When God Shreds a Millennial

porkA few years ago, I stood in my church’s kitchen combing through massive chunks of steaming pulled pork. It was to be sold heaped between hamburger buns as part of a mission fundraiser.

As I coaxed the juicy meat into smaller chunks, I was disappointed.

I’d recently been pulled out of a couple ministry opportunities at my church. I’d been assured that it wasn’t about my heart or competence – just other things going on.

The struggle in my heart was real. Sin kept whispering at me, You wanted to do X and Y and here you are in the kitchen, holding a fork. The Spirit in me wasn’t that stupid. I knew it’s not about me. I knew ambition is unholy. But sometimes lies can feel overwhelming, especially in my already-formidable climate of fear and self-criticism. A gale against a fragile sapling of holiness, trying to stay upright.

Unlooked for, as I stared down into the pan of shredded pork, God spoke into the gale.

I am shredding you.

Whenever God means to make a man great, he always breaks him in pieces first. – Charles Spurgeon

I am constantly on guard against the desire to be “great”. I know it’s empty. I’ve also seen what happens to the great in today’s social media environment. The pressure, the misunderstanding, the flippant and merciless shredding of any wrong word or idea – it’s a nightmare. As John Eldredge said, “We should fear becoming a large church, corporation, kingdom. We should be forced into it, by God.”

But I do want to do great things for God.

I want to see the lost saved (or restored) by the truckload. I want to minister to my fellow singles. I want to see abortion pushed back, not just at the legal level but at the heart level. I want to see things only God could do.

And…I do want to feel useful to God in all of this.

Many millennials will relate to me here. In most of those “X Reasons Millennials Are Leaving the Church” blog posts, one chief reasons for said ditching is that we aren’t used. It’s an unmistakable issue in the generational collision: that too many churches (not mine) soldier on in easy autopilot thinking while millennials’ voices aren’t heard. It’s also a thread amongst Christian singles who feel that married people are more likely to be seen as mature and put to work, while singles’ input isn’t sought, their gifts aren’t utilized, their passions aren’t shared.

Many church leaders dismiss this as self-focus on millennials’ part. Maybe. Our desire to be used could certainly be twisted into a primitive “need to feel needed”, a move to fulfill the God-shaped holes in our heart with the affirmation of being seen by men as talented and necessary.

But it could also simply be a reflection of our design. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). A fire exists in the souls of many, and especially in millennials, to see God’s work done. It’s confusing and frustrating to see the work delayed.

But we millennials err when we assume that man is the only obstacle. As I’ve found, it could be God.

We will be tested and refined.

That’s another concept to which I know millennials actually react well. We welcome tests, or at least more readily accept them as part of the Christian life.

But sometimes we get more than we bargained for. Sometimes the test more resembles a crucible, going straight to our deepest desires and motivations, like Aslan’s claws taking no prisoners with Eustace’s dragon skin but plunging straight to his heart. God will refine our motives. That’s a Scriptural promise. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And sometimes, as Spurgeon said, it’s because God does plan to springboard us upwards and needs to develop our character first. How we respond to being shredded says everything about us.

There’s a saying: “Success can take you where your character cannot sustain you.” That’s why all these prosperity gospel churches are off the mark when they say God wants to give you success. He doesn’t. He’s more interested in your character. He knows pride goes before a fall. A woman who becomes CEO will fail without good business practices; a man who leads a ministry does great damage when he falls to sexual immorality. If we aren’t diligent and honest in small things, we won’t be in larger things.

Besides, if I’m reading Scripture right, God will one day honor a lot of people who toil in obscurity and ordinary work. “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30). Being sent to the kitchen is not dismissal. It’s glory.

I’m not saying every millennial who longs for a bigger role is only into his own profile. Some churches deserve to be left.

But be on guard, oh be on guard against mixed motives. The flesh is constantly fighting the Spirit. Don’t let the presence of a good motive convince you that no bad motive is present. We never see the bad motives until we are shredded. And we aren’t in a position to tell God when the refinement should be over. Only he knows.

When our church goes in a different direction, utilizes others, or politely sidelines our operations, we can be okay. It was never about us to begin with. The priorities of an all-seeing God might not always match up with ours. There is always service to be done.

Let us accept our shredding with joy. May our offerings be refined into strands digestible by the Lord to whom it’s offered and the people he loves.

26 thoughts on “When God Shreds a Millennial

  1. Thank you, Brandon. Timing is everything! I am going through a season right now of dreaming big for God’s glory. . .desiring to use the gifts He gives me to acknowledge His power to others. Please read my post this Thursday @ debrapedrow.com. I could sure use you as a prayer warrior as I step out in faith to fulfill the plan I believe He placed before me. Blessing to you for opening up and sharing today!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s a thought for you Brandon.
    Why be limited to only what a church allows you to do?
    There are ministering opportunities everywhere around us.
    Brother you can dig in and get as much on your plate as you want. That’s an infinitely huge ministry opportunity. ☺

    Lord bless you dear brother.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Pingback: Appreciating Millennials in God’s Economy | Robin Luftig

  4. Well said!

    I’m chuckling here, Brandon. My own millennial actually is a professional pork shredder. She’s a chef. I swear she just posted that very same picture on facebook with the words, “this is my whole life. I just shred meat.”

    I love your post, every point. I have been through the Lord’s oil press, I mean his potato peeling line many times. An oil press is actually how He gets the good stuff out of us, the essence of our character and talents, so trust in those tests, He does good work.

    That said however, I’m 50 something now and I’ve really observed a shift in our churches. I use to do vacation bible school, teach Sunday school, choir, bible studies,visiting the elderly. I’m now just pushed into washing dishes and sitting in the nursery. Those are valuable jobs, I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but we’re hiring “professionals” and using curriculums, credentialing every role. I’m actually a bit annoyed by all the “Beth Moore womens bible study” stuff going on.

    It used to be about us and Jesus, but now it’s like, learn about Jesus through the eyes of Christianities pop culture icons. Maybe you can be one of them when you “mature.” I don’t like what I’m seeing in many places and I don’t think that’s just a millennial thing.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I can’t even tell you how much I love this. Truth. Hard truth. But your words are wise and anointed by the Holy Spirit. “We will be tested and refined.” Yes…. I spoke to women in Nicaragua last week and told them when we pray Psalm 139:23,24, we need to get ready….ready for Him to speak ….ready to be shown what needs to be revealed and refined within……

    Thank you for always sharing your heart Brandon. It speaks. It moves. It ministers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful insights. I’m in my 40’s, and I believe the shredding never has an end date. It also doesn’t get easier, but I can look back and appreciate the refinement God has done in me. I pray for many blessings on your drive and heart to bring people to Christ by the “truckload”. That has been my prayer for a while now. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Brandon, your thoughts clearly show a heart’s desire to please God and to follow as He leads.
    The fact that He gives us opportunities, along with gifts and abilities, to serve Him is a huge blessing from our very loving Father. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting post Brandon, I understand where you’re coming from. I’d change one word in the following line you quoted, “Only what’s done for Christ will last.”, actually I think it should read “only what’s done in Christ will last.” Remember when Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing”. When what we do is done in Christ, it’s where He is living in us, doing what He wants done, not necessarily what we are doing, hoping it’s for Him. Before we can really accomplish anything, that He would do through us, that union of Jesus living in us, is paramount and as time progresses, we will diminish and He will increase. I feel guilty even saying this to you because I myself am only now starting to see this and earnestly ask for it to be a reality in me. Maybe I’m wrong. Something to think about. Grace and blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Brandon. This message is for all believers even those not millennials. It’s somethings I struggle with, and so appreciate what you say as it’s so true. God bless. Again, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I understand your frustration Brandon but you do have a good attitude about it.

    I would only add that I wouldn’t think of any role in a church as small or obscure. Sure, many people aren’t in the spotlight but there is no way of knowing the full impact you may be making.

    I have a very good friend who has influenced people too numerous to count and he delights in being a humble servant who has never set stood on a pulpit.

    Great post as always.

    James

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Most christians believe once you become born again or give your life to christ,everything will be rosy and prosperous henceforth.Its not so.Once you`re saved,you start going through the shredding process.Its scary and painful but there is always that bright ,glorious beauty at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Just stumbled across your blog today, great stuff! I’ve been through the shredder kicking and screaming! It’s only now when l look back, that the dots connect on why God put me through that and l can only bless His holy name!

    Thank you for your transparency. Keep writing! Abundant blessings

    Liked by 1 person

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