Crawford: We don’t need exotic schemes to reach millennials

Matt CrawfordI hope you’re sitting down for this.

Millennial Matt Crawford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sebring, says we don’t have to create exotic schemes to reach millennials for Christ.

“I don’t know that millennials are so different as some of the talk about them makes them to be,” Pastor Matt said during a wide-ranging conversation as part of our Behind the Pulpit interview series. “Every young generation has its ways that it is separate in terms of culture; we’ve got to speak the Gospel to them in ways that they understand.”

That said, Pastor Matt does have a couple of do’s and don’ts for reaching what is now the largest generation in America.

“We don’t compromise the Gospel message,” Pastor Matt said. “There are plenty of congregations and churches that have done that, often in a stated attempt to be relevant to the younger generation or the culture at large. And that has not proven to be a good strategy.

“I think we also have to not worry so much about making the church cool. … Don’t create obstacles to the Gospel beyond the offense of the Gospel itself. But I don’t think we have to be so concerned with what’s this latest trend, this thing that is going to make us so relevant that they’re all going to flock.”

So what is it, then, that Pastor Matt would suggest we do?

“In John 13:35 Jesus said that you will be known as my disciples by your love for one another,” he said. “The church has to be a community that is loving internally, that is caring for one another, because word of that spreads. Or, conversely, if they’re not that, if they’re always fighting within that church people just don’t want to go be part of that. There’s enough conflict in our lives.

“So it starts with the way we treat each other, with the way we love each other. Jesus said that will mark us, that will separate us, and hopefully will attract people.

“Secondly, you’ve got to love your community. So, love one another. So that includes not just millennials, but all generations. I think one of the things that’s unique about millennials is their social justice mentality. It’s really strong in my generation—I’m barely a millennial, but I’m in that generation. I think when they see churches genuinely making a difference in their community it’s attractive.”

Hopefully, Pastor Matt offers some strategic relief in this blog. The Gospel, love and relevance trump “cool” preachers and fancy worship stages.

This is our third blog post from my conversation with Pastor Matt. Here’s the link to the first one, where I asked Matt how the Southern Baptist Convention could get more young pastors involved in the convention: In our second blog, Matt and I talked about church-planting obstacles. Here’s that link: Look for one more outtake from our conversation later in the week.

This digital content will not be repeated in our August print edition, but that issue will include an edited version of Pastor Matt’s thoughts on a range of other topics as part of our regular “Behind the Pulpit” feature.

A video of our conversation also will appear on later this month. You can go now to the Witness’ YouTube channel at to see videos of H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in the Jacksonville area; Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in the Tampa area; Sam Rainer, pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church; Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola; Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church outside of Tampa; and, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. He can be reached via email at, and followed on Twitter @FBW_editor


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