John Seel, in his newly published book, The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church, sets out to give a voice to young Christians who are trying to make sense of the world around them. As stated in the title of this book, these young Christians can be called New Copernicans. John believes that New Copernicans are the answer that the church has been looking for. In his research, he shares that “Millennials are carriers, not the cause, of a fundamental and lasting shift in the social imaginary [the way people imagine their social existence] in American society.” Seel goes on to talk about how this inherited reality is not one that fits the lives of those inheriting it. The way things have been done does not align with what Millennials value. So, what is the church left to do? Seel believes that no brand can survive long without taking Millennials seriously. Ignoring their size, wealth, and influence makes flourishment of the church impossible.
Seel takes the time to debunk misconceptions of Millennials, and I would say, does a rather fine job at accurately putting in to words what Millennials represent. This can partly be seen in the seven characteristics of New Copernicans. Secularism: the need to appropriate the reality of the incarnate Jesus in our daily lives. Explorers: the move from someone who presumes to have a corner on truth to one who is continually learning and growing. Relationships: belonging before believing, of building genuine relationships first before demanding creedal affirmation. Cross-pressured beliefs: summed up in the messiness of life and discipleship with others. Experiential: an experience of divine encounter shared in a context of relationships. Authenticity: integrity that is unforced, agenda free, and relationally saturated. And finally, what he calls, Haunted: an appeal to the external world and internal states common in all humanity; in other words, New Copernicans long to make the world a better place because they are spiritually sensitive to the brokenness that humankind shares.
New Copernicans want to engage in a faith that is real and is being demonstrated through the everyday actions of those they encounter. It is no longer acceptable for the church to speak about theology without living it out in a manner that brings about the change it preaches in the name of Jesus. By staying in a stagnant posture, the church is doing more harm than good. For those reading this and wondering what this “stagnant posture” is, ask yourself: What pressing social issues are taking place across the nation and what is my church doing to help the problem? Millennials care about social justice and they are finding places where their voices are heard and respected. Millennials are also leaving the church, and fast. They are seeking something genuine rather than accepting a faith that tells them to fall in line. They are asking questions in spaces that are safe, since many churches have failed in providing one. No longer will New Copernicans settle for a black and white absolute; rather, they will seek after understanding and relational being.
Seel closes as he briefly explains how historically derived dispositions of thought and practice with deep unconscious assumptions among Evangelical Christians have slowly become what they are today. No longer are they attached to the roots of our Christian faith; but rather, they have been constructed through unconscious norms over the years. Seel believes that New Copernicans are our best chance due to their rejection of evangelical habitus without necessarily rejecting an evangelical faith. He concludes that not only do millennials think differently, they think better—meaning that their unique perspective, if listened to carefully, will help the church become more like Jesus. To this end, millennials are uniquely the hope of the church.