This transcript was taken from a Stand in the Gap Today radio program originally aired on Oct. 12, 2020. To listen to the program, please click HERE.
Isaac Crockett: Well welcome, and thanks so much for listening to our program today. I’m Isaac Crockett and joining me is Sam Rohrer, the president of the American Pastors Network. And for those of you who listen faithfully, you are very accustomed to hearing Sam on the program with us, and so I thank you for listening. If you’ve been watching other news today, and if you’re listening to us live on our smartphone app or on the radio live or streaming it live, you know there’s a lot going on today in the news. And there’s a lot of things going on right now, especially with approving a Supreme Court justice that can have long-term effects on our entire nation, on our culture.
But we want to talk today about something that will have long-term effects and actually eternal impact on our churches, on our nation, on our families, on our children. Today we want to talk about authentic Christianity for the next generations, being authentic and genuine and being helpful to younger generations and specifically looking at high schoolers and college age students, or even younger, oftentimes refer to Generation Z.
To help us with that, we want to invite a return guest, Dr. Shane Pruitt. Shane is a much sought after speaker for all ages, but he seems to have a special place in his heart for Generation Z or Gen Z as they often call it. And so, Shane, thank you so much for making time to be with us today. Thanks so much for being on Stand In The Gap today with us.
Shane Pruitt: Hey, thank you so much, Isaac and Sam. Thank you all so much for having me. I love this ministry. I think the world of you guys, so it’s a true honor and joy to be on today.
Isaac Crockett: Shane, now you speak all over the country and you speak to large groups of young people, of college age students and high schoolers, especially, you’ve seen a lot of things. And 2020, of course, was something that we didn’t expect, but you’ve seen what’s going on. Even a couple of years ago, many years ago, probably, some of what you saw as a pastor and church planner, youth speaker and things, it led you to start realizing there are a lot of common cliches that Christians use, and sometimes those common little things we tell each other aren’t really true and they’re not very helpful.
But especially now, as you work with and speak to younger people, younger generations, sometimes when we just give a little cliche or a trite answer to something, they can feel like we’re avoiding the truth. I know that you’ve talked before about seeing that the younger generations are really looking for authenticity. They’re looking for genuineness. And so, how does that work out? What are some of the things you’ve seen in there?
And from there, in this program, we want to look at a book you actually wrote about some of the common misinformation that’s out there. But what are you seeing with Generation Z and their desire, not necessarily to see an older person that can “fit in” or know their lingo or all this, but somebody who can be authentic and real with them?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. I love that, Isaac. Great question. When we talk about Generation Z, I think first of all, it’s important to define who we’re talking about. I think sometimes people can get a little confused about Generation Z and Millennials. When we talk about generation Z, the easiest way to think of it right now is those that are in college, high school, junior high, and pre-teens. And when you think of Generation Z, authenticity, that word authenticity, is absolutely key. In fact, you mentioned it earlier today, starting the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett, and one of the greatest accusations that people who are opposing this nomination are making about her is her faith, that how seriously she takes her faith.
I look at that and go, “That’s not an accusation at all. That’s a high compliment.” Isn’t it interesting that people love to throw around their faith until they come across somebody who takes it serious, and then they’re like, “Oh, well, we don’t know about this person.” You know? And so, I love the fact that really, the only thing they accuse her of is how seriously she’s taken her faith, meaning she’s authentic with her faith. And I want to tell you that’s attractional to Generation Z.
Meaning this, one thing that we’ve known about Generation Z is they don’t know a world without the internet, so they’ve been exposed to culture their whole life. They’ve been exposed to worldly affairs their whole lives. They realize the world is broken. On some level, they realize they’re broken because the internet has made them addicted to things that are broken. And so, what they’re looking for is authenticity. They’re weary of propaganda, they’re weary of agendas. And so, whether they realize it or not, they’re looking for truth and authenticity.
One thing I think that is attractional to that generation is it doesn’t matter how old you are. When you’re just being yourself and you’re being honest and authentic with your faith, and being honest and authentic with your own struggles and your own need for the gospel, that is eye-opening to them. I can think of, sometimes, I hear Generation Z go, they’ll tell me, they’ll go, “Shane, I don’t believe what you believe, but I respect you because I know you believe it and you live it out.” And so, I think that’s key. What do you believe? Being able to share it. And then, living it out in a way that is authentic and transparent
Sam Rohrer: And Shane, that is encouraging. Let me ask you a question here, in this regard, do you find a difference between Generation Z, as you’ve described it, and the one above them, the Millennials, where a lot has gotten a lot of attention? Because they were the ones I first recall talking a lot about authenticity. You’re not using that for Generation Z. Is there a difference? More of an interest and more of an identification, or whatever, in this next generation? How do you compare those two generations?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, man. That’s great, yeah. When we talk about Millennials, I think the easiest way to think of Millennials right now, it’s probably those that are just 23, 24 on up to 40. I think some people forget that Millennials, older Millennials, are approaching 40. They’re married with kids and mortgages, and they’re not always the young single people you think of hanging out at a Starbucks all day. You know? There are Millennials that are married with mortgages and jobs and in places of power and leadership.
Yeah, I think one of the biggest differences you see in Millennials and Generation Z is that Millennials were still heavily exposed to religion, on some level were exposed more so to the church, so on some level they were a little more aggressive towards the church. They’re a little more complacent towards the church and faith on a large scale. I’m, of course, talking about those that are outside the faith. Generation Z is the least religious generation we’ve ever seen. According to a Wall Street Journal poll back in November, less than 30% of Generation Z says religion is important to them. Not even Christianity, just religion. So, it’s truly a post-Christian generation that’s a result of an ever-changing post-Christian culture.
When you think of Generation Z, they’re not necessarily aggressive towards the church or aggressive towards Christianity. They don’t even think about the church. They don’t even think about Christianity, meaning that they know whether they’re a Christian or not. Sometimes with millennials and Gen Xers and Boomers, on some level you almost had to convince somebody they were spiritually lost before you could share the gospel with them. Generation Z, it’s not even on their radar. So, when they are confronted with the gospel, when they’re confronted with truth, for many of them, it’s the first time they’re hearing that and I think it is eye opening to them when you stick to the truth, because that cuts through all the self-help stuff.
Isaac Crockett: And I think that’s going to be eye opening for a lot of us. Even just hearing you say that, I think, for some listening, they maybe never thought of it that way. And so, we want to talk more about that.
We’re going to take a little time out, but when we come back, we want to discuss a few things that many of us have heard, and maybe even you’ve said some of these things. We want to look whether those are biblical and whether those are helpful, especially to reaching the younger generation.
Well, welcome back to the program. I’m Isaac Crockett and joining with me today is our co-host Sam Rohrer, the president of our American Pastors Network. And our guest is Shane Pruitt, and Shane, you’ve been talking to us and just even helping explain, as we look at younger generations and reaching younger folks, that not everybody who’s younger, so to speak, is a Millennial. I mean, even as we speak, I’m a Millennial, but I’m an older Millennial. I’m in my late thirties with children and I’ve had a lot of different job experiences and things. The younger spectrum of the Millennials are more or less in their mid-20s.
And there’s a generation younger than that. We’ve been in the new millennium, we were just talking about, for two decades. I mean, it’s 2020. So, we’ve had 20 years where the Millennials now are aging, and the next younger generation is Generation Z, and you’ve been talking to us about that. You have said that they are the least religious generation we’ve seen in our country yet, but that they, as a post-Christian generation, though, they do respect authenticity. And they respect people being genuine with them, whether it means just listening to them or them listening back, even, based on what they see the interaction there. And so, this is extremely important.
Now, Shane, you and your wife, you have five children, one of your children has cerebral palsy, and I know you go through a lot of different things as a young family, the ministry that you’re involved with. And so, a lot of what you’re talking to, to these young people, it comes from your own experiences. Both your experience before you became a Christian as a college aged person, and then your experience as a young family and the different things that God has put in your life as a family and brought your way. You have a book that you’ve written that I think really helps as we look at Generation Z and coming up with things, and it kind of helps expose some of these surface level, little sayings that we sometimes almost set them aside thinking that they’re scriptural, thinking that this is Bible, and they’re not really.
And so, the name of your book that came out a little while back was Nine Common Lies Christians Believe. I remember when it first came out reading that, and it was just like every one of those points, I’m like, “Oh, I’ve heard that so many times.” And, “Oh, this is such a good response to that.” But the one in there that I thought you have probably heard a lot, especially with your son who has a cerebral palsy, is this idea that, “God won’t give me more than I can handle,” or maybe put the other way, “God, won’t give you more than you can handle.” Can you kind of talk to us about that situation and how maybe that impacted your writing on that for your book?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. Yeah, like you said, partnered with the publishers WaterBrook [Meltnomah 00:10:51] and Penguin Random House that released, in the book release of February of last year, Nine Common Lies That Christians Believe. It’s available everywhere books are sold. And really, the thought of it was there are these cultural cliches or these one-liners that we, as the church, for lack of a better term, have adopted into our faith, baptized them and made them a part of our vernacular that aren’t necessarily biblically true.
Some of those statements, like you mentioned, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” When you think of, especially, the next generation things they’ve been told, like “Follow your heart, believe in yourself,” things that we’ve all heard. Last week I preached a funeral and you even see people hearing those things around funerals. Well, “If a loved one dies, God gains another angel,” or, “God just wants me to be happy.” And so, what we did is took a book, and each chapter, took one of those cliches and then, what does the Bible actually have to say about that and a better truth to move forward with? Because what if those are more than sentiments? What if they’re actually lies that will hold us back in our faith?
Because if you think about, you often share these with people who are struggling or going through a difficult season, right? You don’t say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” to someone who’s having the best day of their life. Usually, you share it with someone who is struggling. And what we know is what’s going to get us through those dark nights of the soul is God’s Holy word and not some cultural cliche that’s not even biblically true.
And really, how this book came about was really from the overflow of our life. I have a wonderful wife named Casey. We just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. We have five kids that are 14 and under. Isaac and Sam, that is a prayer request, five kids that are 14 and under. Our two oldest daughters are biological daughters, meaning they’re Carrie, my wife and I’s DNA. Then the other three are adopted, are our kids through adoption, but they are fully our kids and carry our last name and are part of our family.
Our oldest adopted son is Titus, he’s seven. He’s adopted from Uganda and he has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, a rare seizure disorder called Lenox Gastro syndrome. So, it means he suffers from seizures every day. The first year he was home with us, there were so many things that we were not prepared for. And as he was struggling, we were struggling. I mean, you know this as a parent, as a grandparent, there’s nothing, there’s no kind of suffering like watching your children suffer. And well-meaning people during that time would tell us, “Hey, Shane, Casey, you know God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Or, “If God calls him home, then he’ll gain another angel.” And we’re like, “The Bible doesn’t teach that. That’s not what the Bible says.”
So, after a year, when we were kind of in a much better place and really returned back to the basic subscription in our life and God’s truth, and we really got in a much healthier place, we began to make this list of what are some other things that we say as Christians to encourage one another, that aren’t biblically true? And what are some better biblical truths to move forward with, even in those difficult seasons of life? And so, when you take that one, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” you can almost say, “Well, how’s 2020 working out for you?” You know what I mean? 2020 is more than we can handle, you know?
And so, it’s really not about what we can handle. When you take that statement, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” a lot of times when we look at that, we don’t want God to give us more than we can handle. A lot of times, we don’t want to think anything difficult in our lives may come from God. We don’t want to even think about that. And then, on that last part of it, it’s about what you can handle. And so, when you say that God won’t give you more than you can handle, then it’s on your shoulders. And I think that’s why so many of us, and I’m not talking about clinical depression or clinical anxiety, that’s a different conversation, but I’m talking about, I think, especially in a year like 2020, why so many people are struggling, or they feel down or depressed or overwhelmed or anxious or worried, is because we’re trying to take this on by our own power. We’re trying to handle it.
We were not created to take on this horrible, our own power. So really the promise is not God won’t give you more than you can handle. The promise is this, if you’ve been bought with the blood of Jesus and the Holy spirit of God lives inside of you, God will never give you more than he can handle through you, because it’s about faith in him, not you. It’s not about your power, it’s about his power
Sam Rohrer: And Shane, I think it’s great what you are saying there. This was in the context, all of this, as you’re sharing, you’re talking about you and others, that would be in the Millennial age, [inaudible 00:15:21] that speak, who are dealing with these issues. You got five children under 14, you’ve got a lot on your platter. I’m on the other side now, looking back at having raised six children out of the home. And I agree with you a hundred percent, those are times that challenges the best. Can you say, wow?
But are you describing, right now, the fact that when confronted with these big things, like the COVID this year and things that are much bigger than us, as times that perhaps not only clarify and purify the thinking of those who, for instance, may be Millennials or older, for their own benefit? Or are you saying perhaps how they respond to these things have a direct impact on Generation Z who may be watching how they respond to these things?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, definitely. When you think about it, a lot of these statements, “God, won’t give you more than you can handle,” the other statements like, “Follow your heart. Believe in yourself. God just wants you to be happy.” If you notice who is at the center of all that? In those statements, it’s not God at the center, it’s you at the center. And so, when we think that this world is primarily about us, when we think the Bible is primarily about us, when we think God exists to make us happy and we place ourselves at the center of the universe, on some level, that’s self-help teaching just sprinkled with some Bible verses out of context or Jesus out of context.
And so, Generation Z is coming up and they only thing they’ve been told their whole life is self-help teaching. When we, even as professing believers, if Generation Z or the next generation, come into our services or come into our ministries, and then they just hear teaching that is basically self-help teaching with Bible verses out of context, then it sounds no different than what they hear everywhere else. It sounds no different than what they hear in school. It sounds no different than what they see in culture. It sounds no different than what they see on social media, or maybe their family tells them that.
But when they come in and they realize, “Hey, this is not primarily about us. This world is about Jesus.” The Bible is not primarily a story about us. It’s primarily a story about God’s glory and how he redeemed the people. When we say, “You know what? We were not created to believe in ourselves. We were created to believe in someone bigger than ourselves.” Then that sounds completely different than anything else they hear, and it cuts right through the white noise of the self-help jargon they hear everywhere else. When they hear the Bible, when they hear truth, and like I said before, whether they believe it or not, it will stick out to them because it sounds so different than what they hear everywhere else. It’s truly counter-cultural.
And so, I think as older generations, when we just regurgitate, basically, the self-help stuff that shared with us, then generation hears that and they say, “Well, that don’t sound any different than what I hear in culture. So, how is this Christ any different than culture?” You know? And so what we got to do is point them to the truth of God’s word, point them to the truth of scripture. But for us to be able to do that, then we have to know truth and scripture. And I would say this, one of the primary issues in the church today is Bible illiteracy. People really don’t know their Bible and understand it.
Isaac Crockett: I agree with you, Shane, and we’ve talked about that on our program. We’ve had George Barna and others on our program explaining that. So helpful. Your responses have been really good, spot on. Not just biblical, but something practical, tangible, helpful, that you’re listening to this right now and you can say, “I can do that. This helps me understand and kind of helps show what to do,” and we want to talk about more of that. We want to pick your brain a little bit more, Shane. We’re going to take a brief timeout and come back, but we want to talk to you more about some of these things and how we can be biblically correct and helpful for all ages, but especially for the younger generations, and talk about your example and some of the things you’ve gone through. So, you don’t want to miss this. We’ll be right back after this brief timeout.
Welcome back. I’m Isaac Crockett joined by my cohost Sam Rohrer, And we’re talking today with a good friend and a returning guest, Dr. Shane Pruitt. And you want to catch up on maybe part of the program, if you’ve missed part of the first half, can always go online to standinthegapradio.com or our smartphone app, or any number of places there that you can catch the whole archive and share it with somebody else. If you want to know more about Shane and some of his ministries, and even see some really neat videos about his family and about him, some of his speaking, you can go to shanepruitt.com. You can find out more about his book there, too. Shanepruitt.com. That’s Shane, S-H-A-N-E, and Pruitt, P-R-U-I-T-T.com. You can find out a lot more about his ministries and his family there.
This segment, we want to talk some about some more bad theology, and Shane, you’ve already kind of brought up this idea that people say, “Well, God just wants me to be happy,” and if you start to follow that, it can really go downhill in a hurry. But before we go down there, I just want to give you a little bit of information update. I want to thank you for listening today, and for those of you who listen on a regular basis, thank you very, very much. For those of you who pray for us on a regular, basis we need that. Just like Shane said, as a parent of five, with his kids all being 14 or younger, he needs prayer. We all need prayer. We’re standing in the need of prayer, and we really need you to pray for our ministry here at the American Pastors Network and Stand In The Gap today.
If you would like to keep up with what’s going on in our ministry, I would encourage you to go to our social media, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, YouTube, different things, to keep up with what we’re doing as well as look at our archives of things, use our Stand In The Gap smartphone app. And, for those of you who have been led of God to support us financially, we appreciate that. Humanly speaking, we wouldn’t be able to do it without that. We know the Lord is working sovereignly in control of all of that, but thank you very much for all of your help.
Shane, before I start asking, peppering you with more questions, just real quickly, what are some of the things people go to shanepruitt.com, or what are some things that maybe you would want to point some people towards some information? I know even my kids, I saw a video on your website that I’d seen years ago, that you had done an object lesson about sin and how death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ clears it up. Don’t want to give it away, but a really neat object lesson. What are some of the things that, you know, someone listening to us right now that they might be able to use, as well as also your book from your website? And then another question, kind of on top of that is, are you planning on coming out with another book anytime in the next few years of nine more of these falsehoods that we kind of carry around in our Christian groups?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, I love it. Yeah. If you go to just shanepruitt.com, there’s all kinds of articles on there, sermon videos, there’s information on the book and all those good things. Also, I want to point people to a podcast that I just started this past summer during kind of the height of the shelter in place. We started a podcast called Next Gen On Mission, G-E-N, so Next Gen On Mission. It’s available on all podcast platforms. It’s basically me and another leader, for about 20 to 25 minutes, talking about many of the things we’ve talked about on here, reaching, teaching, mobilizing, discipling the next generation to be the church of today. And so, that’s another just great resource, just Next Gen On Mission, the podcast.
And then, yeah, book two. We are actually talking to the publisher and literary agent right now of concepts for book two and the direction we’re kind of praying about heading is the misconceptions of Jesus that people have. So, there was a time, and Sam, you’ll remember this, I remember this as well, there was a time where people would say, “Culture really doesn’t have a problem with God. They have a problem with Jesus.” You can talk about God, but the moment you talk about Jesus and people are like, “Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute.” I think culture has shifted a little more to say, really culture doesn’t have a problem with Jesus. They have a problem with the Bible.
Meaning this, Jesus, on some level, has become kind of cool, kind of trendy, and really kind of the hero of whatever your agenda is. So, whatever your agenda, whatever you’re passionate about, if you’ve noticed in culture today, they’ve made Jesus kind of the forerunner of their agenda. What’s problematic about that is often, when culture is talking about Jesus, it’s a Jesus that they’ve shaped and molded to be somebody they’re comfortable with, somebody who tolerates the lifestyles they tolerate. Someone who is passionate about what they’re passionate about. Somebody who will cancel out those who they cancel out.
And the problem with that is it’s not a Jesus of the Bible. People might have a more issue with the Bible today, and so we want to turn back and go, “Who is the Jesus of the Bible?” Because he is the Lord of Lords, King of Kings. He’s the one that transforms lives. The Jesus created by culture, on some level, has just become an idol named Jesus. And so, we’re kind of looking at maybe book two heading in that direction, and I’m really excited about that.
Sam Rohrer: I think, Shane, answering those kinds of questions, I think that’ll hit a really, really wonderful spot, questions that people have for sure. So, I encourage you and that’s great. When you talk about, just picking up what you said there, when people look and say, “All right, I have a view of God, I can talk about God, but I can’t talk about Jesus,” and you talk about that in the context of what we talk a lot about on this program, a biblical world view which is linked to truth. When it comes to young people, again, as you’re focusing on and the program is focused, when you say they don’t have any interest in religion, more or less that they’re saying anything in that regard, what is their knowledge of Jesus? Is Jesus as foreign as truth? Do they talk in terms of truth? We know Jesus is truth, and we know the truth as a person in Jesus. How do they relate to that aspect of truth which, as a broad aspect in culture, we’ve really walked away from truth generally? Which then opens the door for everything that we have. So, how do they view truth, Jesus, God? And so, how do they link them or are they not even linked at all?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. Yeah. I love that, man. What a wonderful question, Sam. I know we said this kind of during the break, we could probably spend a whole other segment or five just on the different views of Generation Z. I love this stuff. And let me just kind of put in context how big we’re talking about here, and the urgency of what we’re talking about here.
When you think of Generation Z, according to some statistics or how people define Generation Z by years, we’re talking about almost 80 million people. And then when you think of according to Barna Research Group, and I know George Barna is a friend of yours, Sam, according to George Barna Research Group, about 20% of Generation Z says attending church is important to them. So, now wrap your mind around that. A generation of nearly 80 million and only 20% of them said they’re connected to a local church. Then that means you got roughly 57 to 65 million Generation Zers who are not connected to a local church at all.
Now, let’s talk about the enormity of that, 57 to 65 million. If they created their own state, they’d be the largest state in the United States, almost times two, and the second biggest state would be California at about 38 million. So, this is a massive generation that is largely spiritually lost and not connected to the local church at all. You could almost say it’s an unreached people group that lives in our nation and it’s all young people. And now why is this important? Because according to statistics, 77% of all Christians surrendered to Jesus before the age of 18. Now wrap your mind around that. 77% of people who identify as Christian today said they surrendered to Jesus as their Lord and savior before the age of 18, 95% before the age of 30.
So, when you think of like, okay, there is a group of 65 million people who are not connected to the local church, and if we don’t reach them by the time they’re 18, and especially by the time they’re 30, according to statistics alone, we completely lose a generation spiritually. So this is huge. Now, when it comes to their view of God, their view of Jesus and the Bible, 21% identify as atheist or agnostic. That’s the largest segment that we’ve ever seen before in Generation Z. But if you flip that around, then that means still eight out of 10 of them do believe in some kind of higher power. They do believe in a God. They believe in someone bigger than themselves.
And often, many of them are not aggressive of Jesus and they know the name Jesus, but once again, because they’ve been taught self-help their whole life and that they’ve been taught, really, that their own happiness is the greatest thing in life, then they almost think Jesus exists to make them happy. That they have an agenda, they have a dream, they have a goal and Jesus exists to fulfill their dream and goal.
So, it’s not really, once again, even if they’re throwing around the name Jesus or wearing t-shirts with Jesus’ face on it, it’s not the Jesus of the Bible. It’s often a Jesus made up by the imagination of culture and that’s the Jesus that they’ve adopted. So, I would still say, even if they’re throwing around terms like the Bible, or terms like God and Jesus, it’s not the Jesus of the Bible.
Now, when it comes to the Bible, I would say, on a large scale, they’re foreign to the truths of the Bible and they don’t know the Bible. I would even say, if you’re a student pastor or a next gen leader that’s teaching the next generation, you can’t assume they know those Bible stories that we grew up with. Because if you go, “Hey, well, you know the story where David’s slaying Goliath,” a lot of them may go, “No,” so you’re really teaching at a basic new level.
But it’s such an opportunity for the gospel. Like I said, sometimes one of the greatest hindrances of people surrendering to Jesus as Lord and savior is if they falsely believe they’re saved already. This next generation, they know they’re not, and so it’s really fertile ground. It’s truly where the harvest is.
Another statistic says this. So, that one we talked about while ago from the Wall Street Journal that said less than 30% says religion is important to them. Wrap your mind around this. Over 80% of Generation Z says living a self-fulfilled life is important to them. So, to me, that’s the threshold that crosses the church to say, that’s where we can put the gospel in there to go, “Hey, God wants you to live a fulfilled life. It’s just going to come from someone outside of yourself.”
Isaac Crockett: What a great point and what a great opportunity. We have this amazing opportunity right here, sometimes in our own homes, in our own obviously communities, and even our churches, to be reaching this group and to be helping them reach others as well. We’re just going to take one more brief timeout. We’re going to come back and wrap things up, talking about these important subjects.
Well, thanks again for listening to our program. This is Isaac and my co-host Sam, and we are talking with our friend Shane Pruitt. We’ve been talking about just being authentic Christians and how this is necessary for reaching the world, for reaching others, but especially reaching what is one of the greatest opportunities we’ve had to reach an unreached people group, and that is reaching the youngest generation among us, Generation Z.
I can tell you from experience just a few years ago, my wife and I, we kind of a season of loss in our lives. Within a short period of time, we lost a child, a baby. We lost my father, he was 61 years old. We had some financial hits. At the same time, we were replanting a smaller church and I was working with a lot of Generation Z. These were middle schoolers and some high schoolers at the time, that were very unchurched, very different background than mine.
And it was interesting. On the one hand, it was frustrating at that time being around some church people, because they would say the things you just said, Shane. Kind of this idea that, “God wants you to be happy. Why aren’t you happy?” And this idea that, “Well, God, won’t give you more than you can handle,” at a time of just extreme grief. You know that you can’t handle it, and these young unsaved people wanted to know more about my test, more about the gospel as they saw how my wife and I handled those things. It was actually in a classroom, a public school classroom, where I was teaching in an inner city, and those kids, it really opened up opportunities and doors to witness and to make longterm relationships with some of these families. Because they too had been through a lot of loss and a lot of grief, and to see what a Christian does when they face that really made a difference.
And so, Shane, what are some ways that we can use our lives, our own testimonies? Because everyone listening, we want to do what’s right. We want to reach this group. We want to make an impact. We want to make a difference. We want to evangelize. But sometimes we just don’t always know how to go about it. And you’re right, even in our other generations, there’s a lot of biblical illiteracy, unfortunately, in the church. What can we do to be authentic Christians? And what can we do to reach out, either hoping to see them come to know Christ or those who maybe are Generation Z that do know Christ, what can we do to reach out, to help mentor and disciple them?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. I love that. I love this question. I would say, first of all, be honest about your own struggles, be honest about your own failures. Be honest about your own need for the gospel. Because I think sometimes as leaders, as disciple makers, as people in the church, older generations, if we pretend like we have it all figured out and we have all the answers and we never struggle, then I think that next generation, they look at that in one or two ways. They either look at it and go, “That’s fake. There’s no way that person has it all figured out. They’re not perfect. That’s fake.” Or they’ll look at that and go, “Man, that person has it all together. I could never attain that, so I’m not even going to try.”
And so, I think when we’re honest about our own struggles, our own failures, when we’re honest about our own need for the gospel, then that’s attractive to the next generation to go, “Oh man, this person is real. They’re authentic.” And, and here’s what I’ve seen, is there’s so much fake, right? Like there’s so much … Even we’ll joke, there’s fake news. On Instagram and social media, people can use filters and they only tell the best versions of themselves. So, people are very aware of the fake, and what they’re looking for is real. And that’s what I love.
And it doesn’t matter how old you are. Whether, maybe you’re a young person. I think a lot of times as churches we say, “Oh, to reach the next generation, then we’ve got to get somebody just a little bit older them that dresses cool and wears nice, wears cool sneakers and wears a flat bill hat and wears skinny jeans.” No, no. Listen, if that’s who you are, then be you. But if you’re an older person …
The guy who reached me with the gospel, I was 21, and he was in his late sixties. I’m the jeans and sneakers guy. He wore Dockers everyday of his life. Sam and I, I used to joke, I think he used to wake up in Dockers and go to bed in Dockers. I think he mowed his yard in Dockers. But he was real and he loved me, and the gospel is our common ground.
And then, on the discipleship side of it, I’d say, “Hey, let’s mobilize the next generation to be the church of today.” We’re always telling them they’re the future of the church, and I know what we mean by that, future leaders, influencers, sure. But according to the New Testament, if they’ve been bought with the blood of Jesus and the Holy spirit of God lives inside of them, they’re not the future of the church. They are the church right now. They have a calling on their life now, the great commission on their life now. They’re called to be the church now.
And I often say this, I really believe we don’t have a generation problem. We have a discipleship problem. Here’s what I mean by that. Think about it today, 14-year-olds are already creating their own brands on social media. Today, in the United States, there are more millionaire teenagers alive today than at any point history, primarily because of Tik Tok and YouTube and those things. So, 14-year-olds are already creating their own brands on social media, 16-year-olds are operating motor vehicles, 17-year-olds are in the workforce, 18-year-olds are holding automatic weapons, serving in our military, protecting our freedoms around the world. Listen, if they can do those things, then they can serve in the church and they can help tell their friends about Jesus, and they can be a blessing to the body of Christ. And so, I would say, “Hey, we don’t have a generation problem. We have a discipleship problem.”
Let’s do Titus, chapter two, the older men take the younger men, the older women take the younger women, and help them be the church of today, especially if they know Jesus.
Isaac Crockett: Amen to that, Shane. And we don’t have much time left, just a few moments, but I would be remissed if we closed without having you pray for us, pray for the church. Pray for those younger generations, some of them Christians, some of them not yet. Would you just, before we finish, could you just pray for us as we are getting ready to close out this program?
Shane Pruitt: Amen. Yeah, definitely. Father, we thank you for another day we find life and breath in our lungs to praise you with. And God, even in the midst of 2020, where we look at the world and so many of us and so many others that go, “Nothing is the same. Everything has changed.” God, we know that a lot has changed, but not everything. You haven’t changed. You’re the same yesterday, today, forever. You’re on your throne, you’re in control. Jesus, you’re King and our identity in Christ has not changed, and the call on our life towards the great commission hasn’t changed. That COVID-19 did not push pause on the great commission that the gospel cannot be quarantined. And God, we thank you for that.
So God, I thank you for those who are listening today, God. That, first of all, every day that they would live out of the overflow of their own worship of you, and then in that, God, they would pour into next generation. God, we know in your Bible, it says that you desire for the generations to be reached by you, so from generation to generation. And God, honestly, we’re all here today as the church because the previous generation was faithful to reach our generation, and the generation before that, and the generation before that. And so, God, we thank you that other generations were faithful to reach the next generation. That’s why we’re here today. And God, it’s our turn to be faithful, to reach the next generation, with your truth and your gospel. We pray this in the name above every name, Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Isaac Crockett: Amen. Thank you so much, Shane. Sam, real quick. You’re the one that introduced me to Shane and Shane to me on our Bridging The Gap initiative that you have. So, thanks for doing that. And could you just also close us in prayer and say any final thoughts that you have before we close this program out?
Sam Rohrer: No. Absolutely, Isaac. It’s been a great thing to have you on, Shane, and so glad how God is using you to minister to our young people. And we know the next generation, if they do not come face to face with the savior of the world, they not only will plunge into eternity without Christ, but so will our freedom in this country disappear. So, these are very, very critical things. But thanks for what you’re doing.
Heavenly father, we are glad, oh Lord, that you are in control. You look down upon us, you see all that’s going on. You are not surprised by the events. Matter of fact, you have allowed the events that are so directing the lives of us in this nation and around the world. We would pray that in these times, Lord, that people when they’re confronted with confusion, and deception on the right and the left, and uncertainty, that, Lord, your Holy Spirit would drive them to consider the only person that can provide certainty and hope and a foundation, and that is Jesus Christ.
And the truth of the gospel. You’ve given it to us, Lord. May all of those listening right now, who know the truth, be more bold than ever to live it out, to speak it out, and to evidence before all with whom you put, that you put them in a contact. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Isaac Crockett: Amen. Thank you, Sam. Shane Pruitt, thank you so much for being on the program with us and on behalf of everybody here, for Tim, our producer behind the scenes, for Sam and I, for everyone at Stand In The Gap today, thank you for listening. We wouldn’t have this program without our listeners, and thank you for connecting with us. Please pray for all of our ministries here at the American Pastors Network, and please stand in the gap for truth, wherever you are today.