In 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 Paul writes that when he is with the Jews he lives like a Jew, under the law, to reach them with the Gospel. But when he is with the Greeks he does not live under the law, so that he can reach them with the Gospel.
The Gospel message does not change for Paul, he still preaches Christ. The Gospel should never change, the good news of Jesus living, dying and rising, of sin forgiven and the power of sin defeated, of a Kingdom of God (heaven) at hand, of a coming resurrection. That message stays the same, but the way we communicate that message always needs to change.
My generation are Moderns. We want big, provable truth, so apologetics, systematic theology, they work for many moderns. But the generation born from 1980 onwards, they are Millennials, they have lived all their adult lives as post-moderns, they are not interested in big truth. They want authenticity. They want to know not what this truth is, but what difference it will make. When we want to reach Millennials, we need stop talking like Jews and start talking like Greeks.
Millennials are passionate about Social Justice, which is great because so is the Bible story, so we need to talk less about personal salvation by Faith as found in Romans 1-8, and more about Jubilee and the Beatitudes. We need talk about Hosea, Amos and James, because this is where we find so much material on Social Justice.
They are the ones who will be most affected by Climate Change, so we need to talk about Creation, not in terms of method (creation versus evolution, six-day creation and young earth etc) but about a creator God, who tasks Adam with the care of creation, the stewarding of land and the resurrection of the world in the renewed Heaven and Earth.
We need to talk about relationships. Millennials are relational (you may not think it when they are staring at the phones in the pub or over a meal) but they are the social network generation, they created Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. So, we need to talk about a God who is relational, who is compassionate, merciful and loving. We need to place less emphasis on going to hell when you die, but on living a life of fullness.
We will also need to rethink issues of equality in terms of gender, race and sexual identity. When we are having arguments about gay marriage or women bishops they are looking at the church and are utterly baffled by the way we treat these issues. They are not interested in obscure passages in books they have never read, which are thrown around to win arguments. They are more interested in people than dogma.
If we want to see Millennials engage with the church, then these are just three areas where we need to change. Whether we like it or not, no amount of coffee bars, cool worship or dimmed lighting will attract Millennials who are not already connected to the church into churches, they are not that fickle, and it is not what they are looking for (you will get many millennials who are already in church who like those things – but that is a different matter).
It is not watering down the message, because that is what Paul was accused of, watering down the law part to non-Jews, but it is focusing on the parts that really matter, and tailoring the message accordingly.
For a great article on how Millennials view denominations click here.