Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post called Evangelism From a GenZ Perspective in preparation for our Exponential Global Conference. With evangelism as the central theme, it was on the forefront of our hearts and minds as we entered the week-long equipping session that was Exponential 2023.
At the conference, I had the pleasure of speaking to several influential Christian leaders about evangelism and how GenZ can overcome some of the current obstacles that we face when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus. My conversation with Noemi Chavez was powerful and unforgettable. Here’s a recap of some of the most important points that I took away from our conversation as an evangelistic GenZer:
What do you see as the biggest hurdle for evangelism and GenZ? How would you encourage us to overcome it?
“I think that the hurdle has to do more with how we as the church are being perceived by GenZ. So, we are the hurdle. The trust part is important for GenZ. They need to be able to trust us. I think GenZ wants to have a relationship with people and not just view them from a distance. So, much of the hurdle in any generation, the church can’t expect the generation to jump the hurdle; the church needs to find a way to remove the hurdle.”
“I have this feeling that GenZ actually wants to have conversations with people. The church, in the last 10-15 years, got more comfortable with being on a stage. We got more comfortable with not having to be in proximity, and that was what was modeled to the leadership. Now we have to change that model. How can we find ways to come closer, to have conversations, to be accessible, to be authentic, and to present a gospel that revolutionizes your life?”
“We are all in a process and a journey, and there is grace for that. I think sometimes Christianity can make young people nervous to think, ‘I can’t be that great.’ [or] ‘I am not that holy’[or] ‘I don’t know that I can keep up with these Christians.” But more so, this is a journey, and you’re following Jesus. As you’re following, in your conversations with Him, you’re transformed by Christ. The way you walk with Jesus is by walking with others. I think that walking more closely together, making [ourselves] more accessible as leaders, and more table conversations [will help many generations overcome this hurdle.]”
Noemi’s insight is spot on: GenZ craves trusting relationships. It’s one of the keys to evangelism for GenZ because it is the language they speak. Compassion and care are a great place to start because that’s where Jesus starts, and I believe Noemi’s words capture this truth.
What is your evangelism strategy and how would you translate it to GenZ?
“I would say much of our evangelism strategy has to do with…calling the church to live out the gospel in their circles of influence. Wherever they do life, we want to see the body of Christ commissioned to carry the gospel. So, evangelism means Christians, and not just pastors, are living out their faith in the world.”
“I think evangelism is more relational than simply us saying things to people. So, [we need to be] willing to create tables where people eat, talk, and share life with people who are very different from them because the proximity is what changes us. [It’s how] we communicate the gospel. If you care enough about somebody, that proximity changes how you communicate the gospel. You don’t want the gospel to meet them; you want the gospel to invite them. Relationally, the gospel invites us.”
“I think that our job is not just to have people follow Jesus, although that is the goal, but sometimes it’s to get people to start a conversation with God. If how I live my life, how I care for you, how I walk with you, and how I’m just your friend causes you to start wanting to talk to God, then all I am is an initiator of a conversation in your life. Maybe someone else will lead you to Jesus, but I helped you start a conversation with the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who was hoping and waiting that you would.”
Genuine conversations seem to be a connecting thread between all three of my conversations with these leaders. We tend to take so much of the work of evangelism upon ourselves, which causes unwanted pressure that gets in the way of these special conversations we long to have. Keep it simple. If you don’t know how to begin, pray, and start building relationships with those already around you.
What do you think that it looks like to be bold in evangelism?
“There are more kids than ever that are addicted to things. Everything is at the fingertips. These things that the enemy is doing to this generation in entrapping them is going to change the culture of their growth and maturity. But for those young believers who have experiences the faithfulness and goodness of God in their lives, I would [call them] a janitor. You’ve got keys that break free and unlock the chains off of people’s lives.”
“You either live a Christian life where you’re afraid to unlock what keeps people bound, or you allow yourself to be a changemaker in your generation.”
Calling all janitors – we need your keys! Addictions and mental health issues can be extremely discouraging. Praise God that Jesus Christ is in the business of redemption and restoration. This is a call to be about His business, too.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give an evangelistic GenZer?
“Live your faith our courageously. Believe that the message of Jesus can still transform lives and break chains of addictions off of your friends’ lives. It can heal the broken hearts of people in your generation who are dealing with anxiety and depression. If you’re 15 years old or 18 years old, the power of the gospel in you can change the life of your friends forever. You could mark a change of the legacy of where their life is headed through you willing to courageously follow Jesus. He is worth following and he is worth trusting.”
“Your life is telling the story of the Savior that is reaching for your generation. Let it be told loudly!”
You already have influence. You have an amazing story to tell. You have permission to be loud about what Jesus has done for you. In fact, it’s encouraged! Use whatever form of influence that God has already given you to share your personal testimony. GenZ desires authenticity and vulnerability, and your story is the best way to cultivate a space for that.
Why is evangelism not a lost cause?
“I think it’s not a lost cause because it’s the bride of Christ. People always say that the gospel is in danger, but it’s been in danger in every generation. There are so many things that threaten the message of Jesus, but it’s unstoppable. The church is not going anywhere. The bride of Christ is not going anywhere. The move of God is not going anywhere; it’s here to stay.”
“As long as there are people, God will move.”
“If the church is not paying attention, God will raise up people from the gutters [and the margins] and He will make them preachers of the gospel because their lives will tell the story of the work of God in them.”
The church is not just God’s vessel; it’s God’s mission. He has no plan to abort any time soon. He has equipped us with everything we need to share the good news with the world; we just have to say “yes.” Your life tells the story of God’s faithfulness. Say “yes” to the ways that God is calling you to share it.
Madison Burnette is a current senior Bible and Theology major at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, TN. She is a Nashville native who aspires to write blogs, Bible studies, devotionals, and curriculum as a form of ministry. Madison is also a Content Team intern with Exponential. Her current favorite Scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Check her out on her blog.