I am taking a class on missiology right now, which is literally the study of missions. We’ve covered all sorts of topics: leadership in missions, the biblical basis for missions, historical missionaries, etc. One of the key principles to understanding missions is that the Gospel is of vital importance to the whole world. Now, most Christians would affirm this. They would totally green light the idea that missions are important for getting the Gospel to all people, and they will throw in an extra dollar to the Lottie Moon offering while they are at it.
But does anyone realize that “all nations” include our nation? And more importantly, the 10-25 year olds in our nation?
If history tells us anything, it’s that every decade has some major issue. Often, what we see at the center of the issue is “young people.” Even in these current times, the younger generations are the ones dominating the internet, dominating the social spaces we find ourselves. Most of our grandparents are not vloggers– we are. When I hear things that fall along the lines of, “Man, kids these days are just… it’s the younger generation that’s causing the issues… there are just too many kids on their phones…” it brings to my mind a lot of emotions. I actually just heard a comment like it made today.
Let me be the first to condemn my own peers. Gen Z culture, among other things, is pretty rough. I know what Gen Z culture is like because it’s my culture. I am 22. I live in it. I know how gross TikTok is. I know what it’s like to see completely ignorant marriage advice on Twitter from high schoolers. However, I feel disappointment when I hear people say things condemning “kids these days,” though, because the true problem is a lot bigger, a lot deeper, a lot wider than just blaming the iPhone. My generation is unique. Our celebrities and heroes make YouTube videos, among other things. And unfortunately, the world is made of up sinners. Sinners congregate on the internet, like they congregate at coffee shops and Walmart. Where sinners congregate, sin happens. Where sin happens, often discipleship doesn’t. And this is a problem. But you know what else is a problem– actually the problem?
“Kids these days” are not Christians.
The Gospel is not being explained
Recently, I was able to see collection of forms filled out by a group of students aged 12-16. Of the many questions, one of them was: “Do you consider yourself to be a Christian?” The group of surveyed students unanimously answered ‘Yes.’ The second question was: “Why do you consider yourself to be a Christian?” The answers were unique, and more importantly, they were almost all incorrect versions of the Gospel– or simply not the Gospel at all. Now, I’m no social scientist. I don’t know how many people between ages 12 and 25 in the United States know the Gospel. Between high school, college, multiple churches, multiple youth groups, several work experiences, and now full-time vocational ministry, I can assure you that it is not many.
One of the things that bother so many believers is the state of the world we live in. Noted. The world is a gross place. It’s a hard place to grow in Christ. Do you want to know why it’s full of sin? It’s full of sinners. Do you want to know why my generation is full of sinners? They don’t know the Gospel. Do you want to know why they don’t know the Gospel? No one has explained it to them.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? [...] Romans 10:13-15a ESV
We all– myself included– love to take pot shots at “kids these days” for acting like sinners. They actually are sinners, just like their parents and their grandparents. If this entire generation hasn’t heard the Gospel… then what we are doing? We are mad they don’t know something they’ve never heard? Weird how that works…
The Gospel is not lived out in the nuclear family
Make no mistake: I am talking explicitly to Christians. I am a youth pastor, my parents and my in-laws are all educators, and I have spent my life in church. If I can be certain of anything, it’s that Jesus is not Lord in the homes of many families. In a lot of ways, before becoming a true, independent adult, my generation can only be what they know how to be. I know how to deposit checks because of my dad. I know how to defrost chicken because of my mom. But most importantly, I know that Christ is important my life, in some part, because of them both. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the nuclear family, in many cases, is dysfunctional. Kids don’t know the Gospel, and even if they do, many of them don’t see it in their own homes. At youth group, they are told they are loved. At home, they are told they don’t listen, and they are made to feel inconvenient. Regardless of home situation, most of us tend to lean into our home identity until we cultivate something otherwise. And if the Gospel is not a part of the home of the average kid… it’s probably not a part of them, either.
So, what’s the solution?
“Kids these days” do what they do because they are sinners. They are no different than their parents, their grandparents, etc. In the spirit of Horton the elephant, “Sin is sin, no matter how small.” But to write off Generation Z, and people more broadly is simply and completely anti-Gospel. The people on this floating space rock need to hear the Gospel. “Kids these days” act lost because they are lost. They are lost, like people in Congress are lost, like your favorite pro-athlete might be lost. People are lost. They need to hear the Gospel. The problem with my generation, your generation, and every generation is that they are sinners destined for Hell. I have a proposed solution to this problem. It’s pretty simple. I stole the strategy from another guy:
"Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!" Psalm 96:3
Do you want “kids these days” to live like Jesus? Cool. Me, too.
So, let’s go tell them about Him.