The following is a guest post written by DA Horton, who is a church planter and published author. Additional information on DA can be found at dahorton.com.
I’ve read more articles and studies regarding the Millennial generation than I care to admit. It seems as if Corporate America, Marketing Firms, and colleges are all vying for the attention and dollars of this generation. All the while, the assumption within the Body of Christ is local churches need to overhaul their entire paradigm of ministry to attract millennials. To level the playing field, let me take a moment to identify just exactly who the millennials are.
Goldman Sachs identifies millennials as those who are between 15 and 35 years old. This generation makes up 29% of our national population. One unique trait about millennials is they are America’s most ethnically diverse generation. Adding to the complexity of this generation are studies reporting millennials valuing authenticity as a virtue and desiring accessibility to those who provide them with instruction. I vouch for these marks to be true because, I’m a millennial.
Using Scripture as a filter to think through the above marks of my generation, I lean away from marketing to us in order to focus on how I can work to mobilize us for God’s glory. Since mobilization without a definitive purpose leads to a wasted life, it comforts me to know every millennial Christian has the same job description as every other Christian Builder, Baby Boomer, and Gen Xer. In Christ, regardless of age, we
’ve been commissioned to make disciples of all ethnicities (Matt 28:19-20) and in my ministry experience, one of the greatest ways I’ve been blessed to help mobilize my generation towards disciple-making is through expository preaching.
I believe expository preaching that is authentic and Spirit-filled is the most effective tool in mobilizing millennials. Let me unpack my reasoning.
Expository preaching is the clear communication of a biblical passage’s meaning in the heart language of the hearers in order to provide them with relevant challenges to apply it in their lives. The meaning of the passage cannot be uncovered unless the preacher works through the rigors of performing due diligence. Looking at the text’s author, background, context, syntax, and how it’s been handled throughout church history are all non-negotiable.
Once truths have been taken from the context of the passage (exegesis), it would do the preachers well to look for illustrations and pathways to communicate God’s timeless truth into the times he’s living in. A challenge in being relevant is safeguarding the integrity of the passage from being sacrificed on the altar of entertainment and humor. There have been times when I’ve thought of great illustrations laced with relevant humor yet, refused to use them out of fear they would distract the hearer from the point the author of the passage was trying to drive home.
I’ve learned the best-connecting illustrations I’ve used came not from commentaries on the shelves of my personal study rather, through conversations with the people I’m pastoring. Through conversations with saints in the daily struggle, I’ve found their hearts more prone to receive from God’s Word when I unveil my life’s practice inside my home. When I root my practice (either good or bad) back to a passage, there’s been greater remembrance of the passage by my people because they connected it to a similar shared life experience of their own. I take joy in sharing my life with those I’m blessed to exposit to because I love them dearly and want to see them walk in obedience to the commands of Christ (1 Thess 2:8). Expository preaching was been the greatest catalyst for authenticity in my life.
It’s one thing to practice what you preach but its something else to preach what you practice. Since millennials value authenticity there’s no greater place for them to see what God’s present tense work looks like in the lives of saints than the pulpit. When I was younger I grew frustrated in my walk with Christ because I felt I’d never reach the level of maturity the preachers I listened to had. In many of the few sermons I recall, in each of them was an absence of present tense struggle with sin in the lives of the preachers. The trend I heard in their sermons that related to their struggles with sin mostly were in the past tense. They would share stories of failure before they were in Christ and during their infancy.
What I desired to hear was what their struggle with sin looked like in real time during their current season of life. This desire drove me to be honest when I was given opportunity to exposit. This approach took the older saints in my congregation by surprise because they were used to pastors speaking in past tense, yet for the millennials it drew them to seek ongoing engagement with me, not only after the service was over but also throughout the week. The courage leveraging my heart to be authentic was found through agency of God the Holy Spirit who indwells me (Rom 8:9-13). Spirit-filled living allowed me the boldness to put my life on blast.
Engagement with my millennial members leveraged my heart to desire Spirit-filled living. When I say Spirit-filled I’m speaking of; abiding in constant fellowship with God (John 15:1-11), allowing God’s Word to be the referee of my actions (Col 3:15-17), submitting to God the Holy Spirit’s control (Eph 5:18) so He can bear fruit through me (Gal 5:22-23), and confessing my sins (1 John 1:8-10). When I’m living Spirit-filled, the Lord blesses my time in studying the text I’ll be preaching all the while calibrating my heart to give an honest report to the hearers how my life measured up to the standard of the text.
The freedom I enjoy in delivering Spirit-filled expository sermons is found by my hiding in the shadow of the cross. I’m prone to declare my present tense deficiencies when I’m resting in the truth of the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work. The gospel reminds me its not my successes or failures that arouses God’s love for me rather, the demonstrated love of God expressed through Jesus taking my place on the cross (Rom 5:8). There’s only room for one person to sit on the throne of our hearts. Through Spirit-filled expository preaching, I’ve learned people refuse to place me, a fallen sinner, in Christ’s place because its through His shed blood alone their sins can be forgiven (Eph 1:7).
As I prepare to relocate my family to Los Angeles to plant a church with a team of like-minded saints, one truth we all have a shared conviction on is the need for expository preaching. Mining out the eternal riches of the text provide the hearers with a clear understanding of God’s heart. The greatest joys I’ve encountered in this life is seeing people have ah-ha moments when they hear the preached Word and God the Holy Spirit provides them with illumination. These ah-ha moments, when followed up with ongoing fellowship provide environments conducive for spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity then is the tangible evidence of effective disciple-making.
 Holodny, Elena, “Here’s how Goldman Sachs defines ‘millennials’, Business Insider; http://www.businessinsider.com/goldman-sachs-defines-millennials-2015-5, accessed on May 11, 2015
 Lilley, Sandra, “Millennials: Most Racially Diverse Generation in U.S. History”, NBC News; http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/millennials-most-racially-diverse-generation-u-s-history-n46361, accessed on May 11, 2015