A panel of experts on evangelizing the rising generations believe that issues like “comfort,” “narcissism” and “doubt” are the biggest challenges in reaching young people. “The dangers of narcissism are huge, especially in a social media age,” said Glen Scrivener, an Australian evangelist and director of the ministry Speak Life who works in the United Kingdom. He pointed out that “in the social media age in which we live, we fall in love not even with ourselves, but we fall in love with the curated image of ourselves that we project out into the world. “It’s so empty, it’s so hollow.” Scrivener was part of a panel at The Gospel Coalition conference in Indianapolis.
He was responding to a question on “some of the most common idols” that prevent young people from becoming Christian. “As we talk about trying to lead kids to Christ, we often see that there are idols that they cling to that they don’t want to let go of in order to surrender themselves to the Lordship of Jesus,” said Cole. Scrivener connected the imagery that people put on social media to the prizing of “authenticity” in digital media and the culture. “This age is so hungry for authenticity yet we are all show, taking the selfie 17 times and putting the filter on it and getting it out there,” he stated.
Jackie Perry, an author and artist, said that she believed a major issue was “addiction to doubt.” Perry described it as “wrestling for the sake of wrestling, but never really wanting to come to a conclusion on something that you have to submit to.” “When you get some type of answer to your questions, you begin to question the answer,” continued Perry. “You don’t even want the answer. You just are addicted to questioning it.” Stephen Um, senior minister of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston, said he found “comfort” to be an “idol” for young people. Um argued that there is a problem of “oversafetyism” among young people who are “so consumed with comfort.”
Um said “They don’t want to be challenged with anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. They believe that somebody who disagrees with them is a potential threat.” A Barna Group report reveals 35% of Generation Z identify as atheist, agnostic or religiously unaffiliated. By contrast, 30% of Millennials, 30% of Generation X and 26% of Baby Boomers said the same.
Perry feels encouraged that people are being honest about their beliefs or non-beliefs which makes it easier for her to minister to such people.
Scrivener said Christians should not feel “cowed” by statistics. “Just talk to your neighbour,” he advised. “They’re wondering what life is about.”
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