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Joel Osteen, Matt Chandler Talk Reaching Millennials - Most Unchurched Generation in America History

( [email protected] ) Apr 10, 2014 02:08 PM EDT

Joel Houston
Joel Osteen on Fox News. (Screen Capture of Fox News)

In a recent interview with Fox News, Joel Osteen expressed his concern about the distractions which seem to have drawn Millennials away from the church. The Millennial Generation - or Generation Y - spans an age range from about 14 years to 34 years old, and with growing secularism in the United States, they are the most unchurched generation in American history. Though many Millennials were raised going to church, they have largely abandoned their pursuit of Christianity later in life. Having been used greatly by God to reach many in the Millennial generation, Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas believes that the only remedy is for churches to preach the Gospel rather than focusing their efforts on teaching a type of "Christian morality."

When asked about the trending statistics of Generation Y's disinterest in church and in the Bible, megachurch pastor Joel Osteen responded, "It's ... disappointing. But on the other hand, we see a lot of young people that do love God." Though Osteen believes that social media and the recent influx of faith-based movie releases have helped to attract more Millennials to Christianity, he says that today's youth are barraged with many distractions - "You know, it's a different day than what we grew up in ... there's a lot pulling people away."

Matt Chandler
Pastor Matt Chandler

In an archived message from the Resurgence Conference in 2009, Matt Chandler shared his view on why so many youth leave the church later on in life. "A lot of people grew up in this 'Do this, don't do this' [church environment] - well, that's moralistic deism at its best. It doesn't transform," he says, explaining that churches which teach moral behavior instead of the Gospel have completely missed the point.

"The Gospel is assumed and the nature and character of God is assumed," he says, and many are instead taught to obey "Christian rules" like avoiding R-rated movies, saying no to drugs, and abstaining from pre-marital sex.

Morality-driven churches have failed their members because when people discipline themselves enough to conform to a set of rules, they think that this pleases God when what He desires is something altogether different. "We walk away from the church when with our best white-knuckled discipline, we accomplish those feats of morality, and then ... something bad [happens] to us. You let our wife leave us, you let a girl break our hearts, you let us not get into the school that we wanted to get into, you let our parents divorce, and our mindset is: 'I was good, and this is how You repay me. I behaved ... You owe me.'" Bitterness and resentment abound toward God when people are taught that He wants our good behavior in return for His favor or salvation.

"You don't put God into your debt. I know this because really faithful men in the Scriptures have it go really bad for them," Chandler says, referring to countless men and women in the Bible who loved the Lord and walked with Him deeply, yet suffered many great tragedies.

The solution, Chandler believes with all his heart, is to preach the Gospel - that God's grace is extended to sinners solely because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on their behalf, which is to be received by faith alone - and to help his congregation understand the difference between Biblical Christianity and a religion with a set of rules to follow with which one hopes he might earn favor with God.

Ephesians 2 says:

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world ... the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (English Standard Versions, from Ephesians 2:1-9).

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and this is the only thing that can set a man free.