Millennials and Evangelism (Good and Bad News)
A Mystery of Two Studies on Millennials and Evangelism
On February 5th this year, a new study came out from Barna on millennials and evangelism. It was entitled “Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong.”
The millennials interviewed made two very conflicting statements.
- On the one hand, 94% agreed that “The best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.” We agree!
- And yet 47% said they agreed with the following statement: “It is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”
This is confusing! How can you think knowing Jesus is the best thing that could happen to someone while thinking it wrong to make an attempt to get someone to that place? And it raises questions about the church in America: how are half of the young adult Christians in our country convinced that evangelism is wrong?
This puzzled me, so I decided to dig deeper into Barna’s research on millennials and evangelism, and I found another article that said almost the exact opposite thing.
Are Millennials The Most Evangelistic?
In an article from December 13th, 2013 called “Is Evangelism Going Out of Style?” they recorded that of all demographics, millennials are the most likely to share their faith! They note that “Millennials share their faith more than any other generation today. Nearly two-thirds (65%) have presented the Gospel to another within the past year, in contrast to the national average of about half (52%) of born again Christians.”
So what gives? Are millennials sharing their faith more than anyone else? Or are they the group most likely to think it is wrong?
One potential answer would be to note the date at which those two studies were done. Back in 2013, millennials were the most likely to share their faith. But now, in 2019, they have changed their minds and now think it is wrong. But this isn’t the theory I think makes the most sense.
My Take on These Two Studies about Millennials and Evangelism
I thought it was just too unrealistic to think that Millennials’ perspective on evangelism could have shifted so drastically in less than a decade. After reviewing the two articles more carefully, I found the key.
It’s how they’re defining Millennial Christians in the articles.
In the article where they say half of Millennials think evangelism is wrong, they defined “Practicing Christians” this way. They are those who “identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.”
However, in the article where they say that Millennials are the most likely to share their faith, they defined “Born again Christians” this way:
They have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.” Being classified as “born again” is not dependent upon church or denominational affiliation or involvement.
So among Millennials attending church and who say that faith is part of their lives, they’re questioning whether evangelism is a good thing to do. But among those who affirm the clear Gospel message, they’re sharing their faith more than anybody!
There is a deep divide in attitude among millennial-aged churchgoers. Some are sharing their faith even more than their parents. The other half, however, thinks that to share their faith is wrong! And the dividing line seems to be, as far as I can tell, that those who are truly born again are eager to share their faith, while those who are more “culturally Christians” think it’s wrong to share their faith.
Still, I have one more suspicion: perhaps there are millennial Christians who object to evangelism because they’ve never seen it done well. They associate evangelism with aggressive soul-winning types who knock on doors and holler from street corners. If that’s you, we invite you to keep reading and learning from our resources page. Also check out more info on our church training and University events for practical advice and opportunities to share your faith.