My introduction to James Emery Miller’s recent book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World came through an interview on Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast. My first thought was, “I need to read that book.” Imagine my happiness when only a week or two later the opportunity to review the book for Baker Book Bloggers arrived in my inbox.
The most attractive aspect of both the interview and the book was the passion White has for connecting with young people. He’s clearly not content to put forth a rigid approach: “This is the way we’ve always done it – get with the program and believe what you’re supposed to believe and do what you’re supposed to do!” This isn’t just an attitude he has for himself; it’s shaped the way he leads his congregation, Mecklenburg Community Church.
The first section of the book, what he calls “The New Reality,” deals with “Understanding” the current generation of young people. Having already read extensively in this genre, I didn’t find this so useful. I’ve read many books and worked for years with young people, so I’m good with the theory.
The second section of the book, “A New Approach,” shows how to put understanding the generation to work. This was more useful. The “new approach” has one eye to those outside the church, and one to the church itself. As we engage with outsiders, we must have solid apologetics that addresses the questions they are asking. As White observes, this generation looks at Christian beliefs and practices and thinks we’re crazy. We need to be able to communicate lovingly, clearly, and winsomely why we believe and act as we do. Of course, this also requires that what we do be in line with Scripture, lest we present the world yet another picture of hypocrisy.
The biggest roadblock to reaching this generation is the way we’ve been “doing” church. He says, “What is killing the church today is having the mission focused on keeping Christians within the church happy, well fed, and growing… The mission cannot be about us – it must be about those who have not crossed the line of faith.”
He’s certainly right here. The church today does have a propensity to meet our own needs first. And we do this spiritually, also, talking about “discipling” those in the body first. As a long time pastor, I do see this as a necessity. But this work of discipling those in the body cannot be separated from the making of disciples of those who are not yet in the body. If the separation occurs, we end up with something less than biblical discipleship.
For me, the most useful part of the book was the examples White included in his appendix. This enabled me to see the kind of message he’d described earlier in the book and see how they come across.
Note: I received my review copy for free from Baker Book Bloggers.