There is a seismic cultural shift underway and leading the change are young adults known as Generation Z. They represent the first truly post-Christian generation. How does the church adjust to reach this large segment of society? 

James Emery White offers biblical advice on how the church can reach and teach the next generation of believers about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“What needs to happen is that the church needs to realize that it is a new day. We need to realize that we’ve moved from an Acts 2 cultural context, to an Acts 17 cultural context.”

James explains how we have moved away from the Acts 2 cultural context.

“In Acts 2 you have Peter speaking before the God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem. When you study that message, it’s fascinating what he can assume that they already know and believe and what he can instantly build off.”

“In essence he says, you guys know all about the Old Testament scriptures; you know about Moses, you know about the other prophets, you know about all the things being foretold by the coming of the Messiah. That was Jesus; you killed him. He rose again from the dead, which means repent and be saved. 3,000 did.”

We fast forward to Acts 17 and see a very different cultural context in terms of their response to the gospel message. James explains,

“They didn’t have any knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, much less the specifics of it; the messianic prophecies, Moses, and the Jewish people – they knew nothing. All they could agree on was that you couldn’t know anything, which is what the shrine to ‘The Unknown God’ is about.”

“So what Paul did do? He read that setting perfectly. He didn’t even begin with Jesus, he went all the way back to creation and began to work his way forward because he had so much explaining to do. At the end, a handful responded.”

James points out that there are vast similarities seen between Generation Z and the Acts 17 generation.

“Welcome to our world, we are in an Acts 17 world. What’s killing the church is that we’re taking an Acts 2 approach to an Acts 17 world and we’re wondering why doesn’t work.”

In a post-Christian culture, how can we effectively reach the next generation of believers with the gospel message? James says that we need to build bridges and learn how to communicate in a new and fresh way.

“The average Generation Z person is quite frankly wide open to robust ideas, it’s just a question of are you going to get their attention and communicate it in a way that is winsome and compelling to them?”

“We need to figure out, how can we build cultural bridges of understanding, begin explaining the Christian faith to them, and answering their very honest and fair questions about it in light of their post-Christian context?”

Reaching the next generation in a post-Christian context is possible. By changing our approach, we will be able to effectively teach and equip the next generation of believers to share the good news of the gospel message.


James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture. He is author of nineteen books including Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World.

Reaching the next generation of believers
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