Certainly, there is concern for the next generation of young people and I think you have to be gratified by what transpired on college campuses several months ago, originating at Asbury University in Kentucky but spreading to other locations.
A new Barna Group survey shows that around two-thirds of American teens identify as Christian, as well as about half of young adults, but there is still room to grow. Because only around one-third of those teens in the U.S. would fall into the category of “Committed Christian.” Worldwide, it’s less than 1/4. These are the numbers for teens 13-17 years of age. The numbers drop when you get into the 18-22 group:
The committed Christian category shrinks by nearly half (to 17%), while more than half of young adults (52%) do not identify as Christian or don’t know of Jesus.
Teens and young adults do seem to be longing to spend time in the presence of God, if these revival meetings are any indications. Spontaneous, lengthy times of worship, confession, and fellowship with God demonstrate a hunger among teenagers and young adults.
The Barna research does show some positive signs in that age group of 13-17 which contains promise for those who will be inhabiting those campuses in the future. The survey summary states:
Teens in the U.S. are far more intrigued than their global peers, with 77 percent being at least somewhat motivated to keep learning about Jesus throughout their lives. A teen’s personal commitment to follow Jesus goes hand in hand with their motivation to study him—the percentage of teens who want to learn more about Jesus rises significantly among committed Christian teens. Even among teens who are non-Christians or don’t know who Jesus is, however, over half is at least somewhat motivated to keep learning about him.
And, where do teens go for information relative to their spiritual lives? The survey summary relates:
Regardless of their level of commitment to follow Jesus, U.S. teens place a significant amount of trust in religious texts and their households to learn about Jesus. Teens are more likely to report looking to these sources than to social media, the Internet, their friends or influencers.
The report does state that, “Nominal Christian teens, after turning to scripture or a family member, are quick to look to themselves.”
The Free Press website featured an insightful article by Olivia Reingold on the series of events at Asbury, which stated:
Some Asbury students told me they grew up praying for a revival—meaning a resurgence of faith that spreads, usually at a community level but occasionally throughout the entire nation. Those students believe that dream is now becoming reality among the generation marked by its lack of faith in anything.
Gen Z is the most likely generation yet to say they don’t believe in God. They are also the least religiously affiliated and the least likely to attend church.
Meantime, their rates of depression and anxiety are soaring. The Centers for Disease Control recently published a report stating that “almost 60% of female students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year and nearly 25% made a suicide plan.”
In what I believe is a related development, the film, Jesus Revolution, which is set during a time period when a move of God began in Southern California, a time period in which Greg Laurie came to know Christ and began to preach, exceeded box office projections and placed in the solid #3 position at the box office during its opening weekend, with $15.8 million at just under 2500 screens, according to Box Office Mojo. The film has gone on to gross in excess of $50 million and is now available on home video. It garnered an A+ CinemaScope rating.
I would hope that, if Jesus tarries, the current wave that seems to be occurring would be looked back upon 10, 20, 50 years from now and say this is when America, when our world, returned to God. Asbury may have started a wave and only God knows where it’s going – we just have to be faithful to continue to pray and call out to Him.
Larry Norman recorded a song many years ago that was entitled, “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus?” It is apparent the world’s methods aren’t going to totally numb the pain. The truly effective answers don’t lie in superficial relationships on social media, pills and bottles, and immersion in tech. Jesus is calling each of us to a fresh, deep, abiding relationship with Himself.
With the insufficient answers that abound, it is time to take a look at THE answer! Jesus loves us and gave His life for our sins so that we could be saved and have a true, life-changing relationship with Him.