Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Rick and Morty, and many other movies and TV shows suggest that infinite realities exist. The multiverse theory states that infinite universes run parallel to one another. Ours is one of countless.
This theory illustrates Gen Z’s headspace.
The very structure of reality might show that truth can be sliced any way we want. Gen Z tends to trust their own personal truth. This may seem grim, but social tendencies are usually two-edged swords.
Young people authentically talk about their own shortcomings, find themselves open to spiritual discussions, and yearn for a foundation in life.
In other words, instead of seeing Gen Z as a lost generation, we need to realize their boundless potential.
1. Gen Z often believes in relativism.
Moral relativism has taken root in Gen Z’s generation.
Barna surveys this by asking whether they agree that “what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society.” Twenty-five percent strongly agree with that statement. Twenty-one percent also strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.”
Relativism is not new. Some ancient Greek philosophers, called Epicureans, believed that individual pleasure drives ethics. Epicurus lived three hundred years before Christ.
So let’s consider this from a biblical perspective. It’s true that the application of moral teachings in the Bible will change based on context—“based on society.” This is part of Christ’s power. His message and saving blood reach across cultural boundaries (Genesis 12:7; Matthew 28:18–20; Revelation 7:9–11).
Consider an example. Christians shouldn’t get tattoos in cultures that associate tattoos with real witchcraft and spiritual darkness. In contrast, in twenty-first century America, tattoos offend few people, and getting a tattoo becomes a matter of freedom for the believer (1 Corinthians 8–9).
Here’s another example. Is your church worshiping in India? Use a tabla. Worshiping in America? Play drums and guitar. Worshiping in Scotland? Use a . . . bagpipe?
But above all: worship.
Love fundamentally remains consistent. Adultery and lust are a sin wherever we go. Humility lives as a virtue in every culture. The need for Jesus stays the same too.
So here, like with other aspects of Gen Z, is an opportunity for fresh ways of applying the gospel, as long as they bend the knee to truth and God’s will.
2. Gen Z is still spiritual and mostly Christian. Sort of.
Moral relativism swallows up many young people—certainly more than previous generations. However, Barna also relates that around 60 percent still agree that Jesus physically rose from the dead. They are less certain about the Bible. Only 42 percent affirm that “the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches.”
Genuinely devoted, Bible-committed people who follow Jesus typically represent a small cohort of culture—even in the supposed golden age of Christianity in America. Shallow Christianity lingers, although it slowly disappears as we face “soft persecution.” As nominal Christians give up their pretense of faith, devoted churches shine that much brighter.
The authenticity and openness of Gen Z present yet another opportunity: The Barna researchers proclaim, “Spiritual curiosity is alive and well. . . . younger non-Christians are more than twice as likely to express a personal interest in Christianity compared to older non-Christians.”
3. Gen Z doesn’t trust institutions.
Only one in ten young people trust the established media. Less than one in five say that they can trust public education or the government. The internet allows them to critique institutions easily and see through double standards.
For this reason, very few describe themselves as party-affiliated. Dr. Jean M. Twenge posed this political question in 2017: “What do Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common? The answer: Both are political independents.”
Politically, Gen Z mostly identifies as independents or moderates. They are less interested in and less trusting of the government—a unique combination among previous young generations.
What they reconstruct in the rubble of their world poses their greatest challenge.
This reality provides a two-fold opportunity.
- Christ is the only perfect one without sin. The church, though fully imperfect, is made up of humans made faultless by Christ. Here is a place to live imperfectly and authentically while striving to grow. In other words, the body of Christ, the church, is a thoroughly unique “institution” Gen Z can thrive in.
- The very apparent brokenness of this world, coupled with a longing for perfect community, leads naturally to the truth of God’s kingdom of heaven. While hopelessness and existential dread may grip this generation, Christians can hope in Christ’s kingdom.
4. Gen Z believes in inclusion.
Their valuing of inclusion can almost go unspoken it’s so obvious. However, Gen Z doesn’t support affirmative action to repair racial wrongdoing as much as expected. Dr. Twenge gets the impression that pursuing diversity is a ridiculous idea for teens. Diversity simply is for Gen Z. Their generational makeup is the most racially diverse and blended in US history.
Their desire to include diverse people often includes diverse beliefs. While they are open to other thoughts, they become emotional quickly when confronted with strong disagreement. It’s one thing for me to share my faith with someone; it’s entirely different when I try to show them that they’re wrong. For Gen Z, conversations are welcome, but argument is difficult.
The pull to inclusion can be founded on compassion and understanding. It’s also founded on impossible assumptions about truth. Many believe that each person owns their personal truth. This is a mistaken, unbiblical view of reality. It’s also easy to show that relativism is false. However, Gen Z’s passion for stories and their desire to know a person authentically reflects Jesus’ love for people.
Gen Z needs to find that God is, that Christ will judge the earth, and that Jesus is the only “way, truth, and life” (John 14:6).
What should we believe about Gen Z?
While evidence suggests that Gen Z is “leaving” religion and Christianity in a tangible way, their potential is boundless. Most still identify as Christians, and Gen Z non-Christians are much more open to Christianity.
In our interview on Gen Z, Barnabas Piper dismisses the idea that Gen Z is falling away from the faith. They offer a great possibility and are coming to faith more fully and authentically. He notes that “God doesn’t lose whole generations.” Christians don’t need to fear losing Gen Z.
Gen Z holds potential. Jesus always presents a stumbling block. The parts of his message that cause people to stumble will change from person to person and age to age.
For Generation Z, it’s Christ’s coming judgment, his claim to ultimate truth, and his strong moral teachings.
But the eternal truth of his message will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).