How many times have you heard the word “unprecedented” in the past ten months? Unprecedented pandemic. Unprecedented polarization. Unprecedented problems relating to media, mental health, and isolation. I think we can all agree that upcoming generations will continue to face situations without precedent as the tech age transforms education, jobs, and families at an impressively rapid pace.
In a previous article, I claimed that the compassionate action, creative evangelism, and mature curiosity of young believers is unmistakable despite my generation’s infamous reputation of distraction, individualism, and entitlement. I am a college student and I desperately need those who have gone before me to provide training and encouragement. Because I think others my age need this too, I want to share three specific ways to build up believers who are part of the Y and Z generations.
Unprecedented Isolation: Emphasize community in a world of individualism.
“And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
The tech age allows millennials to specialize in our careers, pursue unique opportunities, and move around the world. Even before the current pandemic, people were becoming more isolated, waiting longer to get married and have children, and valuing autonomy over connection. Each generation is deceived in unique ways, and an individualistic focus seems to be all too common among my peers.
In his book Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper discusses his youth and the vague ethic of existentialism that caused the concrete truth of God to be a refuge for him against late-sixties culture. In a similar way, community found in my church is a refuge amidst messages of independence and create-your-own-brand individualism. In Christian community, I can be honest about insecurity, stress, anxiety, and doubt. I can ask questions without fear of being canceled. I can reveal the parts of me that don’t make the Instagram highlight reel.
But I needed holy courage to enter into a Christ-centered community because the world told me I didn’t need it.
So as churches reopen, as campus ministries reestablish, as summer camps try again, push people like me towards community. Display this for us in the way you pursue an Acts 2 lifestyle (see Acts 2:42–47). We will say, “I’m fine, I watch sermons online,” but we don’t know what we are missing. Challenge us to ask someone to coffee, or even on a date, because that takes extra courage today when there are a million good reasons to stay in isolation.
Unprecedented Noise: Create silence and space for meaningful conversation amidst constant clamor.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Psalm 37:7)
The tech age trains millennials to avoid being alone with our thoughts—or alone with God. Whereas my parents faced boredom while standing in line at the grocery store, DMV, or cafeteria, my mobile device provides a cure for lonely moments in any situation. My grandparents whistled a tune at work, walked the dogs while admiring a fall day, and gathered for television in the evenings. Today, I can be constantly entertained with a screen or a soundtrack as I walk to class, wait in line, drive down the street, and even fall asleep.
Silence feels unnatural and the world tells me I’m missing out if I’m not keeping up with the latest post, but quieting the chaos provides space to connect with God and others.
Being still is a spiritual discipline that does not receive the attention it deserves. While today’s entertainment offers are a trap for every generation, one of the older generation’s most valuable skills is the ability to be content with silence and boredom due to habits developed over time. My generation needs help going on a walk or a drive without devices. We need strong leadership that doesn’t allow phones at the dinner table or in bedrooms while falling asleep. We need you to teach us how to sit by a fire, taking it easy without being entertained. These are the moments in which we experience joy and tears with people who love us and with God. However, years of distraction can slip by if the noise is not muffled.
Unprecedented Access: Teach us how to study the Bible, because we will turn to something else, like Google, for answers.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
The tech age accustoms us to have unlimited access to information. One of the strengths of my generation is our curiosity, and this can lead to having a strong faith that has been tested against other belief systems. However, as media consumers, our attention and allegiance is bought by advertisers who want to influence our every belief and action. Truth is constantly being redefined by culture, and if my profile doesn’t line up with what the majority deems as important, I risk my following, my friends, and maybe even my career. I need the unchanging truth of Scripture more than ever, but it takes time and humility to bring my questions and doubts to God.
I have to fight to study the Bible and gain understanding because the world tells me what is easy and instant is best.
The Bible is losing its place among countless loud voices in the lives of young believers. Not even wise and faithful Christian leaders can replace the invaluable words of God found in Scripture. If you are in a place of influence, the best thing you can do for the next generation is display, remind, and teach us to run to the Truth with all of our curiosity. Encourage us to treat every other resource—friend, mentor, or influencer—as a secondary source to the Word of God, which is inerrant and never changing.
As a parent or pastor, you may not be able to keep up with each new social platform or cutting-edge technology, but you can encourage and equip young disciples. Because your kids’ generation will continue to face “unprecedented” challenges and new forms of persecution, I implore wise and experienced brothers and sisters in Christ to build up the young people in your life.