The woman said to Jesus, "I know that the Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am He, the one who is speaking to you." . . . Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" . . . Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." - John 4:29
Say what you will about millennials (or better yet, talk to us instead of about us, it's only polite), but we know something about evangelism. A generation that insists on integrity, millennials have neither interest in nor patience for a preening faith that pretends it has all the answers. A would be evangelist pretending their life is perfect? To a millennial they're nothing but a turn off, a try-hard.
Such boasting is obviously fake, like wood veneer over pressboard. And believe us, we've owned enough wood veneer over pressboard bookshelves to know what they feel like, smell like, break-in-half when-you're-moving like. Better to have cinder blocks and two by fours; at least they look like what they are.
Better to have a faith that publicly asks real questions, rather than broadcasting fake-bravado certainty. Better to listen to a believer earnestly confess their shortcomings than watch the silent and sad pantomime of a church full of people pretending that they're all okay. Better to listen to a woman asking "He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" than some dude asking "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?"
You want millennials at your church? Or really anybody new, frankly? Then be like the woman in our story. Just be honest. Ask your questions, tell your story, live your hope. That's not just evangelism for millennials. It's evangelism for everyone.
God of the perfectly waxed handlebar mustache and hand-built fixie, help us be real. Amen.
John Edgerton is Associate Pastor at Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts.