By Mark Moring
In an age of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” when many believe that one “truth” is as good as another, it’s harder and harder to empirically argue for the Christian faith.
Even if there were a YouTube video of the stone rolling away and Jesus walking out of the tomb, the skeptic would still say, “Yeah? So?”
So when it comes to convincing Generation Z of the truth of Christianity, “prove it” just won’t cut it. While certainly beneficial, traditional apologetics, relying on logic and reason, may not be as effective with today’s youth as they were for previous generations.
But the apologetics of story are alive and well, because Z’s are experiential. They want to see and know your experience, and then experience it themselves: If God is real, don’t try to prove it or argue me into believing it. Show me.
Tell your story: Here’s who I was before I met Jesus, and here’s who I am since. If you’ve experienced a life-changing encounter with Christ, that’s Exhibit A for Generation Z.
“We have to show them there is more, that we have life in Christ, that it is better than anything they could ever have,” says Josh Branum, family pastor at Faithbridge Church in Jacksonville, Florida. “With Gen Z, there’s this search for authenticity, for finding something that’s real.”
“It’s life apologetics,” adds Rick Eubanks, student minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas. “My best apologetic today is listening to their story and then sharing mine. That’s one apologetic they cannot get away from.”
Two more vital forms of apologetics that resonate with Z’s are spirituality and science. James Emery White explores both areas in Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World.
Though Z’s are spiritual seekers, they’re also “spiritually illiterate,” as White describes them. “They do not know what the Bible says. They do not know the basics of Christian belief or theology. They do not know what the cross is about. … But their spiritual illiteracy is deeper than that. They are more than post-Christian. They don’t even have a memory of the gospel.
“As a result, there is a profound spiritual emptiness. They’ve never encountered God …. Yet they cannot help but be incurably spiritual. That is the defining mark of what it means to be human.”
White says Z’s seek to fill this void with all things spiritual, even the wrong things. They may believe in horoscopes, fortune-tellers, or witchcraft.
If they believe in the supernatural, that’s certainly an open door—not only to reach the nonreligious Z’s in your world but even to clarify orthodox Christian theology to the kids who are regulars at your church.
So consider planning a series on the supernatural; they’ll have tons of questions, and you, working with Scripture and the Holy Spirit, can provide the answers.
Another big open door is their interest in science—or, at the very least, the natural world. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that 80 percent of young adults—a group that includes the oldest members of Generation Z—have “a deep sense of wonder about the universe.”
A 2015 Lifeway Research study found more than 4 in 10 nonreligious Americans believe physics and humanity point to a creator. Two-thirds of young adults in that study agreed with the statement, “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.”
“I have found that discussing the awe and wonder of the universe, openly raising the many questions surrounding the universe and then positing the existence of God, is one of the most valuable apologetics/pre-evangelism approaches that can be pursued,” writes White.
“The existence of human life, the complexity of the universe, and even the starting point of a Big Bang resonate deeply with nonbelievers and provide numerous opportunities to present a coherent and compelling case for God.”
And, as with “spirituality,” this awesomeness-of-creation approach works with both Christians and non-Christians. The believers will be even more awed by a God they already know, and the nonbelievers might just come to meet Him for the first time.
MARK MORING is a freelance writer in Atlanta with a heart for teens. He is also fond of catching Z’s, especially on lazy Sunday afternoons while “watching” the NFL.