“You don’t have to take the Bible so literally. It’s just like poetry from which you can learn life lessons”, said the Dutch Crown Princess Amalia as she turned 18.
One of the many challenges faced by evangelical churches in these pandemic times is what to do with the growing gap between the Generation Z in their congregations (those born after 1997) and everyone else.
As churches struggle with a general crisis (falling attendance, less volunteering, financial struggle), it seems that an even more urgent underlying issue is the disconnection with a generation whose sense of purpose, identity and community has been formed in virtual spaces that most older church members have never visited – or heard of.
These Gen Z, some of which are already finishing their university studies, have grown in societies in which the Christian faith has been driven to the margins of the public debate. While 'Millenial' students used to see Christianity as one more faith in the ‘supermarket of ideas’, most young people now discard the faith that shaped Europe for good as just another unhelpful structure of the past.
As German evangelist Julia Garshagen explained in a seminar of the recent Lausanne 20/21 Gathering, younger adults in Europe see the gospel as “emotionally irrelevant, intellectually naïve, and morally harmful”.
Many perceive that religion, and especially Christianity, “restricts the people’s personal development” and “blocks science”.
And what about the Bible? 18-year-old Crown Princess of Netherlands, Princess Amalia, recently expressed views that are shared by many others in her generation. “You don’t have to take the Bible so literally. It’s just like poetry from which you can learn life lessons”, she said. Instead of being “a religious person” that believes in God, she prefers to belief in “a point of light” somewhere out there: “I can’t put a name on it, and I don’t feel the need to”.
How can Bible-believing churches in Europe show the generation of Princess Amalia the power, the truth and the breathtaking beauty of the Gospel?
In a time of accelerated cultural change, committed Christians may need to stop, engage and listen to their own Gen Z kids (those in our churches), and spend time diving with them into the Bible to discover how the message of Jesus Christ is most relevant to a generation that is looking for identity, belonging and lasting peace.