Introducing Generation Z

Introducing Generation Z

Introducing

Generation Z

Introducing Generation Z

BY KIM HURTADO
BSF RESEARCH ANALYST
“… we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
His power, and the wonders He has done.” – Psalm 78:4b

I recently asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up.  

Expecting to hear the words “doctor,” “engineer” or “behavioral scientist,” he quickly dashed those hopes. 

“YouTuber, mom,” he said. “I want to be a YouTuber.”  

It’s no wonder. Last year, a 7-year-old reported earning $22 million from his personal YouTube channel, Ryan Toysreview, where nearly 19 million subscribers watch him unbox and play with toys. 

Meanwhile, my daughter burst out laughing as she scrolled through my iPhone pictures and said, “Aww … what a cute old-people selfie!” When I asked, “What’s an old-people selfie?,” she fell on the floor in hysterics.  

(Apparently, an “old-people selfie” is a photo of your entire face. Young people intentionally crop out half of a face to make their photography more interesting.) 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Gen Z.   

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z are those born from 1999 to 2015. This generation currently constitutes the largest percentage of the country’s population, eclipsing American Baby Boomers, who held the majority for close to 50 years. 

The old order is fading, and the new order is growing 

What do Gen Zers believe?

The U.S. marketing research firm Barna Group says that unlike previous generations, when it comes to religious identity, only 4% of Gen Z have a biblical worldview. 

The percentage who identify as atheist – 13% – is double that of all U.S. adults. That may seem like a small number, but Americans are saying, “there is no God” at increasingly younger ages.

According to Pew Research Center, the “nones,” or people who do not identify with any religion, are at the highest percentages in history. This includes 23% of all U.S. adults and 35% of U.S. adult Millennials, a trajectory that Gen Z will continue. 

And more than half say that happiness is their ultimate goal in life, which equates to financial success.

What’s influencing them?

Gen Z is the first generation to have been exposed to smart technology and social media from birth. According to Barna, 57% of kids and teens look at the screen four or more hours per day; 26% spend eight or more hours a day on their devices – that’s an entire work day!  (My son requires an entire power strip to charge his devices!) 

In this digital world and as a result of social media, we have entered the era of the “democratization of influence.” In previous generations, family heritage and upbringing were the top influences in forming a person’s identity. But Barna reports that Gen Z ranks these fifth.  

While family, teachers, pastors or coaches used to be the primary voices of influence, we now compete with a multitude of worldviews streamed directly to kids’ devices. This generation is being discipled by their smart phones, YouTube and Google. 

This generation is being discipled by their smart phones, YouTube and Google. 

As a result, Gen Z is exposed to a false sense of reality. YouTubers often spend hours editing videos to portray a personal brand. On social media, kids are less likely to cultivate meaningful relationships because of an increased pressure to create a flawless, happy, successful or funny persona.   

The same technology that was designed to “make the world more open and connected,” which was Facebook’s original mission statement, is helping kids disengage from physical communities and relationships. 

Therefore, it should not surprise us that we are seeing an exponential rise in depression and lonliness.

From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. suicide rate increased 30%. Among females, the number skyrocketed to 50%. For teen girls, the number tripled since 2000. 

We can help

Surprisingly, Barna research shows that this young generation – whose top priority is attaining happiness and financial success – is willing to ask difficult questions about the meaning of life. The study reports that the rise in moral relativism, or the lack of a strong moral code, arises more from a confusion about truth than an actual rejection of it.  

So, this generation is not necessarily rejecting the God of the Bible. They know little about Him.  

What an opportunity! In love, patience and understanding, let us help them see the Lord. 

Judges 2:10 reminds us that there were consequences when the Israelites failed to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord.

 “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

Let us not repeat that.  

My hope is that God’s Word awakens an excitement to reach the next generation for Christ, instilling a sense of purpose and mission in each and every one of us.   

We do not have to know all the answers. We can simply share what God has done for us. Through our time in God’s Word in our BSF studies, we have much to share!  

As we look beyond ourselves, let us be willing to engage – not just with our minds and our theology, but with a humble heart, free of judgment. We can have a heart that is willing to say, “I don’t know all the answers. But I know that I love you. Let’s search for the answer together.”   

“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old – things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78: 1-7)

Passing the torch

Passing the torch

Passing the torch

BY BENNETT ROLAN |
BSF BLOG EDITOR
“One generation commends your works to another,
they tell of your mighty acts.” – Psalm 145:4

G od gifted John Humphrey Amuasi with a passionate mind.  

As a medical physicist, John’s research achievements are vast, and his accolades are many. But John is driven by more than professional success. His heart for the Lord compels him to advance the gospel of Christ while pursuing his research for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. 

Before John became a celebrated medical physicist or a beloved BSF board member, he was a young Christian who learned from a mature generation of believers.  

“Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. The great mentoring I personally received from my supervisors was an example for me to follow,” John said. “I need God’s grace to practice living for Jesus with a willing heart in the workplace as well as in the church, (knowing) that Jesus is with me and watching everything.” 

Growing up in Ghana, John seized every opportunity to pursue his passion. The path took him around the world and allowed him to collaborate with the pre-eminent medical physicists of his generation. John has served more than 40 years on the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, where he was dean of the School of Nuclear Sciences, and as an expert and consultant for the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

His work included tumor detection and treatment using imaging technologies (CT, SPECT, PET and MRI). Among his most highly regarded achievements was helping establish the first two National Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine Centers in the two major cities in Ghana Accra and Kumasi to “manage the menace of cancer in the West African sub-region.” 

A heart for Christ

Early in his career, John’s wife, Joyce, was invited to participate in a Bible Study Fellowship prayer group. In 1990, the group established an Evening Women’s Class, and John saw God working firsthand through BSF. He soon joined a men’s prayer group, which evolved into an Evening Men’s Class, where John served as a substitute teaching leader.  

Over the years, John has served in various BSF roles, including his position on the board of directors, from which he is retiring after 12 years of service. When asked about his BSF experience, John immediately turns the conversation to God’s Word and BSF’s focus to magnify God and mature His people. 

“God has used BSF to deepen my relationship with Him and to strengthen (my) outreach work,” he said. I must say my commitment to BSF work has impacted every aspect of my secular work.” 

Creating a legacy

This is evident through John’s deep conviction to equip the next generation of physicists. In fact, John regards his mentoring work as one of the greatest blessings in his career. 

Citing the priest Jehoida, a little-known character in 2 Chronicles, John views biblical mentoring as a responsibility with far-reaching impact. 

In 2 Chronicles 24:1-2, Jehoida provided wise counsel to the 7-year-old king Joash, and “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoida the priest instructed him.” 

Through Jehoida’s guidance, the young king restored God’s temple and directed His people to right worship. At the end of Jehoida’s life, the prophet received the great honor of being “buried with the kings in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel for God and His temple” (2 Chronicles 24:16). 

“What good did Jehoiada do? He passionately mentored 7-year-old king Joash until he became a great king,” John said. “It is said that the Christian youth (the next generation) is the backbone of the Church. I believe this backbone can be strengthened through mentorship to make the next generation more effective in every respect.” 

As a young man, John learned from mentors in both his profession and his church. They were men who helped guide and counsel him through the challenges of work, life and faith. Today, John is filling that role for several young physicists, along with many others through church and BSF. 

“I am always challenged by Jesus’ statement in Luke 12:48b: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,” John quoted. “On my return to Ghana, I soon realized that much had been given me, and so I needed to commit myself to serving my Lord and my nation. I asked for God’s grace, guidance and enablement to fulfill every demand, including mentorship.” 

Though challenging at first, John stepped into his mentoring role with a sense of humility and compassion, recognizing that true wise counsel comes from God alone. 

“Having someone in our lives to guide us toward faith and Christlikeness can be good and helpful,” John shared. “Even better is getting to know the Lord ourselves and learning to rely on the Holy Spirit to be our guide. That is making our faith personal. So it is with any type of mentorship. The mentor’s goal is to assist and guide his mentee to excel and become relevant in their chosen profession, be it sacred or secular, like the medical physics profession.” 

Like Jehoida, whose wise counsel impacted the Jewish nation, John’s mentoring work is making a significant difference in the medical physics field. 

One of John's mentees shared:

“Prof. John Amuasi’s mentorship style transcends academics. He affects the religious and moral lives of his mentees, as well. He has always provided wise counsel, which has shaped my personal and moral life as a husband and father of two. Not only his words of inspiration and encouragement make him a great mentor, (but also) Prof. Amuasi’s personal lifestyle is one big example that many young colleagues, like myself, have always admired. He always brings his mentees closer to know God and to live exemplary lives. This has resulted in him producing many great personalities who occupy great positions.”

This mentee’s doctoral research thesis won prestigious such awards as Best Poster Presentation Award at the Maiden University of Ghana Doctoral Conference in 2015 and the world’s Young Scientist Award by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP) in 2016.

Taking action

As believers, we have the unique opportunity to influence the next generation for Christ. Whether we serve in the children’s program at BSF, build relationships in the workplace or pour into younger BSF group members, God can use each of us to spread His wisdom from one generation to the next. 

Would you take a moment to pray about how God might want to use you in this way? Together, like John Amuasi, we can offer truth and encouragement to a lost world, one life at a time. 

Sabotaging Difficult Conversations

Sabotaging Difficult Conversations

Sabotaging 

difficult

conversations

Sabotaging

Difficult

Conversations

BY DR. DARRELL BOCK
DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

I  n our first blog post, we covered the goal in a difficult conversation: mutual understanding of each participant’s viewpoint. This is not the same as agreement but a shared understanding about the nature of the conversation and any differences.  

Assessment of what to do follows this understanding. It requires a commitment to truly listen to the other person. To go into a difficult conversation to simply win usually results in no real conversation at all.  

In this post, we will consider what often undercuts effective conversations. Anyone who watches TV and our current examples of discourse will see these regular violations of good conversations. 

 

What does not work well in conversations, even difficult ones?

There are at least five things that can take a conversation down. If we are honest, we all use these methods. They are forms of deflection and usually indicate something we perceive as needing protection. So, unfortunately, we go there.  

In our conversations, we either move against someone, withdraw from real engagement or move toward someone. I can move toward a person without agreeing with them by respecting their perspective, hearing it and being able to restate it so the other person can say, “You heard what I have said. The building of such trust and respect will help assess what can or needs to be done 

But at least five things can stifle reaching that goal. 

The Quick Confession with a Pivot

 

 Someone brings up something that is a problem for the view I hold. My response involves quickly acknowledging the problem (the confession). But then I immediately pivot by pointing to a shortcoming of the other side. I call this the “yes, but the your side is worse” response. This fails to help for two reasons. 

 

  1. It refuses to focus on what might be contributing to the problem or issue from the end I support. It may even pretend that my side’s role is small or insignificant when it may not be. 
  2. Even though there is an issue on my side, the pivot ultimately downplays my side’s role or disrespects what has been raised. It immediately tries to pin the majority of the blame elsewhere. That is not a move toward understanding. Instead, it blames. It puts assessment in a dominant and often premature place. 
The Curse of Labels

 

In a word or two, we label an idea negatively, play “Taps” over it and put it to rest by deeming it unworthy of more detailed comment. We label something as liberal or conservative, socialist or fundamentalist, blue or red. The list goes on 

Using labels ultimately destroys any possibility to move forward. It’s a lazy attempt at engagement. They dismiss the person behind it.  

Jesus used labels sparingly and carefully. By not dismissing Zaccheus as a “tax collector” or the woman at the well as “a divorced Samaritan,” Jesus turned everyday conversations into opportunities for eternal significance. 

Assigning Motive

 

Another tactic is to assign a motive, usually a negative one, to the position being presented. Often this is done to suggest insincerity or a disingenuous motive. The goal is to suggest the idea has no merit or basis because its intent is illwilled. To truly know the intent of another person requires a prophetic gift many of us lack.  

Assuming motive communicates a level of disrespect. It suggests the real reason for something is not what is being presented.  

This also is a tricky category because sometimes motives are mixed and not always clean. However, to start here is really raising questions about integrity that may not be the case. This is a form of moving away from another in a conversation.

Thinking Poorly or Skeptically about Seeking Common Ground

 

This category is subtle because it is rarely expressed but operates underground. It is the sense that if I move toward someone and acknowledge the merit of a point, they interpret it as a defection from my view. 

Another variation of this is to think in an allornothing binary mode. This approach says there are only two views when a series of options might exist. Such thinking works against a move toward mutual understanding 

An initial move toward understanding is rarely a negative move in a difficult conversation. Remember, understanding is not the same as agreement. Especially for Christians who hold to the truth of the Bible and stand firm in their convictions, understanding another person’s viewpoint is a loving desire to comprehend the exact nature of a disagreement.  

We should not assume we know the problem. Understanding says you and I agree that this is the content of what you are saying and why. Agreement says I am affirming what you are saying and why. That is an important difference. Mutual understanding sets the stage for a better level of discussion when assessments are undertaken.  

Much dysfunction is twosided. Limiting options or hesitating to see your role as contributing to a problem often can contribute to a breakdown in making a conversation profitable. 

Tribalism

 

Tribalism says I can never show weakness or acknowledge a shortcoming. I can never give ground, not even a few inches. This approach shuts off being self-critical and willing to grow. It almost assumes an omniscience none of us possesses. It is treated as a sign of weakness or defection from my side. It almost always works against a profitable conversation. It misreads loyalty to a side with a necessity to never give ground.  

An important counterexample involves the prophets. One could say they were very pro-Israel. They loved and believed the cause of the people of God, their people, their tribe. They were tribal in that sense, but they also were extremely self-critical. They were honest about when their side came up short. They recognized growth only happens when shortcomings are faced and dealt with. When I get so tribal that I cannot see legitimate fault or even consider it, I am setting myself up for failure in terms of real growth. 

These are some ways we sabotage conversations. They turn us into poor listeners. 

We still have two other themes to cover. One is what we can do to advance conversations, and the second is how holding our convictions enter into our conversational engagement. We’ll cover those next week 

Hopefully, seeing what we do to undercut conversations can help us better engage in fruitful conversations by avoiding those things that prevent us from getting there. 

Dr. Darrell Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He hosts The Table Podcast, leading discussions related to God, Christianity and culture.

Better difficult conversations setting the table

Better difficult conversations setting the table

Better difficult conversations:

Setting the table

Better difficult conversations: Setting the table

BY DR. DARRELL BOCK
DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

S ometimes the most substantive conversations we have are the difficult ones.  

Whether we’re talking with a child, a spouse, a colleague or discussing core life values,  we often find ourselves engaging with someone who disagrees about what is going on or what needs to be done. This also is the case for conversations about religious differences.  

Christians tend to think about such conversations by simply asking how another person’s religious viewpoint does not line up with the Bible. This is important to know – and have an awareness of – to know where the faith discussion fits.  

However, there is another way to have such discussions that can help in engagement. It is not only to learn the beliefs of another faith but why someone might be drawn to give their life to this way of viewing faith.  

I call this getting a spiritual GPS on a person – finding out with full curiosity what makes them tick and what is driving their spiritual quest.  

How does this person approach faith? 

As the conversation begins, the goal is to determine where the other person is coming from in approaching faith. Rather than being concerned with where you are in faith, focus on where your conversation partner is. Then work from there.  

How does the gospel speak to that approach? 

In pursuing answers to these questions, you can then explore how the gospel can speak into those inclinations. However, to get there, you must understand how difficult conversations work if they are going to go somewhere.

Learning the skill

 

Developing skill at having difficult conversations is hard because we must unlearn certain habits. We must be clear about how to change the way most of us engage when the conversation gets hard.  

This blog is about setting the table for a better difficult conversation. In later blogs, I will look at what derails and what advances such conversations. Our instinct in difficult conversations is to defend turf, to be right. But that is counterproductive. It’s not because we should not defend our views, but because that defense is harmed when we start with the conclusion. In such circumstances – and this is common in difficult conversations – we do not have a constructive conversation but simply a defense.  

You can test how you are approaching a conversation by whether you are actually making an effort to listen and understand your conversation partner or forming how you will rebut what he or she is saying. 

Here are some guidelines for giving yourself a chance to have a good conversation. 

1. Clarify the conflict

It is important to understand each other and the exact nature of the disagreement. This needs to be mutually agreed upon as an initial goal, if possible. This means being able to repeat what your conversation partner is saying in ways where they say, “Yes, you understand me and what I am saying.”

2. Articulate both viewpoints

Understanding and being able to gain understanding does not equal agreement. They are distinct. In other words, moving to a mutual understanding is not compromise nor is it leaving behind convictions. It is simply laying the groundwork for a better substantive conversation.  

Understanding means you can articulate what another is saying and even why without necessarily agreeing this is so. Because each person in the conversation takes on this responsibility to try to make sure a good conversation is taking place, each person will get their chance to articulate where they are coming from and why.  

In this phase of a conversation, there is no room for rebuttal or for changing the subject by adding another element to the conversation. (That move often can derail any progress by complicating the conversation.) Rather, the goal is to align where each person is and why. With alignment, both of you can pursue either what needs to be done to fix things or determine exactly why you disagree. This puts you in a better place to assess what is going on.  

3. Agree to assess the issue

Having a better understanding of each other puts you both in a better place to make an assessment about what is going on between you. When you can agree where the actual differences exist, you are in a better place to figure out what can come next, even if it ends in an assessment that you value different things and thus come to different conclusions. 

All of this assumes our first responsibility in difficult conversations is to give an initial priority to really listening. I usually know where I stand and why, but what I may need to learn is why someone is coming from a different place than I am. 

These are initial points about difficult conversations and how to engage in them with the hope of progress. This sets the table with a chance of getting somewhere. There are other factors, such as what we do to undercut such progress and what we can do to advance the chance for progress. Those are the topics to come.

Dr. Darrell Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He hosts The Table Podcast, leading discussions related to God, Christianity and culture.

The gift of technology

The gift of technology

The gift of technology

The gift of technology

BY PETE HELGREN
BSF SOFTWARE DEVELOPER

I smiled as the couple quietly bowed their heads in the restaurant. You don’t see folks pray before their meals very often these days. Then I noticed they weren’t praying: They were taking pictures of their meals with their mobile devices. Ah, the surprises that come with living in the 21st century! As a web developer at BSF Headquarters, I’m more immersed in the technical world than most. Spending my days and nights in the glow of electronic devices makes me think about how technology has crowded our lives.

What should we think of this technology explosion?

Is the news all bad?

Can technology be good?

Since Genesis, tools have been an integral part of humanity’s work. From tilling the soil (Genesis 4:2) to playing music (Genesis 4:22), God’s people use His creativity to develop and nurture a fallen world. Sometimes that creativity has pleasing results. Sometimes the results simply confirm our need for a Savior. Like all gifts and all tools, technology can either be redemptive or destructive. We see the destruction all around us. Let’s look instead at how we can use electronic tools and technology redemptively.

Technology can help us prioritize

Our 21st century lifestyles would be busy enough without technology interrupting our daily lives. Text messages and mobile apps clamor for our attention. E-mail and social media feeds crowd our days. But using technology wisely saves us time. A quick text of assurance can relieve anxiety. A quick traffic scan saves time on the road. Personal calendars streamline our meeting times.

Technology can also help us plan for the whitespace, the quiet time we need to slow down and listen for God’s still small voice. It’s that time when we put the wind, earthquakes and fires of the day behind us. Believe it or not, we humans need that quiet time. Our brains must sort through and make sense of the daily background noise. Use the tool of technology to help you plan for some quiet time with God.

Technology can collapse the distance between people

Our God is deeply relational. In the Bible, God often interacts directly with His people (Genesis 6:13; 17:1; Exodus 3:4). We know that an all-powerful God could easily solve the problem of sin at a distance. Instead, He chose to dwell with us.

God made us in His image – as personal, moral and spiritual beings. So, connecting with God and each other personally is part of what it means to be human.

Think of all the ways the Triune God could speak to us today. Daily tweets or a text message or two. And who wouldn’t love to have access to God’s Instagram account and the magnificence of Heaven? Instead, God chose to come to us in human form, and communicated that encounter to us through inspired human authors, for human good.

Embrace your God-given relational nature! Whenever you can, join with your brothers and sisters in Christ in a personal, face-to-face way. Text an invite to someone you haven’t been with in a while to join in study, prayer or encouraging conversation over coffee. Linger before or after class or your group meeting to connect. Check to see if a virtual group member lives in your area to put a physical presence on that virtual friendship you enjoy.

Use technology to schedule time to be without technology. Use impersonal electronic communication to meet personally, with someone you care about. The tools we use change us, but they shouldn’t define us. Our identity isn’t found on Facebook, it is found in Christ. So, use the tool of technology, a God-given gift, to conform to His likeness: Set aside time with our Father, seek out others personally to share Christ.

Like any tool, we can use technology for evil or for good. Remember that it IS a good gift from a good God who wants us to spend more time with Him and more quality time with each other, in person, building up the body of Christ. Yes, technology can get in the way. It can use up precious time and put distance between us when we really yearn to be together. But if we use technology wisely, we can grow close to God and to our brothers and sisters who share this love for God and love for His Word.

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