Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World
“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh.”
Ecclesiastes 1:4 KJV
Meet Generation Z, by James Emery White, sounds an alarm, awakening the Christian church to the new landscape of Christianity in America, and what that means for the next generation – Generation Z.
Generation Z, our children and grandchildren, are those born between 1995-2010. These are our future leaders, who will shape this country. They are also the first generation known to not even have a memory of the Gospel.
White, Pastor of a 10,000-attendee church, and Professor of Theology & Culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, practices what he preaches. With 70% of his church growth coming from the previously unchurched. (http://www.churchandculture.org/james-emery-white)
He believes this is a pivotal time we are living in, and his spiritual insight, knowledge of Biblical truth, education, and studies, provide great tools for today’s mission focused Christian.
Part One: The New Reality
The 5 defining characteristics of Generation Z:
- Recession Marked
- Wi-Fi Enabled
- Sexually Fluid
“(Generation Z) are experiencing radical changes in technology and understandings of family, sexuality, and gender. They live in multigenerational households, and the fastest-growing demographic within their age group is multiracial,” White explained.
Generation Z is growing older, younger, facing radical changes in family dynamics, and living in a world that is always “on”.
“No longer is family defined as a male husband and female wife,” It’s now “Male with male, female with female, children with surrogates, multiple parents, polygamy and polyamorous union,” white explained.
They are being raised by more under protective parents and exposed to things much earlier. Media is having a strong influence on, and shaping them, as is pornography, as they are the first generation with a connection to the internet right in their pocket.
Their view of the church isn’t the greatest either.
A study in the book shows that they view the church as:
- Too involved in politics
- Out of touch with reality
- Insensitive to others
- Not accepting of other faiths
Losing Their Religion
In White’s The Rise of the Nones, the “nones” are described as the “religiously unaffiliated”. When asked about their religion on various surveys or polls, they responded “I’m nothing”. And their numbers are rising faster than any other group.
White describes one of the most profound cultural challenges as “The Second Fall”. The first being God’s expulsion of humans from the Garden of Eden. Now, he says, “We returned the favor. In our world, increasing numbers of people lead their lives without any sense of needing to look to a higher power, something outside of themselves.”
And rather than rejecting the idea of God, he says, our culture simply ignores him.
Part Two: A New Approach
Though times are changing, White’s intention isn’t to spread doom and gloom. In fact, he sees this as a positive challenge and new mission that requires a fresh new vision from the church. He believes there is hope. We just need a new approach.
White’s “New Approach” includes:
- The Countercultural Church
- Finding Our Voice
- Rethinking Evangelism
- Apologetics for a New Generation
The Countercultural Church:
White believes that in today’s post-Christian world, Christians must become cultural missionaries. He explains that there is a mission field right in our backyard. We don’t necessarily have to go to the farthest corners of the earth to reach the unreached, or those who have no knowledge of Christ anymore. They are actually right here, in America, now. Across the street. At the store.
White says of his church’s approach “We have become cultural missionaries and act according to that identity. I think we all know what a good missionary would do if dropped into the darkest recesses of the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people group. They would learn the language, try to understand the customs and rituals, and work to translate the Scriptures, particularly the message of the gospel, into the indigenous language. When it comes to worship, they would incorporate the musical styles and instruments of the people. They might even try to dress like them. In short, they would try to build every cultural bridge they could into the world of that unreached people group in order to bring Christ to bear,” White says.
Finding Our Voice:
In a culturally sensitive, offended, and “triggered” world, Christians need to find their voice. And that, to White, means being anything but cold or lukewarm. Instead, we must share the true beauty of the Gospel, down to its deepest depths.
“Sadly, most teach the Bible as a good book or self-help manual. They fear tapping into its deepest voice, and deepest waters, for fear of turning people away. Yet it’s only the Bible’s true voice that will offer the world what it doesn’t already have,” White shared.
So how can we share the true Gospel without watering it down, or sugar coating it to please the masses?
White says, “By keeping our prophetic voice.”
He points out that today, few want to use the prophetic voice. “Temptation to mute the prophetic voice is strong.”
And goes on to say that “Without the prophetic voice, there is no Gospel.”
Old methods and ways of doing things aren’t necessarily going to reach this new generation.
White says “The church must rethink evangelism – no longer can we be simply event driven. The church must view evangelism as both a process and an event. Because we are not dealing with an unchurched culture resting at an 8 (With a relatively advanced spiritual knowledge) but instead with a post-Christian unchurched culture resting at a 3, we must pay fresh attention to the process that leads people to the event of salvation.”
Apologetics for a New Generation
White shares “In a stunning revelation, among Christians, two-thirds said many religions can lead to eternal life, and most of them (50% of all Christians) said that some non-Christian religions can lead to life everlasting.”
These are the mindsets of the day, which proves White’s point that so many are what he refers to as “spiritually illiterate” when it comes to knowing God’s word.
Ironically, though the interest in God is declining, the interest in spiritual things is not. White shines a spotlight on the growing fascination many have for the supernatural. With shows about ghosts and psychics on the rise, people are seeking answers from “the other side” like never before. But due to lack of Biblical knowledge, they are blind as to what they are actually tapping into. This all goes back to the spiritual illiteracy.
As part of the solution, White explains the importance of being on an outward turned mission.
“This means that we go to war against the tendency of some churches to pull back and separate themselves into some kind of Christian clique,” he said.
“We never view those outside of the church as the enemy with an “us versus them”, mentality because that is the exact opposite of the life that Jesus lived.”
“What is killing the church today is having the mission focused on keeping Christians within the church happy” when in reality “the mission cannot be about us – it must be about those who have not crossed the line of faith.”
So not only does White share the hard facts, but he offers great solutions for the church today. These strategies have proven successful towards the healthy functioning and growth of his own church.
In conclusion, he ends with three hot topics of the day: Gay Marriage, A Map of the Spiritual World, and Why Believe in God? Topics Generation Z are interested in, or seeking answers to, and what might ultimately bring down the barriers between themselves and Christ. It’s about reaching them where they are at. Discussing and not being afraid of the tough topics and issues that they bring up. And keeping the authentic Christian faith and truths close when it may be easier to bend. Judgement, criticism and avoiding hard topics won’t win over Generation Z. They need something real, loving, and selfless, and that is what White truly hits home on.