Members of Generation Z who desire a sense of transcendence in their worship may simply need to look a bit harder. By fostering a dogmatic commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture while retaining a deep respect for church history, much of evangelical, conservative, Reformed Christianity has managed to guard itself from the spirit of the age. Young people should by no means compromise on the true gospel (Galatians 1:8-9) to find a tradition that has retained its sense of reverence.
Polls consistently show that members of Generation Z—loosely defined as the cohort born between 1999 and 2015—are far less religious than their parents and grandparents. Young Americans are twice as likely to identify themselves as atheists in comparison to other adults, while a mere 59% identify themselves with some form of Christianity—a significant decline from the 75% of Baby Boomers who say the same.
Surveys also find that members of Generation Z are more socially progressive than other Americans, with as many as one in five identifying themselves as “LGBTQ.” Although some young people certainly attempt to blend the doctrines of biblical Christianity with the falsehoods of modern leftism, there is a remnant drawn to conservative religious traditions with weightiness and transcendence—which may even claim to uniquely feed the soul in a relentlessly materialistic era.
Talk to members of Generation Z who grew up in loosely evangelical households and you will discover that many have since turned to Roman Catholicism rather than the generic version of megachurch Christianity. The ornate architecture of cathedrals, the advent of the Latin Mass, and the otherworldly nature of chants are, to many young people, a departure from the emptiness of the modern age.
Take, for example, actor Shia LaBeouf, who recently made headlines for converting to Roman Catholicism. In an interview with Bishop Robert Barron, he explained that “Latin Mass affects me deeply.” When asked why, he said: “Because it feels like they’re not selling me a car.”
Big-box evangelicalism, on the other hand, is by no means transcendent. Pastors and worship leaders often find themselves limping and thrashing about their altars (1 Kings 18:26) with moralistic, therapeutic sermons and emotionalistic, shallow music. As LaBeouf correctly diagnosed, many evangelical churches merely make attempts at “selling Jesus” to their members. In the words of Pastor Rick Warren, you can simply give Jesus “a sixty-day trial” or get your money back—a tactic that is quite literally taken from car salesmen.