For the past few years I have had the pleasure of serving in next-gen roles, whether working with college students or middle and high school students. I have spent that time listened to their sometimes brutally honest questions.
Gen-Z has questions about faith and the church we should be paying attention to. One of the greatest apologetic opportunities we have right now is simply our presence and willingness to listen to their honest questions. Before we get to the specifics of the questions the next generation are asking, it is important we understand the context of where these questions are coming from.
Context for Their Questions
Many have said Generation Z is the least religious generation ever. According to the Impact 360 Institute, Gen-Z is twice as likely as older generations to say that they are atheist. Not only that, but in recent months, we have seen an increasing number of young people deconstructing their faith and leaving the church.
Many are getting their information about faith, church, and Christianity from viral TikTok videos of people who refer to themselves as #exvangelicals, deconstructing their faith and talking about it on social media platforms. One of the reasons why many of our young people inside and outside of the church are being driven toward these viral videos is because of their frustration and disillusionment with the current state of the church. Some of their frustrations and accusations are misguided and need to be corrected; however, many of the concerns they raise need to be honestly addressed. This brings us to the specific apologetic questions that are on the minds of Gen-Z.
Is God Just?
Like every generation, the issues of evil and suffering are still deal breakers for many young people. Teens and young adults are more likely than older adults to highlight the problems of evil and suffering as serious barriers to embracing faith.
Gen-Z’s questions don’t only revolve around whether or not God exists, but whether God is good in light of all of the evil and brokenness we see around us, in and outside of the church. They are concerned about human rights and suffering, especially as it relates to injustice. They have a high view of the dignity of humanity, and as believers, we have the best answer for why humans have intrinsic worth, value, and dignity (Genesis 1:26-28).
Barna research, in their most recent data on Gen-Z, has concluded that over half of millennials (51%) and Gen-Z (54%) would say the U.S. definitely has a race problem, with most of them also expressing a desire to address racial injustice in their society (75% millennials, 68% Gen-Z). Gen-Z is the most ethnically diverse generation ever. Our gospel witness must be multiethnic and multicultural if we desire to reach this diverse generation. The church must have an apologetic that shows that the Scriptures and the gospel speak to issues of racial injustice and racial unity.
My Truth or Your Truth? Who do I trust?
Another apologetic issue that is ironically connected to the issue of social justice is the issue of moral relativism. Not only is Gen-Z the most racially diverse generation ever; they are also the most religiously and sexually diverse generation as well. This diversity also raises some problems around the nature of truth and morality.
Barna research revealed 24% of Gen-Z agrees that what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society. Twenty one percent believe what is morally right and wrong depends on what an individual believes. So the next generation has a zeal and passion for justice (all justice issues must make an absolute claim of what is good and what is evil); however, they simultaneously place the freedom of truth and morality in the hands of culture and individuals.
A New Path Forward
What this means is church leaders and parents should be helping individuals see the truth of the gospel as well as the beauty of the gospel. To reach the next generation we not only need to be courageous in our commitment to the truth of the Scriptures, but we also need to display the beauty and human flourishing Jesus brings to those who follow Him. Though our gospel is a message that should always be prioritized, it is also an announcement and message accompanied by love, justice, beauty, and joy.
The answers to these apologetic questions around social injustice and morality must be answered with more Christian education and content and also with Christian beauty and character. When it comes to injustice we must show younger generations that God cares about injustice and has and is actively fighting against the evils of this world. When it comes to fighting for truth, whether it is around racial injustice, sexuality, or morality, our greatest apologetic will be found in the character of our resilient discipleship to Jesus in our ever-changing culture.
We must teach the next generation what the Bible says, but we also must demonstrate what it teaches. Whether we are church leaders, parents who work 9-5 jobs, or single young adults starting out in our careers, our everyday lives should exemplify the conduct the Bible describes as followers of Jesus.
Our kids and college students aren’t just listening to what we say; they are watching what we do. For us to answer and engage the next generation’s faith questions we must move beyond our sophisticated arguments and move toward loving action that prioritizes the truth and justice of our suffering Savior and King, Jesus.