Daniel, the man in the bible who famously was saved from being eaten by lions, was a man in exile. He was raised in one culture (Jewish) and living in another (Babylonian). Daniel was faced with the difficult task of living in both. If Daniel lived entirely into his Jewish culture, he would have been killed before having any impact. If he had given into the Babylonian culture, God would not have blessed him.
Daniel was in exile – living in between two places, and ultimately living ‘nowhere’.
A lot of young Christians are like Daniel, living in between two worlds. A lot of millennials feel like they’re in ‘exile’.
I grew up in a hyper Christian culture, much by my own choice. I wore the ‘WWJD’ bracelets and t-shirts, went to the Christian concerts, had the cool bible covers, and was hyper involved in my youth group. I attended two worship services, Sunday school, and youth group each Sunday. I was the model that a lot of older adults in church wanted their children to look like.
I was also incredibly disconnected from my high school peers. I wasn’t shunned or bullied. I wasn’t persecuted over my faith, or looked down on. But I didn’t fit in with many of the other students. And in my immature faith, I wore that disconnection like a badge of honor.
Over time, however, I was slowly confronted by that disconnection between the cultural bubble I had grown up in, and the rest of the world. The tried and true cliches I had grown up with (things like ‘love the sinner, but hate the sin’ and ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle’) began to fall apart when confronted by “sinners” who embodied Christ more than church folk and tragedies. My bubble began to burst, until eventually I found myself feeling uncomfortable in many churches. I knew the secret language and handshakes of churches, but everything seemed so disconnected that worship and teaching failed to resonate.
I had encountered the risen Christ in my life, and could not walk away from that. But I no longer had a place to serve as my spiritual home.
There are a lot of millennials who have similar experiences. Young christians who don’t fit in the Christian sub culture because they live and work in the real world, but have a powerful relationship with Christ. They feel at home with Christ, but maybe not in the church. They don’t look or act like Christians used too, but they have a powerful faith that keeps them grounded in the wilderness.
And the church desperately needs these exiles. These are men and women who want an unfiltered relationship with Christ, without the fluffy cliches that churches so often hold up. And they are working on maintaining their faith “in but not of” the world around them.
The reason why the church needs these men and women is because ‘exiles’ have had to develop ‘incarnational living’ – putting flesh on the message of Christ in a world that wouldn’t otherwise recognize Him. ‘Exiles’ have found a way to connect Christ to the world that looks different than the church has.
And the church desperately needs to capture this ‘fringe evangelism’ for two reasons. First of all, the church is growing increasingly disconnected from the surrounding communities, which means fewer and fewer people experience Christ. Secondly, these exiles need a home, for their own spiritual health. They’re tired, weary, and disconnected.
Let’s find some room for them, and watch what happens.
I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it…