Rumblings of Revival among Gen Z?

Rumblings of Revival among Gen Z?

The old way of thinking about apologetics or seeker ministries was to avoid the hot topics. But Vance can testify that young people aren’t put off by these conversations. On the contrary, they lean into them because they’re hot. The cultural craziness of the moment is an opening.

I love Tim Keller’s definition of revival: “The intensification of the ordinary operation of the work of the Holy Spirit, occurring mainly through the ordinary ‘instituted means of grace’—preaching, pastoring, worship, prayer.” It’s broad enough to not overly specify the forms a revival might take while narrow enough to give you a sense of God at work, helping you identify the signs of revival when you see them.

Today, I wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of a revival among Gen Z, particularly those in college. As I survey the landscape, I see signs of hope and renewal that strike me as unexpected and remarkable.

Generational Awakening?

Late last year, Kyle Richter and Patrick Miller reported on the renewed interest and enthusiasm of the college students in their area and pointed to similar outbreaks of spiritual fire elsewhere. They believe this generation may be primed for spiritual renewal.

Gen Z is spiritually starved. The disorienting circumstances of the last three years—a global pandemic, countless mass shootings, the woke wars, a contested election, rapid inflation, and widespread abuse scandals—created a famine of identity, purpose, and belonging. Gen Z is hungry for the very things the empty, desiccated temples of secularism, consumerism, and global digital media cannot provide, but which Jesus can.

As I meet with pastors and church leaders or visit churches and universities, I see signs of this spiritual hunger. The Asbury Awakening in 2023 was a big news story—an ordinary chapel turning into an ongoing service of praise and worship, confession of sin, and celebration of salvation, which garnered attention from all over the country and sparked similar stirrings of spiritual intensity in other colleges and universities.

I pondered the question Asbury presses upon us, and I noted Asbury Theological Seminary president Timothy Tennent’s wise hesitation to call the awakening a “revival.” “Only if we see lasting transformation,” he wrote, “which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight and say ‘yes, this has been a revival.’”

In the last two months, I’ve spoken at two churches associated with The Salt Company—City Church in Tallahassee, Florida, and Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. Both churches are teeming with students—passionate, spiritually hungry, mission-minded. “On fire for Jesus,” as we used to say. Cornerstone Church has experienced tragedy in recent years. In 2022, two young women were shot and killed before the start of a Thursday night service. The church has come through a season of grief, but God has been at work in it all, bringing about evangelistic fruitfulness.

Signs of God at Work

During my visit to Cornerstone, I asked pastor Mark Vance, who’s in contact with a wide range of leaders in churches and ministries across the country, what he’s seeing. What are the signs that God is up to something?

1. Conviction of Sin

Vance notes intensified conviction of sin among believers. Repentance is normal. Consistent. There’s deep remorse and a heartfelt desire to turn from sin.

Some of the repentance stories are remarkable, including a girl who was living with a boyfriend and came under conviction during a message on holiness—and decided to move out that very night. The church scrambled to facilitate lodging for her so she could follow Jesus in this area. Vance can recount many stories. Conviction of sin, assurance of salvation—these are the signs that sleep-walking Christians are waking up.

2. Heightened Desire for Spiritual Disciplines

Another rumbling of revival among young people is the yearning for spiritual discipline, for an encounter with God through ordinary means, such as deeper study of God’s Word, and a yearning to pray well and often.

Old traditions are back. Fasting during Lent. Rituals deeply rooted in church history. Kneeling prayer. Prayer at fixed hours of the day.

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