Caleb Breakey: Engage This Generation

“The older generation needs to help us, reconnect us to the purpose of church.”

—Interview by Jessica Hanewinckel

Some young people who are leaving the church are renouncing their faith, but then there’s another group that’s tired of either hypocrisy or church being a social club, but they’re passionate for Christ. Young people who are leaving the church because they love Jesus are very moldable. The older generation needs to help us, reconnect us to the purpose of church. Young people are sick of tradition, so show us the ‘why’ of tradition, and if you can’t get to the ‘why,’ then think about letting it go. But if it’s about Christ, you bet we’re going to get on board.

It really comes down to honest conversations between generations. Truth never changes. We don’t need to know all the same cultural references. What we need to meet in the middle on is that we’re passionate for Christ, we want to obey him and we want to love God and love others. I’m friends with people who are more than 90 years old. Jesus back then is no different than Jesus now. I hear some older people say, ‘What are we going to do when all these old Bible teachers fade away?’ Trust me, God is going to raise up the next group, so let no one despise your youth. The baton has to be passed, but it’s not like you pass the baton and it’s over. We have to encourage the generations to work hand in hand to spread the light of Christ.

When the older generation looks at younger ones who are passionate about Christ, they can fall into this mindset of nostalgia instead of really fostering that passion. We’re young and we’re inexperienced, but it comes down to using our passion and your knowledge of where we’re headed to prepare us. The whole idea of Called to Stay is really taking millennials who love Jesus and helping redirect the misguided notion that’s going on with young people. They’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater by leaving the church.

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Young people go out in the world, and they’re excited to love people, to spread the gospel, and then they go to church, and they’re bitter. But if you’re not loving the unlovely inside the church as well, you’re not being like Jesus. I used to be the Pharisee in church, and it took people who loved me to show me the way of Christ.

You have to be a part of the body of Christ on mission. Young people are misunderstanding the church because they have their eyes on what everyone else is doing. At the end of the day, when we’re in heaven, we’re not going to answer for how messy or awesome the church is. We’re going to answer for how we contributed to its greatness for Christ or to its messiness. That’s it.

I think the most successful churches have leaders who know how to tone-set. You can have a great leader who can teach the Bible, but there’s a difference between teaching and tone-setting. It’s making it clear that it’s about Christ, that you need to get real. A lot of people are just waiting for permission to be passionate for Christ. In churches today, realness and authenticity attract young people. The older generation is like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to look strong and put together,’ but if you can be more authentic, I believe that’s where Jesus is working most powerfully among this generation.