“Church According To…” is a monthly feature of MYGEN where teens and young adults are offered the opportunity to share their faith, their journey and their opinions. This month, our spotlight young adult is Xandalee. Xandalee is a senior at the University of Central Florida and engages in weekly worship experiences at the Vineyard Seventh-day Adventist Church in Apopka, Florida. She is excited about God, learning new cultures, traveling and aspires to be an attorney with a focus on international humanitarian law.
As a millennial, what does church mean to you?
Being a millennial who has been brought up to know and love Jesus, church has meant what it always has. It is a fundamental part of life, it is a necessity just as school and work are necessities. I find myself craving a modern spin on my dedication to church. It can sometimes feel like an obligation, especially in today’s day and age where means of communication are constantly changing with social media. I think it is important that churches embrace change and not condemn it. I’ve found myself keeping social interaction and church separate and some of that was due to my perception in my adolescence. Church was a place where you put on your best face. I wasn’t myself. Now that I have a church that encourages socials and I have changed my perception of church, it feels comfortable. I view church as a place I want to be and I’m making friendships that feel genuine.
From your perspective, what are some of the unique issues that millennials face in today’s changing world?
The normalcy of sin and the pressure to accept it in order to remain politically correct. As a child of God, I love everyone. I genuinely believe that the persecution and abuse of sinners is wrong. No one should be discriminated against based on sexual orientation, or any other lifestyle choice that is against God’s word. If all sinners should have laws restricting them from how they conduct themselves in their everyday life then all of us would be out in the streets fighting for our right to live freely. With that said, when I’m introduced to someone who is transgender and they say their pronoun is “they” because they identify as nonbinary or their pronoun is “va vem vey” and I am expected to comply it is extremely frustrating for me. So many sins that were once taboo (and I am speaking in accordance with God’s word), are not only more common but are displayed as rights to be accepted, respected, and revered.
How can the church better address some of these issues?
Discussing it. It’s as simple as that. I don’t want to go to church and feel condemned because I am a youth in today’s society. Churches tend to preach don’t do this and don’t do that instead of being empathetic and arming the youth with guidelines on how to deal with life. For example, after gay marriage was legalized in every state in America, I have friends who attend different churches that preached that Jesus must be on his way because of this. Homosexuality is not new; sin is not new. The bible let’s us know of heinous crimes and acts committed. Jesus has been on his way for a long time. It is important that the church instruct as well as discuss consequences. So what should a millennial do if he’s in a group project with someone, develops a close relationship with them and learns 6 months later that they are transgender? Life is filled with moments and choices. It isn’t black and white. It is important that the church directs with empathy and understanding in mind.
What do you think about the future of the relationship between the church and addressing the needs of 21st century young adults?
I think that some churches are making the effort to adapt to modern communication and social outlets. They find it imperative to connect with the youth of today and abandon the legalistic themes and mentality that will turn them away. I have great confidence that those churches will meet the needs of today’s youth.
Over the past few years there has been a mass exodus of young adults from the church. What do you think is a major factor fueling this exodus?
Lack of understanding. As I previously stated, churches need to be more educated and empathetic about the world that young adults are living in today. The teachings must match the situations. I believe youth may not feel welcomed or that church is a place to not have a social life. It is extremely important that church leaders meet their needs or they will search for it elsewhere.
Connect with Xandalee on Instagram @xandyj17.
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