. And the very next thing that happens is James, John, and their mom come to Jesus and ask a favor. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mark 10:35) Think of the nerve. The audacity. Imagine one of your closest friends coming to you and tells you that he has terminal cancer, and you respond by saying, “Can I borrow 50 bucks?”

It almost makes you angry that Jesus puts up with this. He doesn’t blow up. He listens. He entertains their request. And what do they want? Greater status for themselves. “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37) It really doesn’t get a whole lot more insensitive than that.

This is now the third time where Jesus has talked about his suffering and death, and the disciples are still saying things that indicate they don’t get it. And from the outside, in retrospect, we look at them and we think, “What idiots! What’s wrong with these people?!” 

But think this through carefully. As you find yourself disgusted with the disciples, really throughout the Gospels, does it stand to reason that the Holy Spirit records these accounts this way in order to move your hearts into self-righteous judgment against the disciples? Is he trying to condition a condescending attitude in you? Of course not. So why does he record such things?

As you see the disciples’ blindness three times in a row in as many chapters, the Spirit is compelling you to think – “Hmmmmmm. I wonder what I might not be getting right now? If Jesus’ own disciples who sat at his feet learning for three straight years can miss his teaching this obviously, this embarrassingly, this insensitively, what do I perhaps THINK I understand that I’m probably actually missing?”

If Christians today collectively gained an awareness of our own natural spiritual blindness rather than the “go to” complaint – merely pointing out the flaws of the world – that would be a MAJOR step forward in restoring the reputation of churches.

As a pastor, the person that scares me the most is the person that assumes they’ve figured the cross out. In reality, the profound mystery of the cross allows for no smugness, no arrogance, no intellectual pride that makes you feel spiritually superior to others. No judgment.

So, we see the disciples’ foolishness and we don’t say, “How can they be so…?”, we say, “What am I missing…?”

2)    Humility of Influence

In verses 25-26, Jesus says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. (vss. 25-26) What’s he talking about?

Jesus’ point here is that the way most people try to assert influence over society is… they try to gain power and control – they “lord it over.” Whenever you see that word “Gentiles”, by the way – it’s actually just a word that means “the nations” i.e. the rest of the world. Jesus is suggesting then that this is how the non-believing world operates. The world assumes that if I have the money, the right connections, the right degrees, then I can get my way. But Jesus says to his disciples, “Not so with you.” In other words, that is NOT how I want you to influence the world.

See, Christians unfortunately tend to mirror the world’s thought process. We think if we can just get the right people in the right positions, if we can just get a political majority, if we can leverage legislation, if we can control enough wealth, maybe even sprinkle in a Christian celebrity here and there, then we can control others, control the future, control the world. But, see, at that point you’re using the exact same approach the world uses to gain control. And Jesus said, “Not so with you.” Jesus told his disciples to love and serve one another (John 13:34-35) AND others in the world (Luke 6:27). Then you’ll get influence. Then other people will ask your opinion. Then you’ll present a light that the rest of the world is attracted to. Any other form of influence, other than that which is voluntarily given, never actually changes anyone’s hearts. In fact, it turns people off. So, for instance, when Europe forces Christianity in the Middle Ages, there’s almost no actual Christianity there a half a millennia later. Probably not coincidental.

Jesus says to influence through giving up power, not taking it, not lording it.

Jesus is the ultimate example of that, by the way. The one true Lord doesn’t “lord” power over others. It’s quite ironic. The Lord doesn’t lord power.

So what did Jesus do to change society? Did he pull out his swords and guns? Did he rally voters? I mean, think it through, what did Jesus do for his enemies? He gladly died for their sins. He gladly died for our sins. He prayed for the very people who were crucifying him. Unbelievable!

Not coincidentally, then, who is the most influential person in world history? And it’s not even close.

If you’re a Christian who believes the gospel, at the heart of your worldview is a man who died for his enemies. If that’s the case, to the degree you embrace that reality, then you understand that the only way you’ll ever get social influence that actually benefits God’s Kingdom is through service – giving up power. NOT by control, force, or manipulation.

3)    Humility The Brings Joy

It’s always fascinating to me when modern research catches up to what the Bible has been teaching for several thousand years. The same is true on the pursuit of happiness.

So, for instance, I recently watched a Netflix documentary called “Happy” in which the filmmakers travel the world to figure out who is able to achieve this elusive happiness. And in the end, they conclude that the greatest link to happiness, across country and culture, is compassion – love and concern for other humans. Brain research apparently has shown that when you express compassionate thoughts, parts of the prefrontal cortex of your brain completely light up in excitement. By the time they figure this out in the documentary, the filmmakers spend the final 20 minutes speculating how we’re ever going to encourage people to develop compassion.

Similarly, I was sent an article recently with an excerpt from The Atlantic in which one of our doctors here at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Amit Sood, was interviewed. He said that the key to happiness is to be intentional with your cognitive energy, i.e. control your thoughts. The article goes on to say, “A good place to start doing that, according to Dr. Sood, is with his five core principles: gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning and forgiveness.” Sound familiar? I’m not suggesting these aren’t valuable principles, but merely that Dr. Sood isn’t the first to discover their power. So far as I can tell, Dr. Sood is unwittingly borrowing from Jesus.

So what Dr. Sood is saying, what that documentary is saying, what most other modern research on the topic of joy, happiness, and contentment are all saying is “Want to find a life of greatness? Want to find joy? Want to find happiness? Then stop serving yourself and serve one another.”

Of course, there’s a caveat here. If you’re doing good things, e.g. demonstrating compassion, simply in order to feel good, guess what? You’re still being selfish and you forfeit the blessing. Compassion for selfish reasons, generosity for selfish reasons, serving others so that you’ll feel good about yourself and God will bless you, is NOT really compassion or generosity or serving. It’s still selfish.

So how do we remedy this? How do we remedy the problem. What can possibly cure the human heart?

There is one thing on planet earth that can do it – you have to look at the cross of Jesus. Jesus Christ, if he is my selfless substitutionary sacrifice, if he has paid for all of my sins, if he has proven to me and my vulnerable, insecure, doubting little heart that I am worth everything to him, to God, then I have everything I could ever want. I have everything – the acceptance, the love, the hope, the security, the victory – all that I crave, in Jesus.

Once you see that, at that point, you don’t do good things in order to feel better about yourself, because you already feel great about yourself. You know you are already infinitely loved and accepted by the Lord of the Cosmos. Rather, you do “good things”, humble acts of service, because your heart overflows with gratitude. You’re simply compelled to resemble the one who did so much for you. It delights you to delight the one who did so much for you.

blog - humility 2C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Christ’s sufficiency for you is what liberates you to stop thinking about you. If you believe Jesus has got you, you can let go of you.

And if not concerned with yourself, now your hands are free to assist someone else, your ears are free to listen to someone else, your mind is free to think of someone else.

Jesus alone is what fuels a humble desire to serve others. The one who was truly selfless substituted himself as a sacrifice on our cross so that we who have been selfish might still sit in his glory.

The most humble guy (or girl) in the room is the one who has fallen in love with the beauty of Jesus’ gospel.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:8-9)

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