I’ve become a Youth Pastor. I’ve worn many hats in ministry. I even consider my main ministry simply filling in where ever there is a need. So when I started, I was a Children’s Church Director. Then I was a Head Youth Leader (Female). Then I married a Youth Pastor and we were in youth ministry for 12 years. However for the past 7+ years I’ve been the Lead Pastor’s Wife (yes, that’s a ministry!) and again the Children’s Church Director (mainly teaching on Wed. Nights). But as I stated, my forte is just filling in where there’s a need… that just HAPPENS to be Youth ministry again. With two teens of my own, I’m thrilled! (They may not be as thrilled, however!) But… these youth, this “Generation Z”, are not the same as the group 7 years ago. We noticed the shift even 10 years ago… but it’s not just a shift it’s a cultural chasm now.
According to James Emery White’s research in “Meet Generation Z”, Generation Z, those under the age of 25, constitutes 40% of the US population as of 2020. That’s more than Millennials, more than Gen X, even more than The Baby Boomers. They ARE the new American culture. So how can we truly reach them for the Kingdom of God?
I recently asked about 80 church leaders (technically I ASKED 4000, but only about 80 responded) this question… I’d love for you to think of your own answer before you read the rest of the article…
If you were suddenly called to a foreign mission field (a country and culture NOT your own) what would you need to do once you got there in order to spread the gospel?
How you answer that question should tell you a bit about how you can reach the new generation for Jesus. This new generation is facing issues my generation never faced. It truly is a foreign mission field for many of us.
The number one answer to my question was
LEARN THE LANGUAGE.
If you are older, the “language” of the new generation is also new. It may appear to be English, but it’s not the same English you’re used to. Do not be scared to take a computer class. Our library actually teaches people how to use their cell phones. If you’d benefit from a class like that… SEARCH and GO to one! Learn what this amazing new generation is SAYING, and learn to converse.
Next, and a very close second was about Culture.
Get to know the culture. Learn the customs of the culture. Find out social norms so you are not deliberately offending the natives. Immerse yourself in the culture. Join a community. Work among the poeple. Those were all the different wording behind the main idea of LEARNING the culture you’re ministering to. You could never walk into an African tribal village and effectively preach the gospel to them if you knew nothing about them (assuming you are not from Africa!). So why would we assume we could jump right in and minister to this new generation that we know nothing about.
I mentioned a book above by James Emery White called “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World”. It’s a GREAT resource. “So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World By Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace and Foles Nick is another good one. There are many more out there, but you have to take the initiative to do your research.
According to research this newest generation holds the largest percentage of non-religious, non-church-going, non-christian people. So in other words, it’s one of our own countries “unreached people groups” (a common phrase among church leaders).
They NEED you to infiltrate their culture, learn more about what means most to them, research to find what will ‘click’ for them. Their salvation hangs in the balance. The more we know, the better chance we have. For instance, MOST of the Generation Z-ers have stopped reading. This has gone WAY past the 28-40 words they’re willing to read at one time. Prayerfully I’ve still got my Millennials attention… although with every word, I risk losing MOST of us who live in this quick paced society.
The next answer in my “survey” was very close to the culture one in popularity.
Grow Relationships. Make Friends. Make Connections.
Can you imagine walking into a culture you’ve never been in before with the intention of spreading the Gospel but refusing to become friends with a single local. Do you seriously think they’ll listen to you before they know you? The same is true of the teens and early twenty something right in your own backyard. Don’t be afraid to befriend them and learn from them. Believe it or not, this generation LOVES friends of all ages.
A few other answers that deserve honorable mention:
Meet their needs.
Eat what is given to you. I think this still pertains to the unreached generation. Look past the FOOD aspect and think of the concept. When they give you what they have to offer, accept with gratitude.
Don’t Americanize. Again, wording is different for a foreign nation, but the concept is the same. Don’t push your culture on them and try to drive out all that is true to theirs. Value them by valuing their culture.
However, here are my all time favorite responses, and they were only mentioned one or two times…
SMILE! BE HUMBLE! LOVE THEM! Again, look to this analogy of ministering in a foreign nation. Would you come in and complain and criticize the people? Even if they are living in blatant sin, would you meet them where they are and compassionately share the gospel or would you roll your eyes at their ways, belittle how they do things, and shake your fist screaming “Get off my lawn!” I surely hope you wouldn’t! Please do the same here. Smile, be humble, know you don’t know it all. And LOVE them.
Lastly, BE RELEVANT. And seriously, I’m going to answer my title question. Can the Bible transcend culture? As a follow up to my previous question I asked the same women “Would you change the Bible to fit the culture?” Not all 80 chose to answer. But in the 10 responses I did get it was a resounding NO! NEVER! The Bible does NOT need to be changed. The Bible’s Truths are immutable. The Bible transcends all cultures, people, or time period. The principles are timeless. Bravo, ladies.
HOW we present the Bible may have to change. But the content will not. We live in a society where we assume the Bible is outdated, counter cultural, and no longer relevant. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Remember that God does not need us to change His Word to save humanity. His truths were true for the Israelites, the early church, those fighting the turks in the late 1600s, The Americans of the Civil War, the Japanese in the 40s, the African tribes in the 60s, The Germans in the 80s, AND the Gen Zs! His word is powerful on it’s own… they just need to be told so they can hear.
Are you willing to be a missionary to this new up and coming generation who so desperately needs Him? I’m jumping in with both feet!