The Reverend Rob Lee received a Masters in Theological Studies from Duke University Divinity School in 2017. Rob is featured in the Statesville Record and Landmark as a columnist in the faith section. He has also appeared in NPR’s Weekend Edition, The State of Things, The View, MTV’s Video Music Awards, Ministry Matters, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post. He lives in Statesville with his wife, Stephanie, and their poodles named Frank and Lizzie. Rob is also author of the memoir A Sin By Any Other Name (Convergent, 2019).
First, what is a stained-glass millennial?
A stained-glass millennial is someone who has decided to invest their life in some way within the institutional church. We hear so many stories of institutional decline and financial woes within the church, and it’s important to listen to those tales, but those tales also aren’t the fullness of who God is and what God is doing within the life of the institutional church.
Eugene Peterson said that every preacher preaches one sermon, that preachers drive home one message consistently throughout their ministry. If this book is any indication of what my one sermon is, it’s that God is not done with us yet. God has not brought us this far to leave us here alone, and stained-glass millennials are a testament to that.
What are you hoping to accomplish with Stained-Glass Millennials?
In the book, I talk about a conversation I had with Dr. Diana Butler Bass about what her hopes would be for millennials in the future. She said, “I hope you change the world, but no pressure!”
In five years I hope I can say that this book helped someone, somewhere, change their mind about millennials and, more importantly, change their mind about their relationship with the church. I’d love to have someone come to me and say, “Your book helped me see the beauty in a place I thought there was none.” So many people are disenfranchised by the church and her people; I want this book to stand as a beacon of hope for those who need it most.
Alternate chapters are interviews with other stained-glass millennials. To borrow one of your questions: What gives you the most hope about the church?
In God, we have more tomorrows than yesterdays. I’ve grown weary of people church-shopping and trying to find “what fits” or, even worse, abandoning the church for spirituality without religion. Sure you can find God in a sunset or at the beach, but that’s the easy part. To find God in community is a challenge. I love that challenge. I love trying to find hints of God in the midst of strife and conflict, because that’s where God does God’s best work. What gives me hope is there’s always a second chance for the church to change. There’s always a chance that a book could come along and change the course of an institution’s history. Is that this book? I hope for some people it is.
How has writing Stained-Glass Millennials contributed to your spiritual formation?
I’ll never forget a conversation I had over email with an editorial associate at Smyth & Helwys. She told me that, in the midst of it all, when trying to be patient while waiting for Stained-Glass Millennials to be edited, I should keep writing. That’s what I’ve done. I once heard someone say the difference between a good writer and a great writer is that a great writer keeps writing when they don’t feel like writing.
I think like that’s true for our faith as well: amid doubt and mishaps, keep believing and keep hoping. Like many other millennials, I’ve hedged my bets on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. That God has given me so much and allowed me to continue to push toward God’s unfolding future despite those moments of blindness and doubt. I’d say that Stained-Glass Millennials has changed everything for me. It’s given me a renewed sense of hope and an assurance of grace present in my life and the lives of millennials. As I said above, God is not done with us yet. That is good news.