What are the earliest generations searching for these days? Are they truly seeking entertainment and the lust of the world or do their struggles cut much deeper than they appear? AM International is striving to answer these questions to formulate evangelism strategies that will work in the current age we live in. No longer does this era of young adults respond immediately to the calling of Jesus through a lone missionary, nor are they encouraged or moved immediately by the idea of living eternally in heaven or hell.
The emphasis on “immediately” means that it will take more time and attention to teach the gospel to the earlier generations. According to a report commissioned by Alpha USA and conducted by Barna, 47% of millennial christians believe it is flat-out-wrong to evangelize, which means even the basic standard of sharing the good news and bearing witness to the gospel is disregarded and misunderstood. Because Milennials and Gen Z are more aware of the cultural temperature surrounding spiritual conversations and criticism spawned from a cycle of cultural hatred, they are more uncomfortable with pointing out one another’s differences and lackings. Hence why AM Staff have experienced mostly cold responses from students across the globe and have experienced not just simple declines to the invitation to have bible study, but also insults and persecution.
There are other concepts within the bible that are misunderstood by many young adults. Therefore, if the approach to evangelizing the next generation is heavily focused on inputting religious standards and rules without showing any acceptance upfront, mission will remain stagnant.
Millennials and Gen Z have a high calling to social justice and activism, and are less interested in division over political and spiritual issues. They are also more concerned with the reputation of Christianity and the reasonable evidence for faith in Christ, rather than a firsthand spiritual experience. Those who claim to not have an experience with Christ, lean more on their perspective and their reality, similar to how the Smaritan woman perceived life before Christ. Young adults are more apt to agree with statements such as “I experience a general sense of emptiness” and “I often feel rejected”. It is more common for them to admit experiencing some kind of relational struggle or discontent.
As we evangelize, we need to respond to the humans in front us, rather than getting them to subscribe to our ministry or buy into our cause no matter how much we believe it aligns with God’s will. The Millenial and Gen Z in front of you will not respond in reckless abandon for they are bombarded daily with thousands of other things they can choose to spend their time on. In anxiety, they will respond immediately to the option that addresses their present needs rather than their eternal ones. Therefore, evangelizers need to become good listeners. A Christian who is a good listener is more precious than the one who can recite the entire Old Testament from memory. A Christian who is a good listener emulates the love of God to those whose voices are not heard and delivers the gospel straight to the root of the problem.
We must find out what kind of evidence these students are searching for that may lead to deeper underlying questions and struggles they have within them. For example, if a student asks, “were Adam and Eve real people?”, or “why was there a tree in the garden in the first place?”, or ” why doesn’t God just end the suffering of the world now?”, the student could be given answers that point to evidence, or the student could be asking for answers that points to God’s purpose for their own life, or whether or not God purposely set them up for failure in life, or why God has not given them peace for their restlesness (answers given in respective order). Without losing truth, we must deliver the gospel in a way that is culturally relevant to the era we live in and have discernment to connect Jesus to the reality of life today.
It is not about growth, it is about the gospel. When the gospel is preached from a heart of patience and love, the growth will take care of itself.