Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

3 Kinds of Millennial Christians wrestling with the weaknesses of ourselves and the strengths of others

In the past number of years, I have noticed there are primarily three kinds of millennial Christians.

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These millennials often discover weaknesses in their upbringing and strengths in other denominations, which leads them to struggle to know how to reconcile everything. Let’s define what I’m talking about.

Everyone has a background, mine is Christian. More specifically, I was taught that Jesus is the only Way, Truth, and Life and that we should follow Him in every aspect of life. Furthermore, we read the Bible and go to church, and all that good stuff.

By millennials, I am referring to the generation between Generation X (those born in the mid-1960’s), and Generation Z (those born in the mid-1990’s and early 2000’s). Technically, I’m on the younger end of millennials (or Generation Y) since I was born in 1991. Nevertheless, I find myself identifying mostly with the struggles and questions of Gen Y, or millennials.

So, let’s be clear, I’m talking to and about those of us who are not only from Christian background, but also fall into the millennial age group. In general, there are three kinds of millennial Christians. I wrote an eBook about the three kinds of millennial Christians, which you can get absolutely FREE.

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Millennial Christians live in a unique era of the church. Not only are there technological advances beyond their parents dreams, the church, especially in America, is in tremendous flux. What I mean by that is millennial Christians are leaving the church in droves, but not necessarily because they are throwing out their faith. Most of them are just tired of how church is done. Regardless of denominational affiliation.

In the landscape of church these days, I see three kinds of millennials. Which kind do you think you are?

Fill out the form below, and I’ll send you a FREE copy of 3 Kinds of Millennial Christians: wrestling with the weaknesses of ourselves and the strengths of others.

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Readers are saying…

It brings some comfort to my heart to know that I am not the only one with these thoughts, struggles, and dare I say, at times, frustrations. -Mr. K

A very good read! I appreciate your insight Asher. -Jason

Wow, this is very insightful! I love your words of wisdom to each group, words that apply to all of us! -Rosina

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Chester Weaver

    Ideas always have consequences. Your post mostly deals with the consequences, suggesting, however, the ideas creating the consequences. Who, other than God, can really sort all of this out? Regardless, from my perspective of being born in 1953, I am sure of this: the Anabaptist teaching program in the last 50 years has fallen short in many geographic areas. But not all.

    A significant group of younger people than me do not fit into any of the above categories. These are the young people who have been taught from the Scriptures, who have personally encountered Jesus Christ, who know some history, who know something about human failure both in their own setting and in settings outside of their own, and who firmly are rooted in their Anabaptist faith. This group of younger people obviously move in different circles than do the readers of this blog. These younger people rarely struggle with the above issues. They are busily engaged in building the Kingdom of Christ in their local settings, settings quite different from the readers of this blog.

    Both the strugglers and the non-strugglers need to help and bless each other, not criticize each other. I wonder about all the wasted energy spent in trying to prove ourselves better than some other group. We all have enough to deal with in our own settings, building the Kingdom of Christ in the face of a common enemy.

    • Mr. K

      As a reader of this blog, born in 1972, I do not find this blog to be one of condemnation. Rather I have a lot of the same questions posted here and in various other postings of Asher’s. It brings some comfort to my heart to know that I am not the only one with these thoughts, struggles, and dare I say, at times, frustrations.
      Why do those who ask questions about our culture and seek to put a Godly foundation underneath our reason, often feel condemnation from an older generation? Why is it wrong to ask why? Is there a fear that “current” answers are not convincing/sufficient?
      This blog may help shed some insight on those questions, so I for one will continue reading.

      • You took the words right out of my mouth. I’ll just say amen!

      • Steve

        Countless hours and vast energies have been tragically expended throughout religious history in man’s search for the right answers to the wrong questions. As a recipient of a long and colorful heritage of religious discussion and fervor, Paul had somewhat to say about such matters:

        2Ti 2:22 ¶ Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
        23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
        24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
        25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
        26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

        I have walked the way of skepticism and doubts and do not profess to comprehend all the absurdities of the culture into which I was born. By no means do I want to hinder anyone’s search for truth. However, the following verse has impacted my life deeply: Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

        When our life, fervor, will, emotions, thoughts, mental capacity, and strength is poured out in a passionate love for God, in Christ, something happens. The huge questions of culture, Menno, Amish, Anabaptist, Protestant, conservative, liberal, etc., etc., fade, fade away into molehills. I have not experienced the weight of God’s glory like Job did, but I too can say: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. My fear is this: Is it possible that the people of God have lost sight of His majestic glory? Is it possible that those who once sought after and were a part of a Kingdom of love and light are now content to stumble upon the myriad paths of darkness and despair? I see this happening and would at times despair; yet not without hope, for I also see people with a deep commitment to walk together as brothers and sisters in the way that the Victorious King of Glory leads them!

      • Thank you for your comment, Mr. K. I have received too many messages similar to yours to just quit engaging in these risky conversations.

    • I would kindly appeal to you to remember that you know the author of this blog only through your own interpretation of words written on a screen, much less the readership. I would be careful of insinuating they are not busy building the Kingdom.

      I receive too many messages grateful for how people have been helped in sorting through questions and emotions to quit engaging in conversations that require intense vulnerability. In your condemnation of it, you may end up squelching the very thing you’d like to see most happen.

      God bless you for your work in the Lord.

      • Steve

        Asher, no insinuation of laxness or condemnation was intended. As a questioning millennial, I deeply appreciate the older individual who walked along side me and kept pointing me back to the Person of Truth. I would echo what you previously stated “Continue wrestling, only be sure to wrestle into the heart of God and His Truth, not into making sense of all the conflicting ideas and perspectives”. Amen!

        I applaud your willingness to engage in the risky conversations and ask the tough questions. Part of the reason that so many people from Anabaptist backgrounds are facing a crisis is due to a lack of these conversations. That being said, we must temper these conversations with an understanding of their potential consequences. I have seen one too many wrestlers in defeat; observed vibrant faith being replaced by an open rejection of the Person of Truth. We need to wrestle but we must always wrestle towards God, never away from Him. Jesus himself acknowledged a need to strive for the Kingdom “Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” and “Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

        God bless you really good with continued wisdom and grace.

        • Sorry, Steve. I was not referring to your comment, but brother Chester’s. Thanks for your words. That is precisely the heart behind this post: to wrestle toward God. People respond to that. There’s a generation out there who wants that–they just need people showing them how to do it.

  • Recently, at Shenandoah Christian Music Camp in Ohio, Marcus Yoder gave an interesting talk about our Anabaptist heritage. He told the story of a little Amish girl coming to America, and, through her lifetime, hearing the singing of the Amish funeral hymn, and then his own feeling of connection to her story (which he had been researching) when he heard this same hymn, sung the same way, at his grandmother’s funeral. He told us that we should “embrace our heritage, but don’t worship it.”

    There is a sad flip side to this story, however. The fact that a large percentage of his audience could trace parallels in their own ancestral heritage shows something about the Anabaptist church that I didn’t realize until today: the Anabaptist church is largely running off of evangelism that was done 400-500 years ago.

    If the Anabaptist Church had grown from the outside by 0.5% annually since coming to America, there would be so many different names in the church that we wouldn’t be able to play the Mennonite Game. Talking about Amish heritage would be so irrelevant for a large percentage of people at Music Camp that we would need a different subject for chapel.

    The Anabaptists have managed to retain enough descendants to keep going by not much more than biological reproduction. True, there have been various people who have joined the Mennonite Church from the outside over the years. However, becoming a Mennonite is more difficult than becoming a Christian, especially in the more conservative churches, because of the unique subculture of the church.

    This subculture starts with the name “Mennonite” or “Anabaptist”. The very fact of going by something other than “Christian” should be a warning sign of a non-Biblical subculture. After all, if we’re only living by the Bible, we shouldn’t need any other name than “Christian”, right?

    Then, since we have this name of “Mennonite”, we form a subculture that not only doesn’t fit with the rest of the world, but also doesn’t fit with the rest of the Christian Church. We proudly hang on to our Mennonite heritage and our Anabaptist traditions. They define who we are, and without them, we would just be regular American Christians.

    But then, new converts can’t just become Christians. They also have to join our subculture. They have to learn how to fit in, obey the non-Biblical rules, and live the Mennonite version of Christianity. Some can. Others give up. And meanwhile, the rest of us are playing the Mennonite Game. But no one plays it with them. Because as soon as the other person finds out that their last name is “Davis”, they certainly won’t probe to see if they’re related. And it automatically brands them as an outsider.

    And meanwhile, we’re content with our comfortable Mennonite group, and we fail to reach the world.

    I believe that one important step in breaking the wall of the Mennonite subculture is to drop the identification as “Mennonite”, “Amish”, and “Anabaptist”. If we don’t have a subcultural identity to defend, we will be less likely to have a subculture. Yes, we’re proud of the name. Yes, we’re proud of the heritage. And yes, we have some often-ignored truth that we need to hang on to. But we need to lay aside every weight, as the Bible commands us, so that we can be effective soldiers for Christ.

    “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; [and another, I am Mennonite;] are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:3-4)

    (And in case you’re wondering, no, I am not Mennonite anymore.)

    • Joel, thanks for sharing. I hear your heart and sympathize with many of your sentiments. The problem the name we go by. Other groups do that too. And changing that doesn’t change the heart issues. That’s why when one leaves a church (any church) he should be clear on what he’s looking for because often he ends up living from the same framework as those he’s disagreeing with, only he does the opposite with that framework. Still ending in error.

      The reality is that many churches fit what you described; but many churches also don’t fit it. I personally have never been a part of a church like that, which is what motivates much of my writing. Anabaptist aren’t BAD. Just like evangelicals aren’t BAD. That’s why we need a focus shift. Completely and totally to Jesus Christ so that we aren’t framing Christ to fit our framework, but rather fitting our framework to Christ.

      Anabaptist’s have issues, and we need to learn how to sort through them like any other Christian group. We need to learn how to love each other, and love others–just like any other Christian group. My prayer and aim for this blog is to be a place where we can do that.

      • Asher, thanks for your response. You are right that simply dropping the name “Mennonite” will never solve our problems in and of itself. There are deeper issues that must be addressed. I was actually referring to the problem of identifying as Mennonite. There are churches that call themselves things like “Faith Christian Fellowship” but are still Mennonite to the core. This doesn’t work.

        In order to completely follow Christ, we have to ditch the Anabaptist identity and framework entirely. Not the Biblical teachings that are part of that framework, but the non-Christ identity and the subculture. When people start saying things like, “We follow Anabaptist beliefs and practices”, they are taking a step away from pure obedience to Christ. If all they were doing was following Christ, the “Anabaptist” label would be totally unnecessary.

        Indeed, Anabaptists aren’t BAD. They are not worse than all other denominations out there. Indeed, I still believe (13 years after leaving the Mennonite Church) that they are probably closer to following Christ than many other denominations. But being closer to “right” without being “right” isn’t good enough. We need to follow all that Christ has taught us, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and stay on the narrow path that He has laid for us.

        “Don’t tell me it’s about right. About right might as well be wrong. If you come to a stream that’s five feet wide, and you jump four and a half feet, well, that’s about right. But you might as well just topple in at the near bank and save yourself the effort.” — George Washington Carver

        P. S. In response to your last paragraph–thank you for providing a place where these things can be talked about. I have been greatly encouraged by reading your posts and the comments of others.

    • Reuben Hege

      Very insightful comment(s). I am not a millennial or if I am, just barely. But I relate completely with these comments on this particular blog post. I am very thankful for my heritage as a Mennonite but I have never liked being classified as anything but a Christian. I am still a part of a church that respects their Mennonite heritage but are not blindly following the traditions of the Mennonite subculture.

      I think many times, certainly not always, being classified as a Mennonite is an easy way to side step evangelizing and sharing Christ from the heart with others. Most people have a general idea what it means when you say your a Mennonite and everyone stays clear of the deep things of the heart of God when that explanation is used.

      I am well satisfied living for God where I am and believe that God will be glorified through all Christians across the planet. Including Mennonite, but by no means can the group define God on their own. Nor can they claim any sort of monopoly on Christian living.

      Let God’s Word be true in each of our experiences. There is no other way to be free in Christ.

      • Gina

        I see denominational names as simply a pragmatic thing. When I say “Mennonite,” that identifies me as someone who believes A, B, and C about the Bible and what it is saying. Same thing for any other group. We use labels for everything- we like to know that the soup we are about to eat is called chicken noodle, not chili, so we know what is in it… it’s useful to have labels. It makes life easier and more efficient.

  • Jason Zimmerman

    A very good read! I appreciate your insight Asher… God can and will do amazing things through His people that are sold out for Him. So many times we get “hung up” on all the little things that are not even direct biblical doctrine… there is so many right ways to make practical application yet this is what has splintered our Mennonite culture into so many groups. It is a shame that it is this way. The devil has his foot in the door and it affects our worship. I really question how God Almighty will really look at all of that one day when He makes the final call. It all boils down to our personal relationship with God and how real we want to get with Him. What am I focusing on? His power is there for us but… it us up to me on how deep do I press into the heart of God? It affects both ways… leadership and those not in leadership… God has left the effectiveness and power of His kingdom into mortal mans hands… we can choose to advance it or allow the devil to hinder it! Why can’t we guide our lives by God, the Holy Spirit and His Word? Who is controlling you? The Holy Spirit or the fear of man? I think the millennial generation is looking for something more authentic, of deeper commitment, more fire and a daily personal witness in our community. A church where we can be open and help each other grow. Invite our community and watch God’s grace and power get ahold of them and patiently kindly wait as it works in their lives. If what has been done in the last 50 – 60 years is working why do we have so many splinters and hurts? and again many many times over things that are not right or wrong based on God’s Word… it is only personal opinion and practical application that seems to get us into trouble… and remember God has put mortal man in charge of His kingdom we can advance it or hinder it… it really is up to ME personally! May God Help Us Advance His Kingdom! Be the change you want to see! When it gets you in trouble… (as long as the trouble you are in is not against the teaching of the Word) than it time to move on…. continuing to ADVANCE!

    • Yes, thank you, Jason! “May God Help Us Advance His Kingdom!”

  • Dwayne

    Twice you said in the post, “Clarify what your looking for.” I think that is important, to have a clear idea of where we’re headed and what goals we hope to accomplish.

    I find myself in the third group, concerned with things I see in Anabaptist circles, yet not ready to throw it all out the window as I do see strong points as well.

    All of us have grown up with varying backgrounds so each of us views life through a slightly different pair of glasses. Every group thinks a bit differently on doctrinal and non doctrinal subjects, and every person within that group has their own perspective. How then are we to clarify what we are looking for? What is the basis for determining our goals and setting our course?

    You summed it up well when you said,
    “Let’s clarify what we’re looking for so that when we find it we know, and when we don’t find it Satan doesn’t have a foothold to destroy our faith.”

    That is a valid concern, that Satan would gain the advantage through confusion. With so many idea floating around, so many opinions, how do we reach conclusions and clarify what we are really looking for?

  • Wow, this is very insightful! I love your words of wisdom to each group, words that apply to all of us!

    I understand very well the last group, because my last years have been mostly that. It’s an agonizing place to be.

    We are no longer “held back,” and I understand something of the first group, even though we are still Anabaptist. The wounds that need to be healed, and the necessity of receiving a strong vision from God when a group doesn’t give you a vision.

    Thank you and God bless!

    • Thanks for sharing, Rosina! May God continue giving grace and guidance as you know Him and make Him greatly known.

  • Romaine Stauffer

    I am not a Generation X,Y, or Z but I would place myself in the Exposed and Committed category and cross out the “but held back.” Our Mennonite church is not perfect but it is the nearest to the Bible I have seen and I have no desire to look for greener pastures. There are none.
    The greatest weakness of the Anabaptist churches is factionalism. I was born in the late 40s and in my lifetime the Mennonite church has splintered into so many groups we have created a smorgasbord from which people can pick and choose. People criticize, pick, squabble, and move on to a different stripe or start a new one to suit themselves instead of rolling up their sleeves and supporting their church and doing what they can to make it work.
    Our Anabaptist forefathers espoused the principle of gelassenheit. If you don’t know what that means, look it up. Before every communion they reaffirmed their commitment to the church, which included being willing to sacrifice their lives for their faith and goods for the needs of persecuted fellow believers.
    If we lived by gelassenheit today there would not be the critical, squabbling spirit that is destroying from within the effectiveness of the church. Much more can be accomplished when we are willing to lay aside our selfish spirit and work together.
    This evening we are going to help pack food boxes at Christian Aid Ministries. That work is supported by a variety of Anabaptists from Amish to ______. It is viable proof we CAN work together.

    • If there are no other churches as good as Anabaptist churches, why don’t we go out and make them better? There are hundreds of small towns with tiny churches that would love to have an Anabaptist family plug into them. And we can benefit so much from doing this. I speak from experiencing this myself.

      If all these other churches are part of God’s church, do we not have some responsibility toward them?

    • Victoria

      Hmm. I find it interesting that you say there are no greener pastures other than your church. Uh oh, that puts all the Christians in every other place in the world in trouble. I personally have traveled to many amazing churches over seas often in the heart of the jungle, or in the heat of the Mid East or the mountains in Nepal. Some of what I have seen there has permanently impacted me. Those people had never met a Mennonite, yet they were worshiping and serving God to extreme length. And sharing the Gospel….always sharing the Gospel. The Gospel wouldn’t be Good News by the way, if I had to tell everyone they had to uproot from wherever they are and move to this Mennonite Church in this certain place to find true and abundant life. That no better, sweeter, or “greener” place could be found where they could serve and enjoy Christ. No, that wasn’t Christ’s plan when he came to earth to live, die, and resurrect so that all, all may have life. Even though I currently live in the US, I live in such a poor drug infested tiny town, that no one would even have the kind of money to live a Mennonite lifestyle….with the specific clothes and food and vehicles and houses. No, my people are hungry for the Gospel. They need Jesus. That’s why I don’t even think of telling someone, who is crashing or tweaking after being stoned or drunk, outside my door that they need to go put a cape dress and covering on, or a straight cut suit coat, and THEN I will give them a drink of water, and tell them about Jesus. No. Jesus takes them just like that. So do I. So does my church. So would many many other believers in other parts of the world. We are all one body and there is no need to elevate one above another, but instead all prepare and reach others for that great Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

      • I love this comment!

      • EG

        Thanks for this comment, and Rosina’s before it! From the little I’ve been privileged to see in the Eastern part of the world, I really doubt that history will look back on this era and take note of Anabaptists as being the “green pastures” that most evidenced the mighty work of the Kingdom in this particular slot of time. God knows. But I thank God for every follower of Jesus (including Anabaptists) who joins His work wherever they may reside on this globe.

  • Anonymous

    This is very timely. My husband and I have wrestled mightily with this the past ten years. We were pretty close to leaving our church when yet another new set of very detailed dress code rules were handed down. I would count myself in the third category and have been praying constantly for encouragement. Thank you!!

    • Thanks for sharing! May God continue giving you grace as you wrestle with the tension. Christ is the goal, and knowing Christ is where we find full encouragement, clarity, and Truth. Blessings!

  • Jackie

    I was praying about this very subject just this evening! But you put it into words that I couldn’t. Thank you

    • You’re welcome, Jackie! Praise God!