Barna poll has revealed some disturbing, although not surprising trends. “It
may come as no surprise,” the report tells us, “that the influence of
Christianity in the United States is waning. Rates of church attendance,
religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been
dropping for decades. Americans’ beliefs are becoming more post-Christian and,
concurrently, religious identity is changing. Enter Generation Z: Born between
1999 and 2015, they are the first truly ‘post-Christian” generation.” How do we
I can assure you
that it’s not because the Bible is any less true. Or the gospel is any less
powerful. Or Jesus is any less risen. Or God is any less good.
To the contrary,
around the globe (especially in the
global South), is country after country, the gospel is spreading at an
extraordinary pace. And right here in America, the Spirit is moving and lives are being
What, then, is
the problem with Generation Z? In my view, the problem is not so much with Gen
Z as with the way Gen Z was raised.
First, many of
these young people have been raised in superficial Christian homes. Their
parents embraced a lightweight, me-oriented, prosperity-type gospel, which is a
far cry from the real gospel of Jesus.
It doesn’t transform
It doesn’t convict
empower us to live above sin.
doesn’t compete with the many temptations and pleasures of the age.
affirms us and adds to us.
It makes us feel
good without addressing our underlying problems.
Such a gospel
cannot withstand the cravings and pressures and distractions of the world. Such
a gospel will not grow stronger generationally. Instead, it loses its luster in
the light of everyday life. Its lack of deep roots are exposed over time.
then, for Christian leaders is simple: Don’t cheapen the message, deepen the
closely related, Gen Z’ers have not been called to leave everything and follow
They have not
been challenged to make a serious commitment. Consequently, they do not
recognize the value and weight of the cross.
ago, a young Christian man said to me, “Give me a cause, and I’ll die for it.”
I believe he was
also speaking for many others of his generation – and for today’s young
calls on young people to make radical choices.
Climate change challenges
them to take urgent action.
But the church?
Religion? Jesus? What’s the big deal? Where’s the urgency? What is the cause?
Here too, the
lesson is simple and clear: If you want to make real disciples, set the bar
high, not low. Offer grace and forgiveness and mercy through the blood of Jesus,
and don’t mix in manmade religious restrictions.
But then lay out
the radical nature of salvation. Following Jesus means a brand new life.
Church was not ready for the onslaught of anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-Christian
propaganda. And with the advent of social media, Gen Z’ers have been exposed to
all kinds of objections and attacks to their faith at younger and younger ages.
apologist Josh McDowell has said that the objections college students were
being confronted with in the past are now influencing kids as young as 12 or 13.
But, in contrast with college students, these younger kids have not developed
as many critical thinking skills. Plus, in our sound bite generation, a catchy
slogan or cute meme carries a lot more weight than a powerfully reasoned
In his classic
book God’s Smuggler, Bro. Andrew described a surprising discovery he
made in his early years of ministry behind the Iron Curtain. In the country of
Yugoslavia, the churches seemed to have more liberty than in other Communist
countries. Yet these churches were devoid of young people.
He asked a
friend about it, and the friend called up a woman who attended that church.
“Why isn’t your
son Joseph here with you?” (He was 10 years old.)
“I’m an uneducated peasant. What can I do? The schools tell my son there is no
God. The educated people say there is no God. Why should he believe me?” (This
is a close paraphrase.)
That applies to
us more than we realize today.
Generation Z’ers were born between 1999 and 2015. And 2007 was dubbed “the year of the atheist.”
That was when
authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens came to national (and
international) prominence with their frontal assaults on the Bible, God, and
the Christian faith.
Christian intellectuals were able to counter their arguments with relative
ease, those answers, for the most part, did not reach the man or woman in the
pew, let alone their children.
And what of the emotional force of their arguments? Not only was an intellectual response needed, but an
encounter with God was needed as well. In many churches, both were sadly
Fourth, Gen Z
has grown up in the midst of LGBT activism, which, in turn, has done a terrific
job of portraying Christians as hostile, primitive, bigots. Who wants to
associate with them?
As for church
leaders, rather than leading the way with a compassionate, uncompromising
response, we have all too often retreated from the controversial issues. And by
not wanting to offend, we have failed to help those struggling in our midst,
not to mention failed to impact those living outside our doors.
solution to all this is simple.
recover our first love and passion for the Lord, seeking Him for personal
Second, we get
back to the biblical gospel, without dilution or mixture.
Third, we lean
on the power of the Spirit, believing that a fresh encounter with Him can
transform the worst of sinners.
Fourth, we get
equipped in basic apologetics, using the many terrific resources available
Fifth, we run to the front lines of the culture rather than from them, proclaiming that God has
a better way.
Churches that do
this are thriving and growing, and some of their most zealous attendees are straight
from Generation Z.
So, rather than
looking at how bad things are – and they certainly are bad – let’s look at how
ripe the harvest is.
It’s time to reap!
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Playing with Holy Fire: A Wake-up Call to the Pentecostal-Charismatic Church. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.