learning from Gen Z

A fascinating phenomenon is happening in a small Kentucky town, on a fairly unheralded college campus. It’s spreading. And increasingly attracting the attention of massive others. People are driving to… flying in… all ages and ethnicities…

From NBC: “A Christian service at a college chapel in Kentucky has ballooned into a nonstop prayer and worship session that some are calling a ‘revival’ — and people are traveling thousands of miles to take part in it after seeing viral videos on TikTok.”

From CBS: “Thousands of people are flooding to Wilmore, Kentucky, to attend an ongoing chapel service. But what started in Kentucky has now made its way to Lee University.”

[… to Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama and more…]

From ABC: “It’s something that people are live streaming. It’s something we see posted about on social media. And I think that this is the beginning of unity like we’ve never seen before.”

Following their regular weekly chapel service at Asbury University a week ago Wednesday — in a service described as “ordinary” and “unremarkable” — students stuck around. They began to share, pray, and worship. More ventured in. They spontaneously stayed; they were spontaneously stirred. They began to confess, repent, and encourage one another in that confession and repentance. Bottom line: they were intentionally seeking God together. And they continue still today.

Yes, something unique is happening. And let it be lost on no one that it started in one of our youngest generations.

In my observations, interactions and study of Gen Z, one of the things I deeply admire is their collective craving for authenticity. It’s important to stand for something meaningful — to be true to themselves — and to be consistent.

Unfortunately, they haven’t always witnessed such in we adults who’ve gone before them.

They’ve sadly grown up in these recent decades of rampant, polarizing disunity, value digression and cultural confusion. They’ve grown into adulthood watching supposedly mature adults have no idea how to handle disagreement. They’ve seen us act as if it’s ok to selectively love your neighbor, like it depends on who your neighbor is. They’ve seen us justify judgment, unkindness and absurdity. We can’t continue like this. It’s a totally unsustainable path. We need a solution. That solution will not be found in any person or politics. And Gen Z knows this.

I’m not sure Gen Z has always known how to articulate what they’ve experienced; geepers — I don’t always know how to articulate such. So as we resist stereotyping all into groupthink, I have no doubt Gen Z has witnessed an inauthenticity that’s preceded them.

Which leads us back to Asbury, Kentucky, and the students who lingered… and the masses that have grown. They want something more. No people. No politics.

And so they bowed. They bowed, visibly demonstrating a posture of reverence and humility.

Let’s be honest; it hasn’t been all that cool lately for 20-something’s to openly seek God — to give Him credit or praise Him out loud… that is, unless you’re standing on a Super Bowl sideline. And yet it’s amazing what happens when we do… when we recognize human hands are incapable of solution for the unsustainable paths.

The college kids have thus been teaching us by seeking God in earnest. In a posture of humility. With zero condemnation. I think that’s beautiful. I think we adults have much to learn. Again, imperfect as we are.

Let’s go one more step here today. Let us acknowledge that this may well be a difficult phenomenon to understand for some. God gets that. He has sweet patience with the skeptic (remember the origin of a “doubting Thomas”??). But let’s be real, friends; there is a clear difference between healthy skepticism versus condemnation veiled as thoughtful critique. We tend to criticize what we don’t understand; we stunt our own growth. Sometimes we’re even critical of a childlike faith, dismissing the beauty… or in this case, the beauty within Gen Z.

We need divine discernment. We can’t know all things without it. We all need to learn to crave that.

I think those 20-something’s know that, too. I think that’s why they’ve craved for more. May we thus learn from them — from their absolute beautiful posture of both reverence and humility.