Open Letter to the Church: Gen Z Biblical Theology Student
When individuals from past generations think of Gen Z, they tend to think TikTok dances, mom jeans, the questioning of authority, and rebellion. People between the ages of six and twenty-four, like myself, are considered Gen-Z. We are admittedly different from other generations in that we celebrate curiosity, skepticism, and desperately crave a voice. We are unique in many ways, but our view of the Church stands in particular contrast to that of our parents or grandparents.
We have grown up witnessing significant historic events. To name a few, Gen Z individuals might remember 9/11, The Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting, the 2008 housing market crash, and the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. I was born three months before 9/11 and have only lived in its aftermath. Gen Z seems to hold a collective responsibility to fix all of the issues (historic and present) causing the world to be so broken. We are often told that ‘the world was once a better place’. Since we feel this sense of responsibility, we don’t process anything as truth until we have comprehended it for ourselves. We work hard to understand as much as we can, asking questions along the way, because we want to be a part of resolving the issues we see around us. Sometimes this approach is misunderstood as questioning authority, but we do this to help strengthen and define our worldview and gain a better understanding of our surroundings.
This is partly why Gen Z has a hard time with Church culture, because we don’t have a safe space to ask questions. Traditionally, questioning anything from the Church is stigmatized as questioning authority, so we often resort to outside sources like news outlets, social media and other believers. Each of these alternate sources can lead us to more confusion and resentment. Most often, Gen Z gains an impression that the Church is hypocritical and inauthentic. However, Jesus’ time on earth revolved around answering hard questions and teaching. Gen Z individuals don’t always know how to balance this discrepancy. This is particularly challenging for Gen Z Christians, who believe that Christ’s love is authentic, but have a hard time not being able to process their faith within church walls. My encouragement to those in ministry is to provide spaces for my generation to really wrestle through their questions and even their faith; we want to look to you to provide us with biblical clarity.
It also seems like the Church actively avoids issues of importance to Gen Z including political activism, racial justice, healthcare, economic inequality, LGBT+ rights, gender equity, college debt, and our environment. We are equally frustrated that our religion seems to be tied to a political ideology, and if we don’t support it, we’re not viewed as “real Christians”. Christians tend to be single-issue voters in their stance against abortion, but we are marked as ‘radical’ if we raise the importance of other issues. Despite this tension we feel, we feel convicted to stand firm in our Christian beliefs. We just wish the Church understood our generation better and allowed us to wrestle through our cultural worldview within a biblical framework.
Minnesota Biblical Theology Student