The Church, Millennials and Theology

Greg Strand – April 17, 2015 4 Comments

Thom Rainer’s assessment of the many trends of millennials led him to conclude there is a resurgence of interest in and commitment to “the fundamentals of the faith, basic theological education, and the deepening of doctrinal roots: Six Ways Millennials Are Educating Their Churches Theologically.

Rainer introduces this topic with his claim, and then follows by identifying six key ways his claim is supported.
Three thoughts/comments as you read this. First, I am not sure how he gathered these trends, whether from reading assessments, surveys, statistics, cultural analyses, personal consultation, etc. I am greatly encouraged by these trends. My sense, however, is that this is a data point, not definitive. What I mean is that this is important for us to consider and ponder, but it is just as important that we don’t universalize and make absolute this assessment.

Second, I only include the items in the list. He has a more through, though still brief, explanation of what he means and how he supports each item in the list.

Third, in his post you would read that he mentions The Gospel Project in items one and two. This curriculum is published by SBC’s Lifeway and edited by Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax. It is excellent material, which is used by a number of local EFC churches. I am actually teaching through the material at Northfield Evangelical Free Church where I am a member.

Here, now, is Rainer’s brief introduction followed by his list.


In recent years, however, I have noticed a remarkable—and welcomed—return by younger leaders to the fundamentals of the faith, basic theological education, and the deepening of doctrinal roots.

Recently I sat down and studied these trends and identified six ways Millennial leaders in the church are increasing the importance and effectiveness of theological education in the local church.

  1. Emphasizing the big story of the Bible.
  2. Utilizing a catechism-like resource with their kids.
  3. Study groups working through systematic theology.
  4. A return to theological hymnody and songs.
  5. Recommended reading on church websites.
  6. Church membership classes.


As you look through this list and read Rainer’s rationale . . .

  • With what do you agree?
  • With what do you disagree?
  • What would you tweak?

As you ponder your own assessment . . .

  • What is your experience with your local church family?
  • What is your assessment more broadly?

When you put this into the larger and longer church of Jesus Christ . . .

  • What are the reasons for this generational emphasis, i.e. what previous generational emphases led to these trends among this generation?
  • Those emphases often arise from weaknesses, either perceived or real, so what are some of the weaknesses, perceived or real, of the millennial generation?
  • How and why does this speak to the importance of needing the whole body of Christ in order to flourish spiritually?

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

4 responses to The Church, Millennials and Theology

  1. Greg, this sounds like a return to what confessional Reformed churches have been doing for generations. 🙂

    • Yes, John, I believe that is right. I would, however, broaden it beyond confessional Reformed churches.

      As important as a move in this direction might be for Evangelicals, we also need to be aware of the reasons Evangelicals emphasized different theological and practical matters in the first place. They were responding to real and legitimate concerns from those churches and denominations that often had orthodoxy, but little orthopraxy. As occurs much of the time, a right and appropriate response becomes an over-response.

      Thus, Evangelicals emphasized orthopraxy, but often at the expense of a robust orthodoxy. This partially explains why the move in this direction, which encourages me. But let’s be mindful of the pendulum response which creates another problem. So as the Protestant scholastics would say so would I in response, sic et non, yes and no.

  2. Greg, I completely agree that we need both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

    Don’t forget, though, that in Puritan England and under the Dutch Nadare Reformatie (Further Reformation) there were serious attempts at both, with much good result, but also at times there was a mixture of a hard and somewhat brittle orthodoxy mixed with a very harsh and overly legalistic orthopraxy.

    All of this is a reminder to us, of course, that even when we attempt to have both, our best efforts often have mixed results. As a student of church history, sometimes I can only say that it’s so obvious that only God’s grace and the Lord’s promise that the gates of hell won’t prevail against His church give us any real hope!

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