the shape of leadership

Lessons in Evangelism From Generation Z

Three things we can learn from today’s Christian teens

Kent Ingle on September 3, 2021

Two years ago, Barna released a report that painted a bleak picture of the future of evangelism. A majority of Christian millennials (73%) felt confident answering questions about faith. However, almost half (47%) agreed at least somewhat that “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they would one day share the same faith.”

Working with young leaders on a daily basis, I found this unsettling. After all, how will the gospel flourish if Christians are hesitant to share it?

More recently, Barna reported that Generation Z teens (13–18 years of age) are more likely than older generations to associate positive emotions with sharing the gospel.

Too often, we focus on what we can do for the next generation, without taking time to notice the example they are setting for us. Here are three things we can learn from Gen Z:

1. Approach evangelism with calm confidence. Roughly half of Generation Z Christians (52%) said they would feel calm talking about their faith, and 37% said they would feel peaceful, according to Barna. In fact, these were the two most common emotions the teens associated with faith discussions.

How many older Christians would feel the same? Anxiety, fear, and self-consciousness keep many Christ followers from engaging in conversations about faith. Some of us may even find it easier to preach from a pulpit — where we don’t have to interact with those who disagree. Nevertheless, Jesus calls His followers to “go” and take the good news to people (Matthew 28:19–20).

Paul asks in Romans 10:14, “How, then, will they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Scripture repeatedly reminds us to seek out opportunities to tell others about Jesus. The next time we encounter someone of a different faith or no faith, can we approach that person with the boldness and calmness today’s young Christians have?

2. Be sure your actions reflect your words. Approximately 8 in 10 Gen Z teens agreed that “letting your actions speak rather than using words to explain your faith to someone” is more likely to create a positive response among nonbelievers.

Sadly, many people have walked away from church after observing inconsistent behavior
in Christian leaders.

Of course, we do need to use words. But we also need to make sure those words line up with our actions.

As 1 John 2:4–6 says, “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

Do our lives truly glorify Christ — in public and in private? It’s easy to act as if we have everything together and follow God wholeheartedly when all eyes are on us. However, once we leave the platform, our everyday actions and our personal lives should continue to reflect the faith we profess.

Sadly, many people have walked away from church after observing inconsistent behavior in Christian leaders. When we follow the example of Christ, both our lives and words will point people to Him.

3. Share your personal testimony to show the goodness of God. About half of Gen Z respondents defined personal evangelism as “telling your personal story about how you came to be a Christian” or “telling someone about benefits/changes experienced when following Jesus.”

Our testimonies are powerful because they show God’s faithfulness in our lives through good and bad times. Telling stories of how God transformed us also makes it easier for those who are apart from Christ to relate. After all, our salvation story is not about anything we did; it’s about what Jesus did.

Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

During our Welcome Weekend service for incoming freshmen, I always like to bring older students up to the stage to share how God has impacted their lives since being at Southeastern University. It’s inspiring to hear the next generation of leaders passionately sharing how God is working in them.

Why do I do this? Because I know personal testimony has an impact. You can ask these students one question, and they will go on for several minutes sharing the goodness of God. Their stories are relatable.

While the latest Barna report gives us insight into the lives of young Christians, it should also inspire us in our evangelism and discipleship efforts. Not only should we incorporate these three principles into our lives, but we should also make sure we are equipping the next generation with the best tools to evangelize.

That means teaching them the Scriptures, training them in doctrine and theology, and challenging them to take the good news to the world.

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