I was born in 1996, which means that technically, I’m a millennial; but the more I read about Gen-Z, the more I feel I belong with them. They’re skeptical, anxious, depressed, cynical, media-obsessed, and wary of organized religion. Bisexuality is on the rise among them, and they're losing their faith in droves.
Sounds like I’d fit right in.
For the past few weeks, the Christian media has been caught up in the reports coming out of Asbury University in Kentucky, where a Wednesday morning chapel service stretched on for days, then weeks, as students came together to worship, repent, and testify to the work God is doing in their lives.
I’m not quite sure I buy it.
Like many of “my generation,” I was/have been/am still kinda skeptical of the reports from Asbury. I was raised in a charismatic home, and I’ve sat through the intense prayer meetings, walked the Jericho walks, gone to the multi-hour worship services. I’ve seen a woman pantomime pulling a “demon of depression” out of another young woman’s head, I’ve seen prayer warriors shake with the fervor of battle, I’ve heard people spontaneously burst into song, yelling, and unknown tongues.
I’ve also gone forward to the altar at many a VBS not because I felt convicted, but because my friends were doing it. Or because I felt bad for the leaders, who seemed so desperately to want someone, anyone, to come forward and dedicate their lives to Christ.
So as the revival continued, and the crowds gathered, I remained skeptical. Is this a real move of God, or is it a move of people who, while well intentioned, might be letting their desperation get the better of them?
I didn’t make a trip out to the college. I have no firsthand knowledge of the atmosphere or the content; I’ve had to rely solely on other writers’ reports. And the reports are... strange.
What has struck me the most about the reports from Asbury is how different what’s happening there seems to be from anything I’ve ever experienced as a charismatic revival. Attendees don’t talk about dramatic healings, exorcisms, and crowds falling down slain in the spirit– they’re talking about peace. In fact, revival leaders have halted exorcisms, shofar blowers, and aggressive prayer warriors by appealing to the peaceful spirit of the event. If God has revealed himself in this place, then he has revealed himself as the God of peace: Jehovah Shalom.
And if this is true, then like Scully and Mulder from The X Files, “I want to believe.”
I want to believe because this is exactly what Gen-Z needs.
Gen-Z is anxious, depressed, cynical, and jaded– but if the quiet revival is real, then it shows God is listening to his children. Like he saw Hagar in the wilderness and provided for her needs, He has seen Gen-Z, and provided them with peace and assurance. Gen-Z is a generation raised on hype, where every new product that pops up on their social media feed promises to transform their lives for the better. Can we really be surprised that God showed up as a God of peace to this generation? If He was going to get their attention, He had to do something different.
If this is true, then I think we’re in for a powerful move of God in the near future– but I expect it will be different than anything we’ve seen before. Traditional charismaticism likes the dramatic transformation, which certainly makes a for a good story, but can also lead to the desperation that fueled so many of the events I grew up attending. People become desperate for that big, dramatic move of God that changes them in an instant– and if they’re not careful, they’ll find themselves chasing a magic bullet. If Asbury has shown us anything, it’s that Gen-Z isn’t interested in the transformational magic bullet– they’re responding to Jehovah Shalom.
So I almost (almost!) hope that the reports are true, and the Quiet Revival is real, through my inner skeptic still gnaws at the back of my mind. Perhaps the coming months will reveal the truth of what has happened at Asbury and the other campus revivals, and we’ll be able to see more clearly if and how God has moved in these places. Maybe the Spirit truly is being poured out afresh on Gen-Z.
Or maybe it’s just another hype train.