Aspiring to Nothing: Millennials and Christian Vocation

"Good" according to whom, and for what?

"Good" according to whom, and for what?

The Barna Group has released more research findings on the reasons behind Christian millennial migration, this time delving into the topic of vocation-building.

From the summary:

In particular, 84% of Christian 18- to 29-year-olds admit that they have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests. For example, young adults who are interested in creative or science-oriented careers often disconnect from their faith or from the church. On the creative side, this includes young musicians, artists, writers, designers, and actors. On the science-oriented side, young engineers, medical students, and science and math majors frequently struggle to see how the Bible relates to their life’s calling.

This week at AEI’s Values and Capitalism, I offer my own thoughts, noting that such a fundamental disconnect should shake Christians to their cores:

Although it’s encouraging to hear that millennials are actually aspiring to careers—no offense, folks!—such disconnect and confusion among Christians makes me wonder what they are aspiring for in the first place. If the Christian life is a constant, daily struggle, and our daily lives are highly consumed by professional interests and “career” activity, what does it mean for us to divorce the two?

It would seem that either one or the other would suffer—either our Christian walks or our professional careers—but when I survey the landscape of “Generation Y,” the confusion seems to be impacting both.

As for why the confusion persists, I don’t think it’s due to lack of discussion. Indeed, the topic of “Christian living” and “Christian mission” has become wildly popular as of late. What, then, is wrong with the message?

As I’ve previously argued regarding David Platt’s popular book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, even where the church has gotten its theology right (itself unusual), it has still proven resilient in getting its application wrong.

Yes, we are called to obey God. Yes, this will involve sacrifice and struggle. But does this mean that we are called to sacrifice and struggle for the mere sake of sacrificing and struggling?

That’s where the popular message is directing us, and as long as this is the case, it should be no surprise when those of us aspiring to something (often through a “professional career”) find it confusing to be told by Christian leaders that this something is really nothing. If we are finding fulfillment in what we do, and if we feel called by God to do the work we’re doing, why wouldn’t we be confused if we are being told to flush any personal ambition down the toilet?

Far too often, such imperatives toward “missional living” treat our missional directives as though the material realm is an insurmountable obstacle rather than a tool for us to own and wield appropriately.

The result: a form of spiritual escapism from our day-to-day socio-economic activity—a full-throttle rejection of the material world, rather than a pursuit of appropriate Biblical engagement therein.

Some of this has to do with confusion about economics. Some of it has to do with confusion about self-interest, sacrifice and the relationship between the two. But most of it, I’m sad to say, has to do with confusion about the direction of the Gospel itself: namely, a belief that Jesus called us to batter and bruise ourselves for no productive purpose other than letting the world know we have done our part.

Thankfully, he has called us to much, much more.

To read the full post, click here.

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  • Remnant Culture

    Why are so many young Christians confused about vocation?

  • Remnant Culture

    What do Shane Claiborne and David Platt have in common? Confusion about Christian vocation:

  • Darin Miller

    RT @RemnantCulture: Aspiring to Nothing: Millennials and Christian Vocation

  • Jason Erik Summers

    .@RemnantCulture makes some important points about vocation RE: Barna data from @davidkinnaman

  • Remnant Culture

    .@RemnantCulture makes some important points about vocation RE: Barna data from @davidkinnaman

  • Joseph Sunde

    84% of young Christians "have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests." I explain why:

  • Values & Capitalism

    84% of young Christians "have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests." I explain why:

  • Doug

    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fully worked at their vocations for gain.  Seems that contemporary Christianity has missed the vocational calling God gives us.  The real choice is do we choose to love God more than anything else while living our vocation or do we choose to love and be devoted to something else more than God.

  • Jeremy

    Honestly, I believe you’re taking David’s comments out of context. He’s not arguing that Christians shouldn’t have aspirations but he’s asking the question of why do we have them. Do we want to achieve more to accumulate stuff and make a name for ourselves or are we motivated to honor Christ in everything and above everything. Just my thoughts. 

  • Remnant Culture

    Hi Jeremy — Having read Platt’s book in full and listened to Platt on numerous occasions, I’m not sure how I’m taking anything out of context. Platt has lots of good things to say, particularly in theology and principle (that we should be motivated to honor Christ in everything and above everything), but his path forward for us to *act* on that is focused on things like read your Bible and prayer (I agree! This is absolutely necessary) and go on mission trips.

    Someone like Shane Claiborne is overtly misguided on this, Platt, I think, is more so simply incomplete (he’d likely agree with much that I say if we got down and detailed with it). But he lives a pretty hefty void in his book, and that void is being filled or left as such. That’s what I’m trying to speak to.