Understanding Generation Z’s Perception of Jesus
Young people may see Christ differently due to their worldview
Not long ago “WWJD” bracelets were the latest fad. Everyone seemed to have one. The bracelets were handed out in large quantities to youth groups, churches, and schools.
The expectation was that when wearing these bracelets, we would look down and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” Although the trend has faded, I still see people wearing those bracelets.
While the intentions behind the phrase were good, the question of “What Would Jesus Do?” can be misinterpreted based on the individual. People may see Jesus differently due to their worldview or how American culture can misconstrue Him.
A glimpse at Barna’s research into “The Open Generation” and a study by American Bible Society reveal that the next generation views Jesus in a way contrary to Scripture. We must realize only 13% of Generation Z members are biblically engaged according to the 2022 American Bible Society study.
Before we can ask people “What Would Jesus Do?”, we need to inquire, “Who do you believe Jesus is?”
Below is what Gen Z members are saying about Jesus and how we can guide them in using Scripture to understand who Jesus truly is.
“Jesus was Human and Sinned”
A study by American Bible Society found that nearly 40% of Gen Z (non-Christians and Christians) believes that Jesus was human and sinned. From that group, only 18% of Scripturally engaged (consistent interaction with the Bible that shapes a person’s choices and relationships) individuals believe Jesus sinned.
It’s clear this misconception of Christ derives from a lack of biblical engagement.
1 Peter 2:21-22 tells us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’”
1 John 3:5 says, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”
Start by asking young adults what they believe about Jesus and whether He was sinless. Encourage them to read the Bible and find Scripture to verify their stance. As young people read the Bible, they will find that Jesus did not sin.
We need to help young adults understand the significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As Hebrews 9:14 says, Jesus was an “unblemished” offering for our salvation.
“Jesus was an Advocate for Justice”
Gen Z members are at the forefront of standing up against social injustices and inequality. They want to make a positive change in the world around them.
We must realize only 13% of Generation Z members are biblically engaged according to the 2022 American
Bible Society study.
A recent Barna study found that 35% of teens believe Jesus was an advocate for justice. Some may see Jesus through this lens because they want to relate to Him. It is important for young adults to make sure the causes they stand up for are supported by Scripture.
The Bible talks about how Jesus stood in the gap for the marginalized. Christ talked to, cared for, and healed the outcasts of society. We read about this in John 4 with the Samaritan woman at the well and in Luke 17 when Jesus heals the lepers.
“Jesus wasn’t Raised From the Dead”
Nearly half of Gen Z members (47%) believe Jesus was crucified, however, only 33% believe Jesus was raised from the dead, according to Barna. Meanwhile, 61% of Gen Z Christians believe Jesus was crucified and only half believe He rose from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
In Luke 24, Christ reveals himself to the disciples. Verses 46-47 note, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
The idea of Jesus not being raised from the dead contradicts the power of God, the divinity of Christ, and discounts our salvation through Jesus. We need to help young adults understand the significance of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins so we can have eternal life (John 3:16).
Encourage Gen Z members to read about the crucifixion and Christ’s resurrection in all four Gospels. Ask them why Jesus’ sacrifice is significant to our everyday walk with Christ.
“Jesus is not Active in the World Today”
Barna’s study found that only 32% of Christian teens believe Jesus is active in the world today — meaning a majority do not see Him as working and present in their everyday lives.
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
We can start showing the next generation that Christ is still active in our world by giving practical examples from our lives. Share stories of how Christ provided for you, healed you, or changed your life. Ask young adults to examine their own lives and find instances where God was at work.
Young people may not be as aware of how Christ is working in their lives because they are preoccupied with the busyness of the world around them or don’t know what to look for.
The studies from Barna and American Bible Society reveal to us the importance of biblical literacy among next generation members. If we aren’t engaging them in the Word, encouraging them to read the Bible, and holding them accountable, their beliefs in Jesus will be misconstrued.
Whether it’s through the sermons we preach, speaking in young adult groups, or even meeting one-on-one with a Gen Z member, we need to ask them questions about who they believe Jesus is. They may view Jesus and other aspects of the Bible in a different light that reflects our culture and not the truth.
If we aren’t intentional about asking young people questions and teaching them about who Jesus is — from a biblical perspective — it can affect their spiritual walk and how they interact with others.
Influence Magazine & The Healthy Church Network
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